S2BAS - Demonstration of Space Services Benefits in Aviation Systems

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The S²BAS project aims to improve access and operations, while increasing safety and reducing costs, in small and regional airports that cannot afford the expensive cost of conventional navigation means. In order to achieve this, the project will integrate a set of satellite-based services, in particular:

  • GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) based navigation assistance in the terminal area to assist flight approaches.
  • Production and distribution of Aerodrome Obstacle charts by means of satellite based Earth Observation data, to provide the pilot with a 3D mapping of the landscape elements in the airport's proximity.
  • Satellite communications for remote airport management and control.

Objectives of the service

The S²BAS project aims to develop, deploy and demonstrate (via proper test flights campaign) a platform for the provision of an integrated set of satellite-based low-cost services targeted to small and regional airports. The concept consists in supporting aspects related to the whole life-cycle of a flight, from its development and planning to its execution and control; with the aim of improve access, operations at the airport and increase safety at a low cost.

The project intends to demonstrate the following pre-operational services:

  • Production of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) routes and flight procedures
  • Airborne Flight Assistance (for GNSS-based Visual Flight Rules)
  • Airport Obstacle Identification service
  • General Information broadcast to pilots
  • Remote Airport/Aerodrome Management
    GNSS Monitoring and Post-processing Services

To enable the above mentioned services, the following components will be developed (as shown in the schematic below):

  • On-Board Navigation / Communication Unit
  • Pilot Cockpit Display
  • On-board GNSS Receiver
  • S²BAS  Airport Station
  • Air/Ground Data-Link Server
  • Central Information Processing and Distribution system
  • Air Traffic Service Station (AVIO)
  • GNSS Flight Procedures and Obstacle Charts Design environment
    S2BAS System Architecture


Users and their needs

S²BAS Consortium has identified a set of stakeholders that, directly or indirectly, would benefit from the availability of the above mentioned services.

S²BAS Key Stakeholders are:

  • ANSP (Air Service Navigation Provider)
  • NCAA (National Civil Aviation Authority)
  • Pilots
  • General Aviation
  • Aircraft Operator
  • Aeroclubs
  • Heli-Assistance
  • Civil Protection
  • Airport Operators
  • Airport Ground Handlers
  • Regions, Provinces, Municipalities.

Besides during the demonstration phase two internal users will take part in the demo project:

  • Techno Sky, involved as technical arm of the Italian ANSP, ENAV
  • Slam Lavori Aerei, involved as GA, Aircraft Operator and Pilot.

A key part in order to understand the services to be developed by the project is the collection and understanding of the user needs.
In the S²BAS project, representative Stakeholders were contacted and interviewed to gather useful insight regarding actual operational experience and needs. Different questionnaires have been used, whose result is the stakeholders view expressed in the form of user needs and expectations:

a) The General Aviation (GA) Pilots:

  • Operational activity increase
  • Low-cost avionic and communication systems
  • Digitized GNSS based VFR procedures
  • Safety improvement
  • On flight awareness increase: surrounding traffic information availability
  • Aeronautical and Meteorological information provision
  • Touristic Information regarding local airport area and related events

b) ANSP:

  • Increase small airport utilization (currently there is a high cost infrastructure against low traffic volume)
  • Situation awareness increase
  • Traffic Information (position and heading of neighbouring aircrafts)
  • Meteorological and touristic information in the vicinity of the Aerodromes

c) NCAA:

  • Accuracy and reliability of Satellite navigation solutions
  • Flight operations improvement
  • Safety level improvement in all weather conditions

d) Aircraft Operators, Heli-Assistance, Aeroclubs and Civil Protection:

  • Establishment of advanced flight courses
  • Development of training methods
  • Enhancement of touristic activities

e) Airport Operators and Airport Ground Handlers:

  • Small airports operational capabilities improvement (i.e. resources utilization, efficiency and safety)
  • Economical benefits

f) Regions, Provinces and Municipalities:

  • Business expansion of local airports
  • Commercial and touristic revenues increase for citizens

Service/ system concept

The S²BAS system shall provide its users with the integrated set of service listed here below:

GNSS routes and flight procedure definition

This service is responsible for the generation and distribution of the GNSS flight procedures.

Airport Obstacle Chart Services

This service is responsible for the generation and distribution of Airport Obstacle Charts.

General Information Service

This service is responsible for the provision of General Information to S²BAS equipped aircraft. General Information encompasses aeronautical, meteorological and environment (e.g. tourist) information.

Airborne GNSS-based VFR Flight Assistance Services

This service is responsible for the provision of flight support to pilots using a satellite-based navigation system capable of visual assistance (2D, 3D) regarding the position, the attitude, the route, the air traffic, the terrain and the obstacles charts of the interested airports.

Airport Management Services, including Remote Airport Management

This service is responsible for the management of S²BAS equipped airports resources. This service also encompasses the capability to remotely manage S²BAS equipped unmanned airports resources.

GNSS Monitoring and Post-processing Services

This service is responsible for (real-time and off-line) GNSS Monitoring, specifically for verification of S²BAS Integrity information reliability. The Post-processing service shall allow a S²BAS operator to consult and query data to assess performances of the S²BAS system.

Space Added Value

In Europe a considerable number of aircraft used for business and private tourism would utilize minor airports if properly equipped in order to serve this air traffic. These airports can serve only a small set of aircrafts (GA) following VFR procedures, limiting in such a way the potential managed traffic. This limitation is mainly due to the absence of traditional support dedicated to surveillance and air navigation services, at present too expensive to be introduced in these airports category, but that can be successfully, and at affordable costs, provided by the proper adoption of technologies based on the use of satellite assets.

The satellite assets provide added values as:

GNSS - Allows cost-effective approaches and safe execution of GNSS routes and landing procedures.

Earth Observation - Allows an automatic, frequent and less expensive monitoring of the airport surrounding, if compared with traditional techniques.

Satcom - Reliable telecom to manage or backup isolated airfields.

Product Benefits

The project targets several services and thus a wide range of actors are expected to benefit from its outcomes, including not only for the main users of the proposed solution, but also for the entire aviation community and the regions were the system will be operated.

In detail, the set of expected benefits of the project are the following:

  • Increase of the traffic volume served by the target airports, providing a proper operative security level.
  • Increase of the coverage of the territory in terms of orographical models and maps.
  • Overcome the limitations derived from the NRC (Non Radar Coverage).
  • Increase of the aircrafts categories allowed operating in all weather conditions and during night (mainly helicopters) on minor airports.
  • Improvement of regularity, fluency and economy of the traffic.
  • Assurance of safety standards for minor airports.
  • Assurance of the aircraft safety.
  • Increase of the business for the stakeholders involved (e.g. aerotaxi, airport operator etc.) thanks to the increase of the traffic volume served.
  • Improvement of the airport capacity.
  • Improvement of the on board navigation aids.
  • Optimization of the airport resources.
  • Assurance of a high level assistance in an emergency scenario.
  • Valorisation of the territory and possibility to create employment in the local area due the socio and economical impact.

Product Features

The S²BAS overall architecture is composed by a set of subsystems, aggregated in three different segments and listed hereafter:

The airborne segment:

  • Nav/Comm On-board unit
  • Visual Assistance HMI

The ground segment:

  • Airport Management System
  • Remote Airport Management System
  • Flight Procedure Design
  • Satellite Image Analysis System

The Communication Channels:

  • Ground-ground communication channel
  • Air-ground communication channel

Key Issues

Navigation assistance: in the VFR (Visual Flight Rules) case, a pilot navigates using dead reckoning combined with visual observations, with reference to appropriate maps. This is commonly supplemented by radio navigation aids that provide pilots with the right indication on how to proceed along the planned route. Current air navigation aids are based on ground equipment acting as radio beacons. In the perspective of the evolution to satellite-based navigation, decommissioning of ground-based navigation aids is foreseen with the potential to reduce costs to air navigation service providers. The S²BAS system aims at anticipating this scenario by providing VFR pilots with satellite navigation solutions enabling the use of area navigation, based on dedicated GNSS routes and procedures, even for small and low-cost aircrafts.

Lack of up-to-date Flight Information: general aviation traffic directed to minor airports cannot usually rely on the availability of flight information services. This limits pilots. situation awareness when flying to these airports. The S²BAS system aims at filling this gap by providing a specific Information Service, called General Information Service Broadcast, capable of broadcasting, via air-ground data-link, up-to-date meteorological (e.g. METAR), aeronautical (e.g. NOTAM), airport and touristic information.

Lack of Traffic Information on-board:  general aviation aircraft flying inside non controlled airspaces cannot rely on air traffic controllers ensuring separation against other aircraft. Again this limits pilots. situation awareness when flying inside non controlled airspaces. The S²BAS system aims at increasing traffic situation awareness by providing pilots with surrounding traffic information via a CDTI (Cockpit Display of Traffic Information) on-board.

Detection of obstacles in the airport area: to ensure the required level of safety ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) are periodically required to perform expensive campaigns aimed at producing Aerodrome Obstacle Charts. Currently these campaigns are performed by the use of expensive aero photogrammetric techniques and on-situ surveys by traditional topographic techniques. The S²BAS system aims at exploiting an innovative technique relying on satellite based earth observation to enable automatic, more frequent and less expensive monitoring of the airport surrounding.

Airport air traffic services at (unmanned) minor airports: at small and mid-sized airports traffic is unevenly distributed over the day, with occasional peaks when the workload is higher. Economy and safety considerations suggest centralizing the provision of airport air traffic services. for a cluster of minor airports. In this perspective the S²BAS system aims at providing a solution to co-locate several air traffic and aerodrome handling services to a single (remote) centre. S²BAS solution encompasses the use of satellite based internet-like communication links in case of airports not covered by any terrestrial communication infrastructure.

Current Status

The project is structured in two phases, the first one being the Definition Phase, of 5 months duration and composed of the following main activities:
Concept development, process design, requirements engineering (user and system), architecture design, demonstration engineering and test planning. This phase includes also preliminary studies on project impact assessment and business aspects.

The project Kick Off took place in April 2011. The BDR milestone (Baseline Design Review) was reached in July 2011, when major deliverables such as the Demonstration System Architecture (DSA), the System Validation Document (SVD) and the Demonstration and Utilization Plan (DemUP) were reviewed and assessed with a specific focus on the User Requirements.

The Critical Design Review (CDR) milestone has been successfully achieved in  December 2011, where the updated technical documentation, Impact Assessment and Business Plan documents and Final Report for Phase1 were accepted.

The project team is currently preparing the Demonstration Phase (Phase 2) for a KO planned in May 2012.

Status Date

Updated: 23 April 2012 - Created: 15 February 2014