Aeronautical Communications

zum Bild NEWSKY
A main topic of the research group “Aeronautical Communications” is to develop future digital data link systems for aviation. In particular, new aeronautical communications systems for Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) are designed, evaluated, and prototyped in FPGA technology. The focus of these developments is on OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing) based multi-carrier multiple-access systems, like for example OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple-Access) or OFDM-TDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing Time-Division Multiple-Access).

Another main topic is to expedite the global networking of aeronautical data link systems to realize the DLR vision of “networking the sky”. The envisaged global aeronautical network covers not only ATC/ATM but also airline communications (Airline Operational Communication, AOC; Airline Administrative Communication, AAC) and communications for the cabin (Airline Passenger Communication, APC). The work within this topic comprises ad-hoc routing concepts as well as protocol design and validation for IP(v6) based aeronautical networks. Especially, design and optimization in the areas routing, mobility, and security are performed.

In addition, the research group acts as advisor of the BMVBW and the German ATC provider DFS within the Aeronautical Communications Panel (ACP) which is the standardization body of ICAO for aeronautical communications.

Current Research Topics

  • Development and validation of future digital data link systems for aviation
    • System design of OFDM based multi-carrier multiple-access system for communication between aircraft and ground station (en-route, TMA, airport) as well as for direct air/air communication between aircraft
    • Techniques for interference mitigation/suppression in OFDM receivers
    • Adaptation and optimization of OFDM receivers for application within the aeronautical environment
    • Robust multiple-access techniques and protocols for self-organizing aeronautical communications networks
    • Channel measurements and modeling of the aeronautical propagation channel
    • FPGA implementation of laboratory prototypes
  • Implementation of the DLR vision “networking the sky”
    • Adaptation of heterogeneous communications networks for application within the aeronautical environment
    • Mobility and handover assistance in heterogeneous aeronautical networks (mobile IP, IEEE 802.21)
    • Authentication in safety-related aeronautical networks (security protocols, public-key infrastructure)
    • Adaptation of self-organizing ad-hoc networks for application within the aeronautical environment
    • Scheduling, routing, and gateway-discovery techniques for aeronautical ad-hoc networks
    • Set-up and operation of an IP(v6) mobility test-bed

Current Projects

  • EU-Project SANDRA (Seamless Aeronautical Networking through Integration of Data links, Radios, and Antennas)
    [Finalization: September 2013]
    Concept development, demonstrator set-up, and validation of an integrated communications network for ATM, AOC/AAC und APC. Continuation of EU-Project NEWSKY with emphasis on implementation. Additionally, development of the AeroMACS standard based on WiMAX for airport communications.
    Link to project website:
  • SJU-Project P15.2.4 (Future Mobile Data Link System Definition)
    [Finalization: December 2012]
    Within the SJU, the future ATM infrastructure is developed and implemented including communications and navigation. DFS sub-contract for project P15.2.4 „Future Mobile Data Link System Definition“.
    Link to SESAR website:
  • ESA-Project ANTARES (ESA Iris Phase B)
    [Finalization: October 2010]
    Suitability assessment of OFDMA as multiple-access scheme for aeronautical satellite communications.
    Link to project website:
  • LuFo IV Project iLKom (innovative L-Band Kommunikation)
    [Finalization: March 2013]
    The research group contributes to iLKom within sub-project 2 “Technology Platform for Certification of Future L-band Systems” where DLR assists the industry prototyping of L-DACS1 and performs the verification of the produced technology platform.
  • LuFo IV Project HETEREX (Heterogener komplexer Flugverkehr)
    [Finalization: December 2012]
    Efficiency improvement of ATM by applying modern technology and innovative concepts. The research group contributes to the validation of the sectorless ATM concept from the communications point of view.
  • DLR-Project B-DLR (Broadband Data Link Radio)
    [Finalization: December 2010]
    Design, development, and implementation of an OFDM based broadband data link for research aircraft ATRA.
  • DLR-Project A2A (Air-to-Air Data Links and Applications)
    [Finalization: December 2012]
    Design and evaluation of an air/air data link concept taking into account relevant future applications and the availability of a satellite component.

Choice of Recently Finalized Projects

  • EU-Project B-VHF (Broadband VHF Aeronautical Communications System Based on MC-CDMA)
    [Finalized: September 2006]
    Concept design and demonstrator development for a powerful OFDM/MC-CDMA based overlay system for aeronautical communications in the VHF-band.
    Link to Project website:
  • Eurocontrol-Projects to B-AMC (Broadband Aeronautical Multi-carrier Communications System)
    [Finalized: February 2008]
    Feasibility study and interference evaluation, if B-VHF (see above) is suitable for the L-band which is foreseen to host the future air/ground data link.
    Link to Eurocontrol website (project reports):
  • Eurocontrol-Project L-DACS1 (L-Band Digital Aeronautical Communications System Type 1)
    [Finalized: April 2009]
    Harmonization of B-AMC with P34 and WiMAX to the L-DACS1 proposal and development of the L-DACS1 specification.
    Link to Eurocontrol website (project reports):
  • EU-Projekt EMMA 2 (European Airport Movement Management by A-SMGCS)
    [Finalized: February 2009]
    Development of an A-SMGCS (Advanced Surface Movement, Guidance and Control System) and integration into overall ATM system. Continuation of EMMA I with focus on operationalization and standardization. Contribution of research group: Development of airport data link concepts and propagation measurement campaign at Munich airport at C-band (5 GHz).
    Link to Project website:
  • DFG-Project TAKOKO I and II (Techniken, Algorithmen und Konzepte für COFDM Systeme zur Koexistenz mit autorisierten Systemen im selben Frequenzband)
    [Finalized: June 2007]
    DFG program TakeOFDM
    Feasibility study on COFDM based overlay systems with focus on coexistence between overlay and authorized system.
    Link to TakeOFDM website:
  • DFG-Project OOS (OFDM-based Overlay Systems)
    [Finalized: December 2008]
    Individual DFG project
    Continuation of TAKOKO I and II
  • DLR-Project FACTS (Future Aeronautical Communications Traffic Simulator)
    [Finalized: June 2009]
    Development of a simulation tool for simulation of realistic air traffic scenarios and the corresponding ATC/ATM communications traffic. FACTS is suitable for validation of existing and future aeronautical communications systems under operational conditions.
  • EU-Project NEWSKY (Networking the Sky)
    [Finalized: August 2009]
    Concept development and validation of an integrated, heterogeneous communications network for ATC/ATM, AOC/AAC, and APC.
    Link to Project website:

Recent Highlights

Successful Demonstration of B-VHF
[September 2006]
An OFDM based overlay system for aeronautical communications in the VHF-band has been developed and implemented in a demonstrator system within the EU-Project B-VHF. The successful demonstration of B-VHF for Eurocontrol has triggered the follow-up activities on B-AMC (Broadband Aeronautical Multi-carrier Communications System) – see below.

Propagation Channel Measurements at Munich Airport
[November 2007]
A measurement campaign at C-band (5 GHz) was carried out at Munich airport to determine the propagation channel conditions between aircraft on the surface and the control tower within a typical airport environment. Based on the obtained results a channel model for simulations of future airport data link technologies has been developed. Since the World Radio Conference (WRC) 2007, the C-band (5091-5150 MHz) is assigned to airport communications.

Adaption of B-VHF to L-band Use – B-AMC Project
[February 2008]
Under Eurocontrol contract, the B-VHF concept has been further developed to enable L-band deployment. Within this task, special attention has been given to the interference situation in L-band. As a result, B-AMC is designed as an inlay system capable of being deployed in between successive channels of existing radio navigation systems.

ICAO ACP Recommendation on B-AMC
[April 2008]
The Aeronautical Communications Panel (ACP) of ICAO has recommended the further development of B-AMC as future air/ground communications system within the Future Communications Infrastructure. Based on B-AMC, a future air/ground communications system (L-Band Digital Aeronautical Communications System Type 1, L-DACS1) shall be developed also taking into account preferable characteristics of P34 and WiMAX.

Specification of L-DACS1
[February/March 2009]
Under Eurocontrol contract, a specification for L-DACS1 has been developed. This specification currently serves as starting point for further L-DACS1 developments within the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

Simulation Framework for Aeronautical Communications
[June 2009]
Within the DLR-Project FACTS (Future Aeronautical Communications Traffic Simulator) a simulation framework for aeronautical communications has been developed and tested. FACTS allows to realistically simulate the communications traffic within a certain area based on real flight data. Using FACTS, existing and future aeronautical communications systems can be evaluated under operational conditions.

Demonstration of DLR-Vision „Networking the Sky“
[September 2009]
At the end of the EU-Project NEWSKY (NEtWorking the SKY for Aeronautical Communications) which was initiated and lead by DLR, a project demonstration was presented to the public. The demonstration successfully proved the NEWSKY concept and its possibility for implementation.

Dr.-Ing. Michael Schnell
German Aerospace Center

Institute of Communications and Navigation
, Communications Systems
Tel: +49 8153 28-2858

Fax: +49 8153 28-1871

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