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Singapore Pursues Space-Based VHF Comms for Air Traffic Control

By | February 6, 2018
Singapore's Changi airport. Photo: Changi Airport.

Singapore’s Changi airport. Photo: Changi Airport.

At this week’s Singapore Airshow, GomSpace, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and Singapore Technologies Electronics (ST Electronics) signed a research collaboration agreement to conduct a design study on space-based Very High Frequency (VHF) communications for Air Traffic Management (ATM) in the Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR). This agreement follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the three parties in July 2017 to explore the application and deployment of the space-based system.

The space-based VHF communications system involves the mounting of VHF communications equipment onto a constellation of small Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to enable clear and real-time communications between air traffic controllers and pilots over oceanic airspace.

According to CAAS, this technology will improve safety and facilitate the safe reduction in separation between aircraft, from the current 80 nautical miles (NM) to potentially 5NM in airspace where ground-based VHF communications is currently not available, increasing ATM capacity and enabling more efficient use of airspace.

The implementation of space-based VHF communications in the Singapore FIR will entail a design study phase, a proof of concept phase, and finally an operationalization phase. CAAS expects the design study to deliver solutions to overcome implementation challenges identified during the preliminary analyses by defining baseline requirements, developing conceptual designs and conducting simulations.

“The ultimate goal is to increase safety while at the same time providing the possibility of more optimal flight levels and thus also reducing the amount of fuel used by airlines,” added Borge Witthoft, Gomspace Chief Commercial Officer (CCO).