Airbus is intending to extend an in-flight traffic awareness system to airport surface movements following certification of the concept by European safety regulators.

Designated as Airborne Traffic Situational Awareness (ATSAW), the function is hosted in the aircraft's collision-avoidance system and uses automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast to show surrounding aircraft on the cockpit navigation display.

Airbus said it is the first airframer to obtain certification for ATSAW in the forward field of view. The European Aviation Safety Agency approval applies to the A320 family as well as the A330 and A340.

ADS-B enables aircraft positions and other parameters to be transmitted "out" via the transponder, and has been used by Airbus since 2008 to provide surveillance coverage outside normal radar range.

However, ATSAW reverses this concept to enable this data from aircraft in the vicinity to be brought "in" and displayed, in order to provide the crew with a better view of the localised traffic scene.

It enables detection of opportunities for changing flight level. Airbus said that, at the point of entry to North Atlantic tracks, 30% of aircraft do not obtain their requested flight level.

"With ATSAW this number should be reduced by half, saving millions in fuel costs," it added.

Honeywell and ACSS have already gained certification for the function in their collision-avoidance avionics and Rockwell Collins is developing a similar host for certification by the end of 2013, said Airbus.

It added that it will market ATSAW as a standalone function as well as a function which includes in-trail procedures, for use on North Atlantic and Pacific tracks, which can allow temporary reduction of in-trail separation from a 10min interval - equating to some 80nm (150km) - to just 15-20nm.

ATSAW also allows pilots to identify target aircraft for separation manoeuvres that can increase runway capacity.

While its development plan for ATSAW focuses initially on use in flight, another phase will translate the concept to the airport surface.

This extension, known as ATSA-SURF, aims to enhance safety on the ground by providing the crew with a moving-map display featuring surrounding aircraft.

Airbus said the potential benefits of ATSAW are being assessed by Eurocontrol, with an A330 the first aircraft equipped for the project.

Source: Flight International