Everything under control: Building a traffic overview beyond radar coverage
Air traffic control centres in Canada and Australia are already using it: Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C), a new technology to downlink data from the aircraft. With ADS-C air traffic control is able to build a traffic overview above the oceans, where there is no radar coverage. The Knowledge and Development Centre Schiphol was asked if ADS-C could also generate benefits for the Schiphol Airport operation.
ADS-C and the big boys
ADS-C can provide useful information to the ATM ground systems. But for the system to work, aircraft have to be fitted with ADS-C equipment. KDC examined the aircraft that fly in and out of Schiphol airport. What about the ADS-C equipage of aircraft? Project Manager Hans de Mol: “At present, only 16% of the aircraft at Schiphol has ADS-C on board, mostly wide-body aircraft. Those planes are nearly all (98%) of KLM and Delta. Smaller airlines don’t have it, but also Transavia, Easyjet and Air France, which operate at Schiphol airport, have no ADS-C. “
In the current regulations still little is prescribed about ADS-C applications. Only Global Operational Data Link Document (GOLD) writes about the possibilities when creating new standards or procedures for navigation in the air. Despite limited information, practical applications at Schiphol are imaginable. De Mol: “ADS-C can obtain data on wind speed, wind direction and temperature. Meteorologists use this data to improve their models for weather forecast. This allows us to better plan and manage aircraft. “
ADS-C gives early information on the expected landing time also. “In the early morning, many wide-body aircraft arrive at Schiphol airport”. With ADS-C, we can already refine the planning in the night up to 80%. The advantage is that we can prevent bunches in the arrival stream. If the aircraft arrive at a regular interval continuous descent approaches without controller intervention can be facilitated. This reduces noise annoyance and saves fuel.”
More research needed
The study report recommends to conduct further research. “It is important to further investigate possibilities and applicable benefits for Schiphol. In addition, a cost-benefit analysis should be developed. This analysis should tell us if setting up the required infrastructure to get ADS-C data is worthwhile. Finally, the study report recommends to follow the European regulations closely. “For the next few years there are no plans to widely deploy ADS-C. Such a regulation is needed if Schiphol is to benefit from ADS-C for its daytime operation.” Without a binding European legislation De Mol sees little change. “Setting up the infrastructure costs money, but operating the system costs money as well. Without European-wide commitments airlines will not invest. But a higher coverage of ADS-C makes applications at take off and landing more interesting. Then we can handle the air traffic more efficiently and reduce the environmental impact.”