Singapore aims to pioneer space-based VHF for air traffic comms

Singapore aims to pioneer space-based VHF for air traffic comms

Proof-of-concept to take place in 2023.

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Singapore is set to run a proof-of-concept for a space-based VHF system for air traffic, which could make communications better - or possible - over oceans or mountainous or remote terrain.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the Economic Development Board’s Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn), SITA and Startical said they would work together on the proof-of-concept.

Currently, air traffic is managed using ground-based VHF stations, which have limited range and coverage in remote areas.

“Space-based VHF voice communications will have more comprehensive coverage, which helps to enhance the safety and efficiency of air traffic management,” the authorities said.

“While there have been previous technical studies, the CAAS-OSTIn-SITA-Startical proof-of-concept is the first study where a purpose-built satellite will be deployed to space to carry VHF communications equipment for such a trial. 

“The purpose of the trial is to demonstrate interoperability of space-based communications with aircraft equipment and existing ground radio stations, with similar voice quality, latency and other criteria compared to ground-based voice communications.”

The proof-of-concept is set to start in 2023 and will take one year to complete.

As the technology is so new, standards will need to be set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) before such a system can be used safely in production.

“Space-based VHF communications technology could be transformative; it could boost safety and efficiency and make aviation more sustainable while increasing capacity to meet rising air travel demand,” CAAS director-general Han Kok Juan said.

“This proof-of-concept, if successful, will be a significant step forward towards global endorsement and adoption.”

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