Singapore, GomSpace to work on LEO-based VHF comms for aircraft

From left: Tang Kum Chuen, President of Satellite Systems, ST Electronics; Soh Poh Theen, Deputy Director-General (Air Navigation Services), CAAS; and Børge Witthøft, Chief Commercial Officer of GomSpace. Image courtesy of GomSpace.

According to a press release, GomSpace together with The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (ST Electronics) signed a research collaboration agreement on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow this week, to conduct a design study on the implementation of 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 satellites to enable clear and real-time communications between air traffic controllers and pilots over oceanic airspace. 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 operationalisation phase. With the collective expertise of CAAS, ST Electronics and GomSpace, the design study is expected to deliver solutions to overcome implementation challenges identified during the preliminary analyses, by defining baseline requirements, developing conceptual designs and conducting simulations.

“We are constantly planning ahead of the curve, driving innovation and investing in cutting-edge technologies to improve air traffic management in the Singapore FIR and the region. We are encouraged by this next milestone towards implementing space-based VHF communications for ATM, which will be a world-first, and pave the way for more ground-breaking solutions to safely support the growing air traffic in the region,” said Mr. Soh Poh Theen, Deputy Director-General (Air Navigation Services), CAAS.

“This agreement will leverage ST Electronics’ domain knowledge in aviation infrastructure systems integration and deep competency in satellite and communication technologies to explore novel applications of small satellites for CAAS and regional air navigation service providers. We are very excited about the prospect of demonstrating a space-based VHF communications and location service for smart air traffic control operations. This sustained collaboration exemplifies our deep focus on application of advanced technologies to deliver solutions that significantly enhance industry operations while creating value for customers,” said Mr. Tang Kum Chuen, President of Satellite Systems, ST Electronics.

Mr. Børge Witthøft, Chief Commercial Officer of GomSpace, added “GomSpace is very pleased with the agreement on this joint study. It is a very exciting area and we hope that the results can contribute positively to future air traffic management. 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. With our strong capabilities within satellite communication systems and our year-long track record of monitoring commercial aircraft from space, we are confident that we together with our partners CAAS and ST Electronics can achieve some remarkable results.”

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