SITAONAIR and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the potential for a world-first space-based Very High Frequency (VHF) solution.
The space-based VHF voice service, which would be the first of its kind, would use VHF radio relay installed onboard satellites. Its key benefit would be to enable Direct Controller-Pilot Communication (DCPC) in areas of airspace which are geographically remote, such as oceanic regions, or where it is not cost-efficient to provide and maintain terrestrial VHF and HF services.
When used in combination with air traffic surveillance systems, the service has the potential to drastically improve airspace capacity and efficiency, complementing existing automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), satellite communications (SATCOM) Voice and automatic dependent surveillance-contract/controller-pilot data link communications (ADS-C/CPDLC) technologies.
CAAS is already embarking on technical studies into space-based VHF in the Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR), focusing on medium earth orbit (MEO) and low earth orbit (LEO) satellites used as relay stations for voice and, if feasible, data communications.
SITAONAIR will support the initiative by contributing to various studies around the enablement of dual mission voice and data capability in areas that may benefit from ACARS Datalink services.
Initially, SITAONAIR will engage with the industry to focus on the implementation of High Altitude Pseudo Satellite- (HAPS)-based platforms which would hover around 60,000ft above the earth’s surface, in the stratosphere. This interim solution would deliver value in high-traffic routes and regions, paving the way for space-based VHF once available satellites are launched.
“The work already done in the region and this new collaboration with SITAONAIR are key steps in our efforts to invest in the future of improved air traffic management, through cutting-edge technologies. We’re excited to launch this within the Singapore FIR and provide enhanced operational efficiency for other air navigation service providers in the years to come. The addition of SITAONAIR’s industry and air traffic communications expertise enables CAAS to strengthen its research within the industry and continue to innovate,” commented Kevin Shum, CAAS director general.
David Lavorel, chief executive, SITAONAIR, added: “Our focus, first and foremost, is the safety and efficiency of air traffic in increasingly busy skies. The research conducted in Singapore propels the industry into the next stage of air traffic management innovation and communications, providing the potential for key solutions which will keep the skies smarter, even in areas where ground-based VHF is not possible.”