European scientists are exploring how automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) signals could in future be relayed by satellites for air traffic management in remote oceanic areas without radar coverage.
Germany’s aerospace research centre DLR has partnered with technology group Thales Alenia Space and Luxembourg-headquartered satellite operator SES TechCom to develop an orbit-based ADS-B reception system using initial test data gathered from the European Space Agency’s Proba-V Earth observation satellite.
Proba-V – equipped with an ADS-B receiver – was launched in May to orbit Earth at a height of 820km. When it was first activated later that month, the equipment located around 100 aircraft as the satellite moved across a defined region, says DLR. Since then, the receiver has been continuously gathering data.
The test mission allowed DLR to collect, for the first time, empirical data about satellite-based ADS-B signal processing, which is central to the development of a future system, says Jörg Behrens, a department head at DLR’s space-systems centre in Bremen.
Scientists are analysing how precisely the ADS-B signal can be received and what signal strength is necessary to reach the satellite. That assessment – supported by conventional surveillance data from, for example, Australian, Icelandic or Portuguese radar stations – will be used to determine how accurately the satellite can locate aircraft in particular oceanic regions.
If surveillance coverage can be improved in remote areas, flight routes – which currently need to be spaced far apart for air traffic safety – could be optimised. Missing aircraft could also be accurately localised, says DLR.
The research centre has agreed with Thales Alenia Space and SES TechCom to develop a demonstrator ADS-B satellite system over the next five years.