Azerbaijan and Georgia are to host the Transcaucasus region's first advanced air traffic surveillance demonstration in March when state carrier Georgian Airlines and Azerbaijani helicopters participate in a live automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) trial.
ADS-B enables aircraft to broadcast regular position updates to air traffic controllers as well as to other aircraft in the vicinity.
The demonstration is being carried out in conjunction with the second phase of the European Commission-funded Southern Ring Air Routes programme which aims to examine introduction of ADS-B to address deficiencies in surveillance owing to the lack of radar infrastructure in the region.
Ten states - Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Mongolia - are participating in the Southern Ring project.
Azerbaijan air navigation authority AZANS director Valery Sultanov says: "It has been mentioned before that this project would give the opportunity to all states participating to accept reasonable and co-ordinated decisions relating to the transformation of the current ground air navigation infrastructure to new, progressive and advantageous systems.
"Now this project has succeeded to the point where the developed and discussed proposals should be implemented."
The first part of the demonstration will involve surveillance of two Mil Mi-8 helicopters conducting offshore transfer of oil workers in the Caspian Sea region. Both of these helicopters have been fitted with ADS-B avionics while an ADS-B ground station was installed in December just outside Baku in preparation for the trial.
Sultanov says: "This satellite system meets all modern flight safety requirements. It also has a great advantage compared with other surveillance systems - it is more cost effective."
Commercial flight operations will be the focus of the second part of the demonstration, to be carried out in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, where another ADS-B ground station is being set up.
Two Georgian Airlines aircraft - a Tupolev Tu-134 and a Tu-154 - are being equipped to take part while Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's state Ilyushin Il-62 aircraft is also set to participate.
Negotiations are under way between Russian authorities and the Transcaucasus states which aim to establish a co-operation between the Southern Ring project and the ADS-B programme being undertaken in Russia's Tyumen region.
Russia is intending to put an ADS-B network in place across the Tyumen area this year as part of an ambitious nationwide programme to make ADS-B the basis for air traffic surveillance throughout the country by October 2005.