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Airspace surveillance systems – past, present and future

Posted: 1 August 2012 | Jacques Dopagne, Director Network Management, EUROCONTROL | No comments yet

The Air Traffic Management (ATM) Surveillance Tracker and Server (ARTAS) is one of the most advanced surveillance data processing systems in the world, underpinning ATM network safety and efficiency.

The concept emerged in the early-90s, long before the Single European Sky (SES) appeared. It was created by a community of international experts who dreamed of abolishing the limits that slowed down air traffic.

They saw that the radar data processing systems used then were all autonomous, with a huge variation in process sophistication and performance. This difference in standards made it necessary to have large separation minima between aircraft and so played no small part in contributing to congestion. They dreamed of an interlocking system, rather like LEGO®, in which all the ACCs’ surveillance systems were linked.

The Air Traffic Management (ATM) Surveillance Tracker and Server (ARTAS) is one of the most advanced surveillance data processing systems in the world, underpinning ATM network safety and efficiency.

The concept emerged in the early-90s, long before the Single European Sky (SES) appeared. It was created by a community of international experts who dreamed of abolishing the limits that slowed down air traffic.

They saw that the radar data processing systems used then were all autonomous, with a huge variation in process sophistication and performance. This difference in standards made it necessary to have large separation minima between aircraft and so played no small part in contributing to congestion. They dreamed of an interlocking system, rather like LEGO®, in which all the ACCs’ surveillance systems were linked.

They noticed that the lack of system co-ordination led to serious drawbacks such as:

  • The inability to use all surveillance information optimaly
  • Inaccurate estimates of aircraft statevector information
  • Insufficient capability to follow certain aircraft manoeuvres
  • Not enough robustness to deal with track interruptions or jumps and false radar information.

They came up with a system that could present an accurate, continuous picture of the airspace situation with a number of desirable features including;

  • Central configuration management
  • The joint elaboration of system enhancements
  • Commonly organised support

The concept took several years to materialise but right from the start, decision-makers in European Air Traffic Management circles saw its potential benefit.

ARTAS was the precursor of harmonisation in Europe; and it prepared the way for later work that would be done in the framework of SESAR, the Single European Sky (SES) ATM research programme.

What is ARTAS?

Essentially, ARTAS fuses surveillance data from multiple sources (radar, ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast), multi – lateration) to produce a picture of the prevailing air traffic situation – and, distribute this to a community of users.

What differentiates ARTAS from any other tracker system is that it is a distributed system, made up of identical units which all act as one region-wide integrated surveillance system. The surveillance sensors are connected to a Regional Surveillance WAN (Wide Area Network). Each ARTAS unit processes the surveillance data received on the network and acts as a server through the Surveillance Data Distribution (SDD) systems, giving continuous aircraft track data to the ATC Units and other user systems (e.g. military air defence systems or flow management units) which are connected to the network.

The ARTAS project developed and validated advanced tracking techniques on top of the distributed surveillance system innovative concept. It was, naturally, rather visionary when the project first started – but the techniques and concepts are still held to be advanced today, some 20 years or so later.

Ten years on

November 2011 saw the celebration of the 20th anniversary of ARTAS’s launch; 10 years of service and also 10 years of CAMOS, the centralised ARTAS Maintenance and Operational Support.

CAMOS played an important role in the success of the product from the very beginning, providing software maintenance and support. This, together with its substantial cost-benefit ratio, helped establish ARTAS’s popularity amongst users.

When CAMOS was started in 2001, there were three operational and nine test sites on the implementation map. Today, over 100 ARTAS units are running in some 30 civil and military centres in practically every one of EUROCONTROL’s Member States. Thirteen more States are finalising plans to implement it, too.

Besides the ever-increasing number of installations, software versions and hardware platforms, extra functionalities are constantly being added to meet ARTAS users’ needs. CAMOS have grown in parallel: today, the service team is an experienced and well co-ordinated group of professionals from EUROCONTROL and COMSOFT, CAMOS’s industrial partner. The ARTAS User Group and Change Control Board oversee all activities and manage all activities and developments.

Today

After 20 years of continuous development, the system has evolved into a tool for the work of air traffic controllers and is an important enabler for the integration of new surveillance techniques – such as Mode S Enhanced Surveillance, Wide Area Multilateration, ADS-B and ADS-C (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Contract). They form the core of the surveillance chain that fuses information from different surveillance data sources into one seamless, highly accurate air situation picture.

With ARTAS, the downstream systems, such as Controller Working Positions, Flight Data Processing Systems, safety nets or metering applications, as well as systems in remote towers or military sites, can immediately benefit from the new surveillance technology, while the track service interface to ARTAS mainly stays the same.

As a result, the impact of the change in the ATC environment caused by new surveillance techniques is kept to a minimum.

The ARTAS teams are also involved in SESAR, the implementation programme for the Single European Sky. This major European programme is channelling, co-ordinating and guiding efforts made by the aviation industry, EUROCONTROL and the European Commission to establish a harmonised Air Traffic Management network in the year 2020. This means that CNS technology will have to be modified, too, and ADS-B and Multilateration will be introduced. They deliver improved performance in terms of accuracy, update rate, coverage and ultimately costs, compared with conventional radar.

ARTAS, as the Surveillance Data Processing System at the core of ground infrastructure, is an important building block in SESAR. It facilitates interoperability and seamless operation and substantially contributes to defragmentation as it can easily handle the extra volumes of airspace that FABs (Functional Airspace Blocks) will bring.

The benefits

ARTAS’s real value was in helping to harmonise surveillance in Europe. It was also particularly useful in paving the way for reduced separation minima, giving as it did a reliable picture of the airspace situation. Boundaries are no longer of importance with ARTAS as the surveillance tools are compatible with any organisation and any system. Great economies of scale were achieved through the common development of products, maintenance and support services and its continued reliability has been must appreciated. It has 1.3 million operating hours and has demonstrated enviable robustness.

 

About the author

Jacques Dopagne has been Director Network Management at EUROCONTROL since January 2011. Prior to joining EUROCONTROL, Mr Dopagne served as General Manager of the Paris regional air navigation centre (CRNA Nord), France’s biggest air traffic control centre with over 700 employees. Mr Dopagne started his career at the French Ministry of Transport, where he headed an office in the General Directorate for civil aviation, dealing with airspace organisation and large-scale air navigation equipment programme.

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