AeroFleet - Satellite-based Air Fleet Communication and Tracking System

Objectives

Based on the validated concept for a fleet communication and tracking system, the major objective of this project was to reach two high level goals:

  1. Development of a (pre-) operational version of the AeroFleet system
  2. Reference installation of the AeroFleet System

The AeroFleet system consists of the following components:

  • Cockpit display CDTI-2000. This display is the user terminal of the air fleet management system to the air crew and will allow the review and the creation of messages over the satellite communication link. It is further capable of presenting data sent from ground to the crew in graphical way (e.g. weather information, mission dependent area of operation). This display will interface with the airborne part of the Satcom equipment to provide further communication functions without flight crew involvement. The CDTI-2000 is certified to be used in aircraft.
  • Iridium satellite transceiver. A certified transceiver will provide a global, constant, and reliable link between the aircraft or the helicopter and the dispatch centre of the operator on the ground.
  • Dispatch station software. This software allows the dispatch personnel on the ground to communicate with the flight crews and to visualize information sent from the aircraft (e.g. position reports, status messages, etc).

Challenges

The key issue addressed in this project was to bring the AeroFleet system from a technical demonstrator level to a maturity level allowing a pilot operation. This included not only the development of the AeroFleet system itself, but also the generation of supplementing material, such as training and installation documentation, definition of operational goals for the user, and the analysis of operational key data.

Benefits

The availability of a suitable satellite communication service and certified SatCom equipment provided a great and unique short term opportunity to start a pilot operation phase with an end user as partner. Competition to the AeroFleet system by Euro Telematik could not be found at the time the project started.

 

As any future customer will request information about reference installations to minimize the risk associated with their investment in such a system, this project has provided a great opportunity to achieve such a reference installation.

 

The ability to present a reference installation and to prove its operational usefulness to potential customers was regarded as a fundamental prerequisite to future marketing and sales activities. The absence of such a reference installation was seen as a significant inhibiting factor for a successful market introduction.

Features

The AeroFleet communication and tracking system enables the dispatch personnel of an air fleet operator to monitor and track the mission progress of the aircraft and helicopters in the fleet and to exchange messages and information with the flight crew by way of digital, satellite based communication.

 

The AeroFleet system is capable of performing the following functions:

  • Position reporting (automatic and on request),
  • Exchange of text messages between ground and air,
  • Uplink of mission target position,
  • Uplink of weather information,
  • Up- and downlink of mission-related information according to end user specifications.

Plan

In a first phase, Euro Telematik - in cooperation with the end user, the fleet operator partner - has defined the requirements for the customized implementation of the AeroFleet system. This phase ended with the baseline design review.

 

In a second phase, Euro Telematik has implemented the application elements specific to the partner?s needs in order to provide a solution, which was fit enough to be evaluated in the operational context. This phase ended with the pilot qualification review.

 

On this basis, the partner has installed, used and evaluated the system in the operational environment within one of its Learjet aircraft for patient repatriation flights.

 

In parallel, Euro Telematik has developed a strategic plan for commercial exploitation following the end of the project.

Current status

The project started in August 2004. The Baseline Design Review was held in September 2004. This concluded the first phase of the project, where the following achievements were made:

  • Specification of the AeroFleet ground and aircraft components and capabilities,
  • Specification of user specific modifications and adjustments to the system, including data content definitions,
  • Definition of verification test procedures for a FAT and a SAT,

The Pilot Qualification Review was held in April 2005. This concluded the second phase of the project, where the following achievements were made:

  • Development of the AeroFleet ground and aircraft components and capabilities,
  • Initial implementation of user specific modifications and adjustments to the system, including data content definitions,
  • Completion of factory acceptance test.

The third phase of the project was completed in November 2005 with the System Deployment Acceptance. Aircraft equipment had been produced and delivered to the partner and the installation at the partner?s operating centre was completed. Ground operations and aircraft (pilots and medical crew) staff were briefed on the use of the system during this phase of the project. The Site Acceptance Test has been conducted on November, 15th, during the System Deployment Acceptance meeting held at that date which concluded the third phase.

 

The Pilot Operations Phase was conducted between mid December, 2005, and mid April, 2006. Because one helicopter was commissioned for disaster relief work in Pakistan and one Learjet was undergoing major maintenance the system could only be installed and used in one Learjet aircraft.

 

The system was mainly used for tracking and exchange of operational messages. During the operations phase, the aircraft flew several missions, including one mission to the Comores and one to Australia, where the tracking and message exchanges gave significant benefit to operations. The flight crew was able to retrieve important weather information and request ground preparations at stop-over sights.

 

The technical analysis of the message and position transfer showed an average overall transmission time from the airborne equipment to the AeroFleet ground installation of less than 1,5 minutes, with a maximum transmission time (excluding system malfunction) of 5 minutes.

 

The system has shown its usefulness for global tracking and message exchange. Unfortunately, helicopter-specific features (such as the uplink of mission target positions) could not be evaluated.

 

No further contracts were achieved until the end of the project, but several customers have expressed their interest in the system and commercial offers have been made to them.

 

During the course of the project, several competitors have entered the market with comparable systems that are significantly cheaper. Their mobile devices, however, do not fulfil airworthiness requirements which are required by many customers. Advanced features of the AeroFleet system (such as weather uplink or target position indication) are also not provided by those systems.

Status date

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - 10:40