The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have launched a joint cooperation initiative to rethink aviation connectivity, publishing a White Paper proposal for the modernisation and harmonisation of the aviation data communication landscape by 2035.
Airbus and Boeing, as aviation stakeholders, contributed to the study, providing insight and information which allowed EASA and the FAA to elaborate the vision presented in the white paper.
Aviation connectivity supports the various air-ground data exchanges that are essential to support safe, sustainable air traffic management (ATM) and efficient air operations. It does not include the provision of broadband services to passengers.
The exchanges are currently supported by a set of technologies that rely to a large extent on limited-bandwidth links, such as Very High Frequency (VHF) datalink and first-generation aviation SATCOM. While these technologies have served the aviation community well for decades, the systems as currently deployed are fragmented and not always interoperable. There is a need to look to the future and bring the system up to modern-day standards making use of technologies such as broadband.
In addition to the desire to modernise, there is a pressing need for the aviation community to converge on what should be the common solutions of tomorrow due to increasing demand on these systems. This is due to the fact that future air traffic management concepts, optimised airline operations and maintenance of latest generation aircraft will depend on safe, secure and high-capacity connectivity solutions.
Key objectives for the project were that the future connectivity landscape must provide the required safety, security and performance levels as well as sufficient capacity. A further aim was to make efficient usage of the bandwidth spectrum already assigned to aviation, without needing to request additional dedicated bandwidth.
The white paper outlines a jointly proposed vision for the future aviation connectivity landscape which is based on the combination of aviation specific solutions (VDL Mode 2 and SATCOM Performance Class B) – that will offer safety and performance – and commercial, broadband solutions. Together, these will allow for high capacity and efficiency at a manageable cost.
The paper further includes a roadmap to allow a smooth and safe transition to the new approach. To support this, the roadmap leverages existing or already planned infrastructures to the maximum extent possible, so as to optimise the share of complexity between air and ground, while still providing the required performance.
EASA and the FAA are both committed to supporting research in the frame of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and NextGen Programmes, and as a next step, supporting the transition strategy presented in the white paper.
Patrick Ky, Executive Director, EASA: “For the first time, we have a common vision from all four organisations in the task force, to establish modern air-ground communications that will meet tomorrow’s requirements. This is the first step toward achieving this, and a major one. We look forward now to working with the many other stakeholders make this vision a reality.”
David Boulter, Acting Associate Administrator, Aviation Safety, Federal Aviation Administration: “Data and connectivity are driving aerospace advances, and they are crucial to safety and efficiency worldwide. We look forward to working together to make the transition to a more modern, harmonized and connected global aviation community.”
EASA and the FAA are looking forward to engaging with the wider aviation community – including ICAO, as well as Regulators, Standards Organisations, Manufacturers, Operators, Air Navigation Service Providers and Communication Service Providers – to build together a safe, performant and harmonised connectivity future for aviation.