Singapore moved forward last week in its quest to become the first nation to implement a space-based very-high frequency (VHF) communications system. This system would include mounting VHF communications equipment onto a constellation of small, low-earth-orbit satellites to allow clear, real-time communications between pilots and air traffic controllers over oceanic air space.
Following on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding last July to explore the application and development of the space-based system, The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Singapore Electronics Technologies Limited (ST), signed a research agreement last week with GomSpace A/S. Per the agreement, they will collaborate to complete a design study on the implementation of space-based VHF communications for air traffic management within the Singapore Flight Information Region, improving safety and facilitating the safe reduction in separation between aircraft in airspace where ground-based VHF communications is unavailable.
The implementation of space-based VHF communications in the Singapore FIR requires three phases: a design study phase, a proof of concept phase, and an operationalisation phase. Once implemented, the system will increase air traffic management capacity and enable the more efficient use of airspace.
Soh Poh Theen, Deputy Director-General (Air Navigation Services) for CAAS, views the design study as a significant step for the region. “We are constantly planning ahead of the curve, driving innovation and investing in cutting-edge technologies to improve air traffic management in the Singapore FIR and the region. We are encouraged by this next milestone towards implementing space-based VHF communications for ATM, which will be a world-first, and pave the way for more ground-breaking solutions to safely support the growing air traffic in the region,” he said.
Borge Witthoft, Chief Commercial Officer of GomSpace, added, “GomSpace is very pleased with the agreement on this joint study. It is a very exciting area and we hope that the results can contribute positively to future air traffic management. The ultimate goal is to increase safety while at the same time providing the possibility of more optimal flight levels and thus also reducing the amount of fuel used by airlines.
“With our strong capabilities within satellite communication systems and our year-long track record of monitoring commercial aircraft from space, we are confident that we together with our partners CAAS and ST Electronics can achieve some remarkable results.”
“This agreement will leverage ST Electronics’ domain knowledge in aviation infrastructure systems integration and deep competency in satellite and communication technologies …” said Tang Kum Chuen, President of Satellite Systems for ST Electronics. “We are very excited about the prospect of demonstrating a space-based VHF communications and location service for smart air traffic control operations. This sustained collaboration exemplifies our deep focus on application of advanced technologies to deliver solutions that significantly enhance industry operations while creating value for customers.”