Communications equipment also to be upgraded in area off Scottish coast with heavy helicopter traffic to oilfields

UK air navigation service provider NATS is to provide wide-area multilateration surveillance for North Sea oil support helicopter services and upgrade communications systems in the area. NATS surveillance and display manager Graeme Henderson says Aberdeen, Scotland air traffic control handles more than 25,000 helicopter flights a year, and a large part of its airspace is beyond conventional radar coverage.

In the next few weeks NATS expects to announce the initiatives, but as there is "fine-tuning" to be agreed with contractors, it is reluctant to discuss detail.

Equipment supplier Sensis, however, says its multistatic dependent surveillance equipment will enable surveillance and tracking of helicopter traffic to and from oil platforms up to 10,000ft (3,000m) for 65,000km2 (25,000 miles2) of airspace off the coast of Aberdeen, including accurate coverage when aircraft are close to helicopter decks.

Sensis says the system will locate and identify helicopters with a precision at least equal to traditional secondary surveillance radar performance, using sensors on the oil platforms themselves.

There is an in-built capability for higher update rates, regardless of weather conditions, according to Sensis. But one of the "fine-tuning" points is that agreements for siting multilateration system antennas on oil platforms have yet to be finalised, says NATS.

The UK Offshore Operators Association says: "UKOOA welcomes the news that NATS has awarded Sensis a contract for Multistatic Dependant Surveillance for Wide Area Multilateration Surveillance for use in the North Sea. We look forward to the implementation of the new equipment next year as part of a larger project to improve the safety of operations in the North Sea."

Sensis Air Traffic Systems president Marc Viggiano says that multilateration is less expensive but more effective than traditional radar, as well as supporting automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast.

Sensis's wide-area multilateration surveillance has been demonstrated in a number of evaluation programs, including one tracking offshore oil support helicopter traffic in the Gulf of Mexico.

© Rowan Greenwood   

Sensis system will enable tracking of helicopter traffic to oil platforms


Source: Flight International