Watch satcoms support aircraft pilots - thanks to Iris

Iris, ESA´s programme for Air Traffic Management, will unveil a new interactive display demonstrating safety communications via satellite for aircraft pilots at the ATC Global Exhibition and Conference in Amsterdam. This new display was developed by the University of Salzburg.

The new Iris Public Relations tool is designed to show users exactly how ATM communications via satellite will work. It shows how the air traffic controllers (ATCO) would be able to compose and send data messages, and then how aircraft pilots could receive and be able to reply to these messages, as well as displays what’s happening in between.

“When talking to our aviation partners about satellite communications, we realised there was some concern that satcoms would complicate the tasks of controllers and pilots because it is not integrated in aviation safety systems today,” explains Nathalie Ricard, ESA Iris programme manager.

“But they will be in the future. With Iris, pilots and controllers won’t even notice their data exchange travels via satellite. The system will actually allow data exchanges with much better quality and over wider geographical regions than what is available today. We thought we should develop a system mock-up that would show these advantages, and simulate, in an interactive manner, how the technology works.”

The display is composed of a two-metre long table, a computer and four screens. The right screen will represent the air traffic controller working position, the left the aircraft and the pilot’s datalink interface, and the top screen shows the air traffic in the area covered by the satellite. The centre screen is the description display showing the interaction between the various system elements, and is used for graphical depictions of how the technology works.

Taking place in the Amsterdam RAI from March 6 to 8, the ATC global conference is the largest air traffic management exhibition in the world. The University of Salzburg, a regular participant in ATC Global, will host the Iris communications tool at their booth located in Hall 9.

“The University of Salzburg has developed a competence centre for aviation, and is well known and respected in Europe when it comes to new ATM technology,” says Ricard. “It has been involved with Iris from the start.”

ESA initiated the Iris programme in 2007 to support the adoption of satellite-based communications in the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programme. It demonstrated the interest and feasibility of a satellite-based communication system to meet aviation’s requirements. Thanks to Iris, the value of satellite communications was recognised and included in the ATM master plan.

By 2020 Iris will contribute to the modernisation of air traffic management by providing digital datalinks to cockpit crews in continental and oceanic airspace.

Iris’s design phase is currently underway with the support of the EC, the SESAR Joint Undertaking, Eurocontrol, the European space industry, air navigation service providers and aviation stakeholders.

For more information, see the links in the column to the right.

Event Date

06 March 2012
Published 26 February 2013
Last updated at 14 March 2019 - 16:08