European partners demonstrate the future of datalink communications in aviation

Apr. 29, 2019

European partners recently completed the first ever flight trials demonstrating the next generation of terrestrial datalink communications for aviation. The flight campaign is complementary to the work conducted with the SESAR project (PJ.14-02-01) on the future communications infrastructure (FCI) Terrestrial datalink.

Reliable datalink is an essential building block of the European vision for the future communication infrastructure (FCI). That is why SESAR members are investigating LDACS , a ground-based system using line-of-sight communications to support air/ground communication, in particular for en-route and TMA communications in continental airspace.

On March 26 2019, German Aerospace Center (DLR- AT-One) took off from its home base in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, equipped with a fully functional LDACS (L band digital aeronautical communications system) demonstrator. This is the very first time that the future aviation datalink, LDACS, has been tested in flight trials. LDACS flight testing will continue until beginning of April in the south-west of Munich where altogether four LDACS ground stations have been installed, two fully functional LDACS ground stations (transmit and receive) as well as two additional LDACS navigation stations (transmit only).

This LDACS flight testing campaign has been set up within the project MICONAV (Migration towards Integrated COM/NAV Avionics), a German national project co-funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy within the Federal Aeronautical Research Programme ("Luftfahrtforschungsprogramm", LuFo). Besides DLR and the project leader Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG two SMEs, iAd GmbH and BPS GmbH, are the partners in the MICONAV consortium. The work in MICONAV is complementary to the European research framework SESAR, and strongly related to and relevant for SESAR 2020, especially solution PJ.14-02-01, the Future Communications Infrastructure (FCI) Terrestrial datalink.

Already the first test flight was very successful and illustrated the huge potential of LDACS as future aviation data link for air-traffic management. Key functionalities like handover between ground stations and the LDACS ranging capability for Alternative Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (APNT) applications as well as secure transmissions of CPDLC and ADS-C applications have been demonstrated successfully. Flight testing will continue to evaluate more functionalities as well as key performance parameters, like data throughput, latency and navigation precision.