As most of the aviation world looks to satellite communications, let’s spare a thought for High Frequency Data Link, commonly known as HFDL. Primarily used for long-haul and trans-oceanic flights, when VHF line of sight communications is insufficient, HFDL is a HF data link protocol, operated by ARINC as a GLOBALink ACARS service via a ground network of HF stations, whose coverage spans much of the Earth’s surface.
More robust than voice communications, HFDL transmissions are often used by the military and on board aircraft, HFDL integrates seamlessly with the flight management systems.
Recent developments in software for HFDL means that the service offers comparable message success rates to VHF and satellite datalink.
A trial program has begun this week spearheaded by Rockwell Collins and involving nine global airlines to test the communications giant’s new ARINC MultiLink flight tracking service, which promised to be one of the most cost-effective solutions to the much debated problem for airlines.
Using multiple data sources, including satellite, HFDL performance data, ADS-C, radar, ACARS and EuroControl positioning data, the ARINC MultiLink reports the location of an aircraft reliably anywhere in the world.
Trials are being conducted in Europe, Middle East and Asia, North and Latin America. Participating airlines have been selected for their geographic diversity, according to Yun Chong, vice president of commercial aviation services for Rockwell Collins IMS.
Once the trials are completed, the service is expected to be widely available towards the end of 2015.
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has signed a contract with M/s Wateen Telecom for the lease of managed services of Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) via SITA’s network of voice and data solutions.
In a statement issued by the PCAA this week, the move is to ‘help radar controllers to establish a data and voice communication link from Karachi and Lahore on a 24/7 through 365 days basis.’
Using CPDLC and HF datalink communications, aircraft flying from any part of the world can communicate with the PCAA radar controller with an enhanced link that will improve the conventional VHF and HF wireless communications connectivity, particularly on long-haul flights.
The move comes as the PCAA strive to strengthen the Pakistan Airspace with CPDLC integration into the air traffic management system.
The use of CPDLC is gaining momentum as providers aim for the enhanced capabilities, reducing pilot and flight crew workload in commercial and business aircraft across the world. CPDLC can give flights access to faster routes, which can also help to manage costs in terms of fuel and airspeed, maximising operational productivity.
Rockwell Collins demonstrated the capability of their Pro Line Fusion flight deck to be utilised as a ground control station last month as a part of a flight demonstration with the University of Iowa College of Engineering Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL).
Alex Postnikov, principle engineering manager at the Rockwell Collins Advanced Technology Center said that the aim of the flight was to ‘test the operational capability of a distributed Flight Management System using a certified digital communications link.’
The flight was conducted with a surrogate unmanned aircraft with a safety pilot onboard in order to test some of the repurposed Rockwell Collins technology for manned aircraft, with a view to applying that to unmanned aircraft.
“One of the big parts of the certification with the FAA is being able to handle lost link procedures. Today in the military world, when you lose a link, the [unmanned] aircraft essentially starts spiralling up with the hope of getting a line of sight to the radio. When it is unable to do that for some time it just flies in a straight line to the point of origin or where it is launched from,” said Postnikov. “Imagine doing something like this in the NAS. You cannot do that. The aircraft cannot just spiral up and just fly it in a straight line somewhere. So you have to follow the Standard RNP procedures, you have to use the standard navaids that are understood by everybody who flies in the NAS. That’s the piece that we believe has very strongly positioned us because the Pro Line Fusion has that capability. While this test focused on demonstrating the datalink capability, the emphasis of the September flight test was to “ensure that we can exercise our distributed Flight Management System (FMS).”
The only part of the flight test that was not automated was the take-off and landing procedures. The test team artificially broke the data link between the aircraft during the test and the modified Pro Line Fusion ground station, which was connected to the radio that was in communication with the aircraft.
Cost is a major issue with HFDL communications and Rockwell Collins are, through their acquisition of ARINC last year, offering cost effective solutions for aircraft messaging across the world, whether in manned or unmanned aircraft.
L2 Consulting Services has announced that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has issued Validation Supplemental Type Certification for the installation of Iridium Satellite Communications Systems on 737 aircraft last month.
This follows the original FAA certificate for Rockwell Collins’ IRT-2120 Iridium SATCOM system and ICG NxtLink ICS-220A, both providing the flight crew with dedicated data link channels to support ACARS, CPDLC, an exclusive global voice channel and FANS messaging.
L2 are avionics engineering, installation and integration providers and have specialised in this area of the industry since 1997, with the integration of digital avionics systems into analog aircraft. The company currently hold existing Iridium certifications for B747, B757 and B767 aircraft and handle the STC regulatory process with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
L2 Vice President of Operations, Dean Rudolph said, “We are delighted to have received the CAAC validation of our STC and are now able to offer our customers in China a fully certified Iridium Communications solution on the B737NG series aircraft.”
Aviation maintenance providers, Jet Aviation Dubai announced the completion of its first CPDLC, data link upgrade and ADS-B Out installation on a Gulfstream G550 this week for a regional client.
Data link upgrades to avionics offer improvements to communications between controllers and pilots and can add a level of visibility to long-haul communications.
The director of Safety & Maintenance at Jet Aviation Dubai, Wajahat Ali Khan said, “This particular upgrade was technologically challenged and logistically complicated. I am very pleased to note that our team of qualified technicians worked tirelessly to re-deliver the aircraft on schedule.”
Other leading providers of CPDLC and HF data link communications solutions, such as ARINC, acquired last year by the aeronautics giant, Rockwell Collins, have been delivering data link solutions and upgrades for more than a decade. ARINC were one of the very first providers of data link, pioneering ACARS communications which today has become the industry-standard for aircraft messaging. With global coverage, data link upgrades are increasingly in demand.
Many modern aircraft are now manufactured with HF Data Link capabilities as an option and the airlines specifications for the inclusion of the Data Link upgrade are growing at a rate of almost 20% every year.
Universal Avionics announced at the EBACE convention that Clay Lacy Aviation is ready to offer an STC to provide FANS 1/A+ capability for the Gulfstream GIV and GIV -SP models with the UniLink UL-801 Communications Management System (CMU).
Initial certification aircraft installation started in January and STC approval is expected before the end of September, when application for EASA certification will take place.
The installation for FANS encompasses the UniLink UL-801, Cockpit voice recorder, Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) functionalities.
As the date for EuroControl mandates approaches, airlines and operators are preparing for compliance in both commercial and business aircraft.
“The cost of non-compliance to long range business jets is significant, affecting routing, flight time and fuel burn,” said Universal Avionics director of sales, Robert Clare. “Operators may experience challenges flying within the North Atlantic Track System if the aircraft is not equipped for FANS capabilities, such as being routed to lower altitudes, causing a considerable increase in fuel burn.”
Research is being conducted into the use of data link communications on low-altitude flights between UK’s Bristol and Edinburgh this week by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS).
CPDLC will eventually completely replace European-wide voice communications and streamline flight deck communications under the SESAR European Single Sky Directive, run and managed by EUROCONTROL.
The UK trials are being conducted at low altitudes to assess the impact of the system for the provision of the same benefits at flight levels as low as 10,000 feet. The current European mandate will cover altitudes of over 28,500 feet.
In the U.S. the datalink directive is already in place, modernised by the Data Comm Air Traffic Management program (ATM). In the North Atlantic tract datalink is mandatory and access to these valuable routes saves time and fuel for operators.
In addition to these current datalink flight trials, NATS will also perform trials between Bristol and Rome and Scotland and Scandinavia.
Russia plan to deploy a maximum of seven new ground-stations in foreign countries in a bid to improve satellite navigational capabilities with Glonass system monitoring by the end of 2014. The new ground-stations will join 46 that currently operate within Russian territory, three in Antarctica and one in Brazil.
The news was announced at the Security Technologies exhibition conference earlier this month and the focus, according to Vladimir Klimov, Glonass Association Executive Director, is to create a worldwide Glonass augmentation network.
In order for high-precision navigation and communications to operate seamlessly, it is critical that satellite networks can communicate globally with a series of ground-based stations or receivers. High frequency data link communications for example, can only be seamlessly effective if geostationary satellite transmissions can form a truly global network, including remote, Polar Regions and vast oceanic expanses. This is made possible by overlapping coverage zones with carefully placed ground-stations and high frequency receipt and transmission technology is installed within aircraft.
Other aviation HFDL providers include ARINC who successfully achieve global coverage utilising the Iridium and Inmarsat satellite networks.
Garmin International Inc., part of Garmin Ltd., has announced a new portable ADS-B and GPS receiver, the GDL 39 3D. The device adds simultaneous display of aircraft attitude information (pitch and roll), interactive mapping, traffic, and weather information to the Garmin Pilot(TM) application, and includes Garmin’s TargetTrend(TM) relative motion technology.
Garmin say that the subscription-free weather data provided with the system will be similar to that offered by commercial satellite weather providers while the dual link ADS-B receiver will be able to supply ADS-B traffic, weather, and WAAS GPS data to Bluetooth(R) compatible iOS and Android devices.
The GDL 39 3D is able to serve data to two devices wirelessly while hardwired to a third, and gathers traffic and weather information from the vicinity in such a way as to make it available the moment the device is switched on.
Garmin’s Vice President of Aviation Sales and Marketing, Carl Wolf said that the new device demonstrated the companies commitment to easing the transition to ADS-B for all aircraft owners.