The safety of air transport is a continuing concern of the aeronautical community and spectrum management is a key component. For decades, thanks to radio frequencies, aircraft have kept track of their flight paths with or without visibility, avoided collisions, communicated with air traffic control and achieved three-dimensional aircraft location.
The needs of the airline industry are still considerable and after the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, WRC-15 decided to assign a frequency band as a matter of urgency to satellite reception of broadcasts (ADS-B) from commercial aircraft so as to ensure around the clock global aircraft tracking. The Iridium Next satellites, programmed to launch between July 2016 and 2019, will carry dedicated receivers with this assigned frequency. The system will be able to locate a disabled aircraft anywhere in the world and will furthermore have the capacity to process aircraft location data to facilitate air traffic control.
This decision is part of a much more exhaustive project aiming to improve inflight aircraft tracking and safety. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is currently working on the definition of a Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS). The objective is to secure precise and updated location of an aircraft as soon as possible once abnormal aircraft behaviour is detected. According to ICAO, GADSS will consist of a set of systems for locating and alerting before the accident happens. Various technologies are under scrutiny, each of which responds in part to requirements.
With this in view, Airbus is working on the concept of black boxes for ejection before the crash while Boeing is in favour of using existing non-specific commercial satellite links for real-time data flows. COSPAS SARSAT, the CNES-supported global alert system for the detection and location of emergency radio beacons, could also contribute to GADSS when an aircraft sends out a distress call.
On another point, all-weather landing facilities are still central to ensuring flight regularity and safety. Existing systems require costly ground infrastructure only available in major airports, but in future onboard systems (Enhanced Flight Vision System/EFVS) could be of assistance for landing on smaller airfields. One solution under consideration would involve assigning millimetre wave radars in the 32 GHz band to the aeronautical radionavigation service.
Bearing in mind aircraft ranges, global spectrum harmonisation is essential to satisfy this kind of requirement.
ANFR will keep abreast of ICAO deliberations on GADSS operational concepts and will work in consultation with the French Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) to determine which of the various applications on offer could meet GADSS requirements. If necessary, the Agency will arrange to make new spectrum resources available.
After having recommended EFVS recognition to ITU, the Agency will contribute to research on compatibility with 5G in the 32 GHz band to ensure the possibility of global EFVS implementation.