Concept and Objectives:
Air traffic in Europe is expected to double by 2025 according to the last forecast of Eurocontrol. Future passenger and freight fleets will bring better efficiency and improved environmental performance, and will allow people to benefit from the connections that only air transport can deliver. In this context, an integrated aircraft communication system is of paramount importance to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness by ensuring flexibility, scalability, modularity and reconfigurability. The SANDRA project will design, implement and validate through in-flight trials an integrated aeronautical communications system based on an open architecture, a common set of interfaces and on well-proven industry standards. Integration will be addressed at four different levels, namely:
- Integration at service level, through a Service Oriented architectural approach;
- Integration at network level through addressing interoperability to ensure transition;
- Integration of existing radio technologies into an Integrated Modular Radio platform (Software Defined);- Integration at antenna and RF level by a L/KU satellite array antenna prototype.
The integration of different service domains with heterogeneous requirements through a cost-effective and flexible avionic architecture is thus one of the main challenges addressed by SANDRA. In this light, the SANDRA communication system will represent a key enabler for meeting the high market demand for broadband passenger and enhanced cabin communication services. The SANDRA concept is fully inline with SESAR activity and future deployment plans ATM modernisation as well as with the final recommendations of Eurocontrol/FAA Future Communications Study. SANDRA addresses many of the enablers identified by SESAR for the medium and long term implementation packages, although the proposed integrated approach for the global provision of distributed services covers a much broader set of applications and service domains.
SANDRA Results in brief:
New aircraft communications system is taking off
An EU-funded project has published an ‘open access’ book on ‘Future Aeronautical Communications’. Aircraft communication is critical not only for passenger safety but also for reducing costs and flight delays. Air traffic in Europe is continually on the increase and, in the future, the current communication systems for air traffic management will become saturated. By 2030, the number of flights in Europe is expected to double from today’s 10 million. The civil aviation sector has to count on a sufficient capacity to support this significant growth. At the same time, it must maintain or improve current safety standards while reducing costs to sustain international competition.
This is the reason why the EU launched the SESAR programme, part of the Single European Sky initiative, to come up with a new approach to reform the air traffic management (ATM) structure in Europe. It will develop a ‘concept of operations’ for the next-generation air transportation system to help our airports run more smoothly and to reduce delays. However, this transformation of air transport requires the new communication system being researched in the EU-funded ‘Seamless aeronautical networking through integration of data links, radios, and antennas’ (SANDRA) project. The initiative will fully validate software architectures and system technologies able to cope with next-generation transportation and Internet systems for both passenger communications and in-flight entertainment.
Already, the project has brought together the latest contributions and research results in the field of future aeronautical communications to be published in a book. The publication aims to give readers the opportunity to deepen and broaden their knowledge in this field. It is available online and under open access, making the research available to anyone in the world for free. The project has laid the groundwork for defining a fully integrated airborne communication architecture. However, more work is required before all the components are finally integrated into the new communication system, which will have to be fully validated both in the laboratory and in practice via in-flight trials.