Within its civil aviation activities, Euro Telematik AG is concerned with the operation management of special aircraft fleets, all-weather operation of aircraft, and tracking of air vehicles independent from ATC radar coverage. During the first round of the ESA Telecom Start-up Initiative the Euro Telematik proposal for the MASSAO activity was selected for funding. Euro Telematik's role is:
- To investigate and confirm the technical concept of a system, which would allow an operating centre personnel to track, monitor, and communicate with aircraft within their full operating range, even in large distances from the centre, via satellite communication.
- To explore and prepare the commercialisation of a product based on the MASSAO concept.
The following key issues were addressed during the project:
- User need and a definition of the demonstrator
- Survey and assessment of suitable satellite data communication services on the market
- Implementation of a prototype system and live demonstration
- Market study and product definition
- Business Plan
While commercial airlines and large aircraft operators typically maintain airline operating centres (AOC) which allow for world wide communication with their fleet through professional communication service providers and multiple communication channels, smaller, more specialised operators need a customised system solution on a smaller scale. These operators typically operate a fleet of around 10 aircraft or helicopter that are used for special missions such as:
- transportation of passenger and cargo to and from oil rigs
- power line maintenance
- cargo transport for construction work in special areas (for example the Alps)
- search and rescue operation
- observation of weather conditions
- coast guard
A smaller sized solution will have a significant advantage over existing products in the high-end market segment, which are more expensive by an order of magnitude. No other competitive product on system level is available on the market in this cost segment.
The CDTI-2000 unit serves as the core unit and the crew interface to the on-board system. It exchanges information with the satellite communication transceiver via a serial interface.
After the transmission from the transceiver to the satellite communication service providers ground segment the message is forwarded by e-mail to the AeroFleet Server. The ground station AeroFleet retrieves the e-mail and decodes the message.
A number of dispatcher work stations (Clients) can be connected to this server in the operators centre. Staff can monitor and manage aircraft operations.
Messages from the ground system to the CDTI-2000 are handled in a similar way. In this case messages can be send from the server to the on-board transceiver by means of a dedicated e-mail address. The data is then transmitted further to the CDTI-2000.
The work to be performed for the MASSAO project is broken down into three items:
- Management (including PA activities),
- Technical Feasibility Analysis and Demonstration (ITT Task 1),
- Commercial Feasibility Analysis (ITT Task 2).
The management task will run all along the project, while the technical and commercial feasibility be performed in sequential order in accordance with the ESA ITT.
The project started on 24 April, 2002 and was completed on 24 October, 2003.
The project is completed.
The technical feasibility of the system (Task 1) has been confirmed through the following elements:
- User requirements analysis, which described - based on first contacts to potential customers - the functional system elements, as well as the related requirements.
- System definition and specification, which further defined the MASSAO system and provided a specification of its elements and its internal and external interfaces.
- Survey on available SatCom services, which was done based on internet information, discussions with resellers and service providers.
- System design and development, which resulted into a first deployment of the demonstrator in a laboratory environment.
- System integration and validation, which comprised the integration of the on-board equipment into an airplane.
- Live demonstration, which comprised real flight situations and could demonstrate the operation of the ground centre, the communication link and the airborne equipment.
- Iridium extension, which allowed to replace the previously used Orbcomm link with Iridium for which certified avionics equipment exists. Laboratory test have proven the technical feasibility and were completed successfully in October 2003.
In the commercial feasibility analysis, the following elements were addressed:
- Market analysis, which described the target market for the MASSAO system and derived a prioritised list of the individual segments of the target market.
- Product definition, which has defined in detail the characteristics of product variants for the target market segments identified in the market analysis.
- Business concept, which has identified the expenses for developing, marketing, and distributing a MASSAO system in comparison with the expected revenues for the next years.
Following the project work packages Euro Telematik has developed a plan to introduce the MASSAO system into the market under the product name 'AeroFleet'. Final development to bring the technical demonstrator to product level is being performed and is expected to be finalized in early 2004. Extensions to the system with new functions are also planned to incorporate new customers requirements or to include emerging technology.
The marketing and sales plan derived in the business concept is currently being implemented. A cooperation agreement with a satellite equipment manufacturer and avionics distribution company has been signed. Contact has been made with an initial set of potential launching customers. First deliveries of field test systems are expected for the first half of 2004.