A new take on ATC Communications

Source: Rhode & Schwarz

Rhode & Schwarz unveiled its CERTIUM concept around the World ATM Congress that didn’t happen. Doing so through virtual briefings and a webinar, they were able to get the industry on board with this new idea. The idea is that a one-stop-shop for the full lifecycle of ATC Communications systems could enable ANSPs and Airports to more easily plan and implement for the future.

In the past, the solutions for these two markets were separate and with CERTIUM they come together. Design, manufacturing, system integration and tailored services are all under one umbrella with the new portfolio.

All solutions are based on IP technology. ATC is migrating to IP at different paces depending on the users. Some users still consider IP an entry point for malicious activity and are moving slowly to ensure they don’t create any security risks. The reality is that IP allows for easier introduction of security features and is not in a lacking situation vs. TDM technology. Remote tower and virtual centre solutions all depend upon IP to function.

“The innovative virtual ATC centre concept developed exclusively by Rhode & Schwarz reaffirms the company’s technological leadership role.  It makes geographically distributed, redundant ATC a reality, enabling our customers to operate a VCS group with maximum flexibility for considerably greater failsafety,” said Alexandru Negulescu, Managing Director, R&S Center of Competency for VCS.

Safety and security do not always see eye to eye when it comes to topics related to the Air Traffic Management world.  Safety can limit the speed at which security can be implemented, which ultimately can cause a reduced level of security.  Rhode & Schwarz considers secure communications as a core to its solutions. Beyond the CERTIUM portfolio, the company is also an IT Security company with 600 employees in its cybersecurity business unit that serve other industries with this in-house expertise.  In this specific market they are protecting the digital assets of critical infrastructure globally.  None of this is accomplished without incorporating safety critical requirements.

The CERTIUM portfolio provides a 360 degree ATC communications suite addressing – VCS, radios, a product named Locate which helps to manage airspace capacity reducing ATCO stress and improving overall safety, analytics, gateways, network infrastructure, management and professional services.

Let’s briefly touch on each of these topics and what Rhode & Schwarz feels are the key attributes of each:

  • VCS – IP-based architecture, 4G support for remote towers and virtual centres, works from small towers through countrywide solution.
  • Radios – Cover the entire range of ATC- HF to VHF to UHF, with security by design to resist denial-of-service attacks.  All about security.
  • Locate – automatically locates the aircraft that is communicating and highlights it on the ATC screen.
  • Analysis – assurance systems to ensure regulatory compliance.
  • Gateways – allows for the interface between analog and TDM radios, VCS and telephony systems into an IP infrastructure.
  • Network – ATC session border controller to protect edges of the network.
  • Management – centralised management, software configurable.
  • Service – customer support round the clock.

Whether or not customers have the desire to work with a single vendor across their solution set or desire a best-of-breed type architecture remains to be seen.  The intent of this end-to-end offering is logical in the perspective of more easily updating and integrating functionality in years to come without having to change out major sections of an ATC communications deployment.