Under the leadership of the Institute of Communications and Navigation, a new system that will lead pilots into the digital world of the 21st century has been tested in flight trials. The European research project SANDRA developed a proof-of-principle prototype demonstrating that a single device transmits communications with the ground and via satellite, digitally at high speed. Detailed information, such as the weather or the traffic situation can therefore be exchanged between the tower and the aircraft quickly and reliably, which increases air traffic safety.
|Figure: SANDRA Experimental Setup|
Thirty partners are involved in the development of the new system. A system has been developed that combines all communication channels in one device and adds a reliable automatic data transfer system to the ground and via satellite. Communication in the cabin and the cockpit is focused outwards. The new system has now been tested for the first time under real flight conditions using DLR's ATRA (Advanced Technology Research Aircraft) test aircraft, which is a modified Airbus 320. With IPv6 as unification point, this system integrates all the aeronautical service domains within a common IP-based aeronautical network as well as with legacy and non-legacy radio technologies. For the flight trials, three data links has been used: AeroMACS, BGAN and VDL2. Applications covering all avionic domain services were integrated and seamlessly transmitted over these data links and their performances were measured. It was tested seamless handovers between legacy (VDL2, BGAN) and non-legacy (AeroMACS) data links during the flight trials from June 24-26, 2013.
|Figure: Schematic architecture of the airborne segment and ground infrastructure|
The Institute of Communications and Navigation started with a vision of networking the sky about ten years ago. After the successful flight trials of the SANDRA project, the SANDRA consortium paved the way for targeting holistic IP based avionic communication within the next decade.
The SANDRA project is supported by 30 international development partners. DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation is responsible for the development of the network technology and carrying out flight tests on the new system with the ATRA aircraft. The Italian company, SELEX ES Spa, is, overall, responsible for the project.