Airport surveillance systems dedicated to the manoeuvring area use procedures primarily based on the 'see and be seen' principle, to maintain separation between aircraft and/or vehicles.
These systems have demonstrated their weaknesses (in particular in low visibility conditions) and the risk of runway incursion has become one of the major issues in the safety of air transport. Furthermore, the management of the different airport segments is performed independently, and stakeholders involved in the decision-making process have a limited knowledge of the overall traffic situation. In particular, there is no integrated management of the vehicle movements at airport level.
This lack of coordination, in crisis situation (bad meteorological conditions, traffic overload, etc.), may lead to severe dysfunction of the airport. Therefore, the safety of vehicles on the airport areas and the efficiency of the movements of these vehicles are more and more seen as major issues by airport operators, since the continuous and steady growth of air traffic implies an increase in the number of vehicles that provide services to aircraft. This is why it was recognised that there was a need for new systems (A-SMGCS: Advanced Surfaced Movement Guidance and Control System) to satisfy the airports demand.
The A-SMGCS recommendations edited by Eurocontrol aim at improving the management of ground surface movements and to improve airport surveillance in the manoeuvring area. In addition, it is also necessary to improve the coordination between airport stakeholders, by better sharing of the information. There are now A-SMGCS systems available and implemented at large airports, however these systems are based in ground radars, multilateration and present some frequency constraints when a large number of vehicles are equipped. The AIRNET project implements a low cost A-SMGCS solution.
In this perspective, the detailed objectives of the AIRNET project were to:
- Prototype an EGNOS low-cost platform for the surveillance, control and management of airport vehicles (catering, baggage, fuel, maintenance, firemen, police, customs, etc.).
This platform will be based on the EGNOS satellite navigation system for providing the position of the vehicles with the required high-level of integrity. It implements the recommendations of EUROCONTROL for A-SMGCS (Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control systems).This platform is composed of several key components.
- Interactive Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) for the drivers of the vehicles and the end-users on the ground, to display the situation to drivers & ground operators and to allow operational interaction between the ground operators and the drivers;
- Communication networks:
- communication network interoperable with aircraft, to allow situation awareness both on the vehicle side and the aircraft side;
- innovative communication networks (wireless technologies), for communication between the ground and the vehicle (position, identity, alerts, instructions, etc.);
- runway safety functions, to process the surrounding situation of a mobile and to elaborate alarms to the driver in emergency situations;
- congestion control functions, to assess the overall situation and to plan the allocation of airport resources, based on spatial analysis.
The architecture and development of this platform relied on a detailed analysis of operational and functional requirements, based on the A-SMGCS recommendations from Eurocontrol.
This prototype was deployed at Oporto airport (mid-size airport, Portugal) for an extensive validation campaign. The low-cost of the AIRNET infrastructure make AIRNET attractive to small and medium size airports.
It is to be noted that the AIRNET project was based on a strong involvement of the end-users, in order to ensure the adequate capture of user needs, constraints and requirements capture, and above all, the adequation of the system design with the users' needs.
The end-users were involved in the project as experts (for the collection of user requirements) and as actors during the validation campaign (field-trials), in order to provide the essential return of experience & operational feedback.
The objective of the last phase of the project was to deploy the AIRNET system in Porto airport in order to perform an extensive validation campaign of the AIRNET system.
The objectives of this validation campaign were to:
- validate the AIRNET system in operational conditions;
- validate that the implemented AIRNET demonstrator respected the international norms and required operational criteria in terms of performance: realibility, safety and response times.
This validation campaign took place atPorto airport over a 4-month period from October to December 2006.
During this campaign, 4 airport vehicles were equipped and used to test the AIRNET system:
- 2 vehicles were equipped with the AIRNET CNU and CDMA450 (AIRNET 04: Birds Kia, AIRNET 05: Follow-Me Strakar);
- 2 vehicles were equipped with the AIRNET Tablet PC and Wi-Fi (AIRNET 01: Maintenance Polo, AIRNET 03: Follow-Me Polo).
The validation was performed step-by-step, based on the limited configuration deployed at Oporto airport, intending to demonstrate that the services provided by the AIRNET system complied with the operational requirements of the different airport actors. For this validation, only the communication wireless technologies with better performance (Wi-Fi and CDMA) were implemented in the operational scenarios.
The validation of the AIRNET system was based on the results of the operational validation in each of the following sub-sets:
- validation of the Runway Safety Service;
- validation of the Congestion Control Service;
- validation for the Communication Network;
- validation of the VDL-4 network;
- validation of the Driver HMI.
The AIRNET demonstrator validated the most innovative features of the project.
The different actors of the airport (ATCO, AOO, GH) considered the AIRNET solution valid to airport operations and a good implementation of the A-SMGCS concept. AIRNET includes also additional features besides those specified in A-SMGCS which clearly contribute for the efficiency of airport services.
Although there are still some issues to be developed after the demonstrator, they are identified and can be solved through further work when evolving into an industrial solution. As a result of the project experience and ongoing standardisation some further improvements are also suggested for operational solutions.
The AIRNET project was an excellent project for the partners to acquire know-how that enabled them to further develop the AIRNET concept in other applications and further develop features and functionalities. Indeed, the AIRNET project served as a valuable instrument for all partners for developing industrial solutions by themselves or under other contracts or projects funded by local authorities and governments or even through European Programmes.
Also the scientific papers produced and disseminated in several conferences and technological forums, have been raising public awareness for safer and more efficient applications using the concepts developed under the AIRNET project.
Thanks to the involvement of end-users, in particular Oporto airport, the AIRNET partners obtained a good knowledge and understanding of current European legislations related with air transport, as well as a good knowledge of the operational methods and procedures currently used by the end-users. In addition, the AIRNET partners were in direct contact with EUROCONTROL, in order to guarantee the compatibility of AIRNET with A-SMGCS requirements under development. Regarding innovative communication networks, the AIRNET partners have included technologies currently under evaluation and standardisation (e.g. Wi-Fi) for use in operational systems in air transport.