Sensis' WAM Now Certified for Air Traffic Control in the North Sea

Sesis Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) system in the North Sea is now operational.  This is the first fully operational use of WAM for the surveillance of off-shore oil and gas platform air traffic. WAM was a more economically and technologically viable solution than traditional radar to improve flight safety in this challenging environment.

Sensis Corporations Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) deployment in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland is now certified for Air Traffic Control (ATC) by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority. Air traffic controllers for NATS, the United Kingdoms leading air navigation services provider, are using the highly accurate WAM surveillance to enhance the safety of air traffic operations within the oil platforms airspace by employing the same standards and procedures as a traditional radar system. This application is the industrys first fully certified WAM system to provide ATC services for flights in an off-shore oil platform environment.
 
Each year, more than 25,000 helicopter flights carry a half million passengers between Aberdeen Airport and the oil and gas operations in the North Sea through airspace that is inaccessible to shore-based radars. Low-level radar coverage only extends 80 miles offshore, forcing controllers to rely on pilots positional radio updates every 10 minutes. As a result, established flight paths are often not the most efficient routes due to the lack of surveillance. Deploying traditional radar was not an effective or economical solution due to performance limitations at low flight levels and initial and lifecycle costs of installing radars on oil rigs.
 
To increase safety and efficiency of helicopter operations in the North Sea, NATS required an innovative, reliable solution that would provide high accuracy surveillance today while being ready for tomorrows technologies, such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B). NATS Services chose Sensis WAM to cover 25,000 square miles of the North Sea, using multilateration sensors placed on 16 oil platforms, including a floating platform with positional changes of up to 100 meters. The system is capable of tracking flights using Mode S, Mode A/C or ADS-B, ensuring surveillance without any new avionics.
 
Air traffic controllers based at Aberdeen Airport are now using the precise surveillance from Sensis WAM in the same manner as traditional radar to monitor off-shore flights in all weather conditions, said John Mayhew, General Manager NATS Aberdeen. The result is a significant enhancement to flight safety in the area which is beyond the coverage of land-based radars.
 
Robert Paterson, health, safety and employment issues director with Oil & Gas UK, welcomed the launch, adding: I am very pleased to see this system go live now as this is a considerable step forward in helicopter safety.
 
Sensis multilateration uses multiple low-maintenance, non-rotating sensors to triangulate aircraft location based on transponder signals, providing air traffic controllers with precise aircraft position and identification information, regardless of weather conditions. With a higher update rate and greater positional accuracy than traditional radar, Sensis multilateration provides effective surveillance for increased safety, capacity and efficiency of airspace and airports. With its advanced processing techniques, Sensis multilateration uses the minimal number of sensors for a less complex, lower lifecycle cost solution. Additionally, every sensor deployed by Sensis also supports ADS-B, providing an infrastructure thats ready for todays surveillance needs and tomorrows avionics an economical, long-term solution.
 
Sensis pioneered the concept of using WAM for surveillance of oil platform flights in the Gulf of Mexico with the Helicopter In-flight Tracking System trial for NASA, said Ken Kaminski, vice president and general manager of Sensis Air Traffic Systems. With the North Sea system becoming the first of its kind to be certified for air traffic control, we have further proven WAM as an effective, efficient surveillance solution for these challenging environments.
 
Almost 100 sites worldwide have chosen Sensis multilateration to enhance safety, efficiency, capacity and cost savings through airport surface surveillance, wide area surveillance and airport surface management.

For NATS North Sea WAM system press release issued earlier today, please visit http://www.nats.co.uk/news/.

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