Making air travel more predictable – Airbus presents SESAR at Farnborough

Jul. 17, 2018

A SESAR project, led by Airbus, is demonstrating how sharing trajectory data with air traffic control can improve the predictability of air traffic. Known as 'DIGITS' (Demonstration of air traffic management Improvements Generated by Initial Trajectory Sharing), the project will begin its operational phase involving revenue flights later this year. The project is part of the portfolio of initiatives showcased by Airbus at this year’s Farnborough Airshow.

In support of the project, between now and the end of 2019, around 100 in-service A320 family aircraft will be progressively equipped  with 'FANS-C', an avionics product which combines new datalink and telecommunications capabilities and which allows for the transmission of the complete predicted four-dimensional aircraft trajectory (3D + time) by the aircraft to the ground traffic control.

The project will build on the results of flight trials that took place in 2012 and 2014, and will aim to show how sharing trajectory information between the air and ground can enable a safer and more efficient handling and certainty of flight profiles. It will aim to show benefits in terms of minimising discrepancies in trajectory and improving controller support tools, such as conflict detection (e.g. medium-term conflict detection/MTCD). On the airborne side, the aircraft can better manage their speed profile, which leads to fuel savings and an environmentally-optimised flight profile. The sharing of trajectory also means that aircraft sequences can be better managed and delivered into terminal manoeuvring areas (TMAs) with greater efficiency.

The project brings together a whole host of SESAR members, including air navigation service providers (Austro Control, Croatia Control, LFV and the Irish Aviation Authority, Naviair - representing COOPANS, DFS, DSNA, Enav, NATS), manufacturers (Airbus, Honeywell, Indra, Leonardo, Thales and SAAB, SINTEF and Airtel representing NATMIG) and Eurocontrol. With the cooperation of seven European airlines (Air France, British Airways, easyJet, Iberia, Novair, Thomas Cook and Wizz Air), the large-scale demonstration will last more than a year and collect data from over 20,000 flights.

The overall goal is to optimise the aircraft's trajectory and make traffic flows more fluid. Airbus is targeting FANS-C certification later this year.