North Dakota will be home to Vantis, the first statewide unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) network, Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), announced Wednesday during the virtual UAS Summit & Expo. Vantis will become a single portal where with all the systems needed to manage UAS flight operations across the state uninterrupted.
The platform can be used for package delivery, utility inspections, search and rescue, agriculture, and medical deliveries.
Vantis is a $28 million investment from the state and will be first deployed in Williams and Mackenzie County in Western North Dakota. Vantis will complete a critical design review of its technologies to be deployed in these counties before the end of the year and will begin installing infrastructure in 2021, Flom said. By the spring of 2021, Vantis is expected to become operational.
“It’s really going to set the foundation for where we go from here,” Flom said. “This is going to give us an opportunity to get some of the initial installs up and operating. This is also going to give us a chance to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make sure that we get the appropriate regulatory approvals put in place to enable these advanced operations. And then from there, we can start to expand.”
Flom compared Vantis to a statewide road that already has infrastructure and regulatory approvals. Using Vantis, companies would not have to build out their own networks to succeed.
Vantis has four key components: remote infrastructure, backhaul data network, mission and network operating center, and the UAS, Flom said. The remote infrastructure, surveillance sensors, radars, and command and control radios, will detect and disperse information.
All the remote infrastructure will be connected through the backhaul data network to make it scalable and then send the data to the mission and network operating center for maintenance monitoring and system testing. The UAS can then connect directly into Vantis.
The initial deployment location was picked intentionally not only because of the NPUASTS but because of the opportunity presented by North Dakota’s population density.
“We don’t have a last-mile problem in North Dakota, we have a last hundred-mile problem getting packages to our rural communities,” Flom said. “So, we know that package delivery and retail delivery will be able to really be spread out through our large rural population.”
Vantis will allow for UAS package delivery, utility inspection, search and rescue, medical delivery, and agriculture use. Flom said Vantis is being floated for use in a highway project from the North Dakota Department of Transportation and stretching the resources of first responders.
“One of the things that we’re really starting to find out is although that the communities, I mentioned that you know what it means to be a frontier county where you have very low population density, but that does not necessarily take away from the amount of land that has to be covered by first responders or a law enforcement agency. So how can we stretch their resources even further,” Flom said.
Vantis is partnering with Collins Aerospace, Thales USA, and L3 Harris for this project.
“We’re looking at them as a conduit of industry,” Flom said. “So that when we’re looking to deploy a particular technology, we don’t have to individually go out to all the industry and put out a formal RFP to each one of them, but instead we can reach out to our system integrators and then they can pull from their internal teams.”
While Vantis has selected these companies as partners, the innovation created by this system will require many more companies to contribute and drive more companies to invest in North Dakota.
“This is going to bring in companies to North Dakota,” James Cieplak, program manager of Vantis, said. “This is a high-tech emerging industry. National companies who make aviation system will be coming here to test, validate, implement their systems.”
Vantis will be working with the FAA to make sure the network meets industry standards and is scalable beyond North Dakota.
“This is where we want to go in the state of North Dakota,” Cieplak said. “This is where the FAA wants to go to and we’re doing that in partnership.”
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum made remarks during the program about the state’s investment and the potential impact on the economy.
“Vantis represents a major advance in developing public-private technology partnerships in North Dakota,” Burgum said. “Thanks to the leadership for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, industry experts from L3 Harris technologies, Thales USA, and Collins Aerospace, they’ll help enable real-world scalable commercial and public UAS operations across the state. Progress in the UAS industry will benefit all North Dakotans, including those who work in energy and agriculture, as we create a foundation for innovative technologies, as well as diversifying our economy.”
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Jaunt Air Mobility is planning to have a electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in full rate production by 2026, but between now and then they will have to forge a path toward achieving type certification, using a blend of new and existing regulatory guidance.
Jaunt is one of Uber Elevate’s vehicle development partners, currently designing an air taxi that the company describes as resembling a cross between a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. Martin Peryea, CEO/CTO of Jaunt Air Mobility, believes certification will be achieved by adhering to early safety assessments and SAE International aerospace recommended practices (ARP), robust and semi-automated software design assurance processes, and separation and partitioning of software systems.
Jaunt Air Mobility’s Journey air taxi will be certified with existing rotorcraft Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular (AC) 29.1309-2, according to comments made by Peryea during a webinar hosted by Avionics International on Tuesday.
“It boils down to looking at the probability of failure and as you know the public acceptance of airplane fatalities is on a different level compared to typical automobile accidents,” Peryea said. “So, the design of, you know, these types of aircraft really need to be on par with public expectations in terms of safety reliability. So that 10-9 number is something that we’re striving for in our particular system.”
The early implementation of two ARP guidelines will help to avoid costly redesign, Peryea said. Development of Journey will follow guidelines for the development of civil aircraft and systems, ARP 4754, and guidelines and methods for conduction the safety assessment process, ARP 4761. ARP 4754 will identify critical functions while ARP 4761 will identify where the aircraft will require redundancy for safety precautions.
“The takeaway here is that you really have to start this process at the very early stages of any aircraft development program,” Peryea said. “A lot of people think they can start sketching out an aircraft design with various types and configurations and unfortunately they don’t fully understand the certification requirements in terms of what’s required to go through that rigorous process to ensure that you address these various failure modes, especially in the catastrophic and hazardous failure modes.”
Under the ARP 4761 development process, safety critical avionics systems hardware and software are developed beginning with the basic aircraft level requirements, allocation of basic functions to systems and the subsequent development of system architecture. Final implementation includes full aircraft systems level implementation, as Peryea explained.
At each step, a key assurance to achieving certification once the designer is ready for regulators occurs by analyzing failure conditions prior to proceeding.
Peryea believes it is also critical to develop a semi-automated software design assurance processes. Using automation in design assurance can help speed up the development and management of the schedule and associated costs.
“It’s more than just the flight control computers and the avionics, but it also applies to the actuation systems, the motors, motor controllers, and batteries and will require the highest design assurance level (DAL), A and B, for these types of systems,” Peryea said. “And I always like to say the process really drives the design of the aircraft, not the desire of senior management.”
When running software systems for at varying DAL levels, the key to safe aircraft functionality is separation of the systems so that they do not impact each other, Peryea said.
“When trying to run various software systems on the same flight control computers, you really need separation or partitioning of the sessions so that your level C software doesn’t impact your, level A software on these particular types of systems,” Peryea said.
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Capua, Italy-based general aviation aircraft maker Tecnam has partnered with Rolls-Royce to develop the P-Volt, an all-electric regional aircraft that the two manufacturers envision flying an assortment of different missions ranging from passenger operations to medical evacuation and cargo.
According to an Oct. 23 press release, Tecnam is also partnering with several “North American and European airlines” for the development of the P-Volt. Tecnam envisions P-Volt featuring enough seating capacity for up to nine passengers, with all-electric motors, avionics, heating, and air conditioning systems as well.
This is the second partnership established between Tecnam and Rolls Royce, as both are also currently working on the H3PS project, which is to feature the industry’s first parallel hybrid powertrain for a general aviation four-seater aircraft. Rolls Royce is providing the electric motor and storage for the H3PS project, which will be paired with a Rotax engine powered by conventional fuel.
“We all need to commit our efforts towards systems that contribute to decarbonization,” said Paolo Pascale Langer, Tecnam CEO said in a statement. “By combining efficiency and renewable energy into the futuristic propulsion system, we will not only reduce costs but also grant a greener future to our passion for flying.”
P-Volt will also borrow from some of the design elements of Tecnam’s P2012 Traveller twin-piston, which achieved the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification last year prior to being delivered to U.S. launch customer Cape Air in October 2019. Cape Air, which plans to use 100 new P2012 Travellers to replace its fleet of Cessna 402s over the next decade, is also the launch customer for Eviation’s all-electric Alice commuter aircraft.
Tecnam’s partnership with Rolls Royce comes as other manufacturers continue to advance all-electric or hybrid-electric aircraft programs of their own. In June, Pipistrel’s two-seater Velis Electro achieved EASA type certification, the first electric aircraft in the world to do so. The trainer aircraft is powered by Pipistrel’s E-811-268MVLC electric engine, capable of flying up to 50 minutes with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 lbs.
Meanwhile, in the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) world, EmbraerX also officially launched a new independent company, Eve, dedicated to developing the company’s first eVTOL aircraft in an Oct. 15 press release. German electric air taxi company Volocopter, is also ready to expand testing of its own Volocity eVTOL to Paris, according to a Sept. 30 press release.
No major systems or performance specifications were provided by Tecnam upon announcing its partnership with Rolls Royce, and the company has not yet released a timeline as to when the P-Volt will be ready for flight testing or certification.
“Dedicated battery technology will ensure full power availability for quick turnaround times between landing and take-off” on the P-Volt, according to Tecnam.
“Rolls-Royce is committed to delivering the electrification of flight and to support the de-carbonization of aviation,” Rob Watson, director of Rolls-Royce Electrical said in a statement. “This new partnership with Tecnam will strengthen our existing relationship, further developing both companies’ capabilities. We are delighted to work with all the partners on a program that has the potential to develop the technology to make a significant leap in the commuter market.”
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According to a new report published by the U.S. European Command, aircraft that complement and enhance the unique capabilities of the F-35 will be a key strategy for the future of European North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air combat capabilities to deter Russian aggression.
The report, “At the Vanguard: European Contributions to NATO’s Future Combat Airpower,” features research conducted by the RAND Corporation, a think tank, and looked at European air forces’ vulnerabilities and Russia’s concern over NATO’s advantage in the air domain.
If a conflict arose with Russia, most fourth-generation platforms would be vulnerable to advanced ground-based threats. Acquiring fifth-generation platforms, which currently only represent fewer than 100 of the 1,900 combat aircraft from European allies, would benefit NATO in a high-intensity conflict with Russia, according to the study.
“In the opening days of a notional conflict, the F-35’s stealth and sensor fusion will enable unprecedented situational awareness and the potential to acquire and service targets at rapid tempos,” the report states. “This will be impactful across the range of combat air missions, including for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) in the early hours and days of a campaign and conducting counter-land operations to delay, damage, and destroy enemy maneuver forces.”
Recommendations from the researchers support investing in platforms to complement the F-35’s capabilities by upgrading fourth-generation aircraft radars, stockpiling munitions, and ensuring fourth-generation aircraft and ground and maritime systems can quickly and securely receive targeting information from the F-35.
“Fourth-generation fighters—many able to wield greater firepower than their stealthier fifth-generation counterparts and still projected to account for about 70 percent of NATO’s inventory by 2030—will still constitute an important element of airpower. It is reasonable to assume that the Russian military would seek to disrupt this synergy during a conflict, particularly in light of recent Russian investments in EW [electronic warfare] capabilities,” the report states.
Positioning the fifth-generation fleet within range of Russia’s advanced air defenses will help enhance their effectiveness.
The report also recommends expanding the SEAD mission training program at Luke Air Force Base and creating trainer aircraft that can simulate F-35 capabilities. They would also need operational concepts for moving armored formations and to reduce predictability in aircraft servicing to create distributed operations with international cross maintenance practices.
By 2030, 30 percent of European allies’ combat aircraft with be fifth-generation aircraft, according to the report. Allies will need to engage in more combined training and exercises to improve operational cohesion. Transparency for combat aircraft availability, which is not usually accessible, would also be necessary to spotlight maintenance and sustainment needs.
“Data on the mission-capable rates of European air platforms are not generally publicized,” the report states. “Public agreement by NATO leaders on standard availability objectives could provide renewed political and budgetary focus on efficient and adequately funded maintenance and sustainment. The recent U.S. nadir of an average overall 70-percent mission-capable rate might offer a reasonable NATO-wide objective.”
The U.S. and European air forces need to update F-35 program policies and procedures so they can work more effectively during training and operations, according to the report. They would need to distribute an updated F-35 interoperability policy for information sharing.
“At present, unclear and sometimes unnecessary restrictions on information sharing and planning stifle cooperation among air staffs and reduce their ability to adequately prepare for high-end multinational operations,” the report states.
Fifth-generation fighters operate within a system of platforms and capabilities like active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology, advanced and long-range munitions, and secure communication links.
“The degree to which European air forces acquire these technologies will directly impact their ability to contribute to the range of combat air missions expected in a high-intensity conflict,” the report states. “At the same time, reliance on the F-35 for combat ISR functions previously performed by longer-range, ISR-dedicated standoff aerial systems (e.g., RC-135W River Joint, E-8 Sentinel, and E-3 Sentry) raises the question of capacity and prioritization alongside other demands such as SEAD [Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses], counter land operations, and air defense.”
The goal of these advancements is to enhance deterrence. While the report acknowledges a scenario where an imbalance is created between Russian ground forces and NATO air forces, it concludes that strong NATO air offenses would still end in deterrence.
“One common scenario considers a calculation by the Russian government that Russia could leverage a regional imbalance in ground forces to occupy some slice of NATO territory, employ air defenses to stave off allied air forces, present a fait accompli similar to that seen in Crimea, and politically divide NATO by calling for negotiations,” the report states. “The ability of European fifth-generation fighters to penetrate Russian air defenses and make significant combat contributions from the opening hours of a response—at the vanguard—would most likely challenge the logic behind this scenario, improving deterrence by increasing the Russian risks associated with this approach.”
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Inmarsat and Hughes first started to talking about a potential In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) collaboration in North America over a year ago. This week, the companies announced a deal that Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce calls a major statement of intent for Inmarsat’s ambitions in the global IFC arena. The service, GX+ North America, is the next stage of the operator’s strategy to remain a force in IFC, and tap into the North American IFC market. GX+ North America service will combine capacity from Hughes’ Jupiter High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) constellation across North America with coverage from Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) HTS satellite network. The service will be ready for rollout on prototype flights later this year
Speaking about the deal with Hughes, Pearce talks about how the deal plays into Inmarsat’s global ambitions, the future for IFC in a difficult COVID environment, the deal-flow for the rest of the year with airlines, and why he is still optimistic that there is a bright future for satellite-based connectivity on aircraft.
How did this collaboration with Hughes come about? Given Inmarsat’s strength in IFC, why did you feel the need to partner with Hughes?
Pearce: Firstly, we need to provide the uniqueness of wide area coverage and global coverage. We have been very successful, particularly where coverage is key. If you look inside North America, coverage is not key. What is key is capacity, throughput and speed. So, what we have here is a marriage between the coverage, resilience, and reliability of Inmarsat and our aviation heritage married with the extraordinary depth of capacity that Hughes brings with its Jupiter series. We are also bringing significant capacity to the aviation market. GX-5 will enter service shortly, bringing in a huge step change in capacity across Europe and into the Middle East. We have the I-6s arriving next year. We have three more next-generation satellites arriving in 2023 and 2024. All of this will be integrated with Global Xpress. This is just way one way of doing it.
Pearce: More than a year. It is not something that has been influenced by the pandemic, it hasn’t been accelerated or delayed by the pandemic. In our business, we have to make very long-term decisions around our infrastructure. We have been looking at the right way to get into North America for awhile. We certainly didn’t want to wait until the mid-2020s when our next generation of capacity comes along. It seemed like a perfect marriage of two organizations that have been very close over the years.
Pearce: We look at the long-term health of the industry. We think it will bounce back. It may take two to three years to bounce back, and when it does, passengers will want more connectivity than ever before. We are already seeing that in Europe with our European Aviation Network (EAN), which is setting records for data consumption.
From a long-term perspective, it’s a sensible time to do this. A lot of carriers are looking at their fleets right now, looking to optimize their fleets. Part of that is about retiring older aircraft and bringing in newer, more efficient aircraft. That gives them a chance to rethink their communications strategy and what the next generation of IFC looks like — not just for passengers but for the era of connected aircraft, but also automation and the smart aircraft that can go with that. So, I think this is a good time for us to come with a brand-new offering. For example, it can allow the big carriers to pivot to high quality free Wi-Fi, which is something passengers say they want, and I believe them.
Inmarsat has a lot of experience with this. For example, we have had a very successful collaboration with Air New Zealand with a free Wi-Fi proposition. More than a million sessions have already been deployed by Air New Zealand over their long haul carriers with our service. I think it is a good moment for this pivot point in our industry.
Pearce: The trajectory might look different, but I still think we will get there. I don’t think it has altered the two things that will get us to that number — the first being appetite and demand from the industry. The demand will be there. I think within a few years we will be seeing the resurgence of the aviation industry. We are in a golden age of air travel and there will be tremendous growth in the developing world. I don’t think it will fundamentally change, but it may shift it out two to three years.
The other side of it is about our ability to capture market share. I might argue that has increased to some extent as we are a resilient, diversified business. We are not just a single player within aviation. We have successful businesses elsewhere that allow us to maintain our trajectory. All of our innovations will keep us at the forefront of service offerings in the industry are fully funded and will roll off the production line in the next three to four years. We are in a very strong position to grow our marketshare ambitions from where they were.
Pearce: I wasn’t really surprised by it, we have seen Intelsat do downstream before. Intelsat General is a very successful example of going downstream into a specialist market. We have seen them edge toward managed service offerings as well. They are becoming more than just a purveyor of bandwidth captive to their EBITDA margins. I am not surprised in that sense. We also believe it is very important to be close to market as well. We have benefited from having a direct and indirect model to market in the markets that we focus on. I give a thumbs up to that strategy.
Pearce: It is hard to know at the moment how many players this market will sustain. There are all sorts of tensions going on structurally. You have the question mark on whether a reseller can really exist in between satellite operators and the airlines. Buying bandwidth and selling it at a markup will probably be a difficult business to sustain, simply because the airlines will want to eliminate it unless there are a lot of value-added services along with it. This may mean we see a reorientation between what the connectivity providers do and what people do at the edge of the network to drive that extra value with airlines. That would mean a delayering of the channel, it would also mean that the channels would key off each other more powerfully.
Then you have the simple question of how many people can exist in this market when it hits maturity. That is also a function of how integrated those models will be. You also have other equations like the hardware and software, network sharing, and so on. It is very early to call whether there will be two to three providers, or 10 providers. My guess is we would be looking at no more than three to four global providers, with potentially two to three local providers who have a specific offering for a specific market.
Pearce: I would characterize the overall pipeline as much weaker than it was a year ago. That is not shock news as airlines are fighting for survival. A lot of our discussions with them are about how we can play our part in helping to ensure their survival. But, as I said before, people recognize that not only is passenger connectivity here to stay, but that it will be a very important component in their recovery. They look at it very positively in terms of the recovery phase, not just getting much closer to passengers to recapture their interest, but also to monetize them. There is so much passengers can gain from airlines during this time of COVID. Services like getting passengers to their seat through connectivity, even queueing for the toilets can be done remotely, and clearing customs and immigration, services to support the idea that air travel is safe.
Fundamentally, we are looking at a lot of aircraft on order. We are looking a big change out in the global fleet as older aircraft are retired with more efficient aircraft that will carry next generation connectivity. Ironically — because Inmarsat was a bit of a laggard in coming to market with Global Xpress, long after Gogo and Panasonic — we are actually going to benefit from that over the next few years because we have a next-generation capability, and an ability to keep it fresh.
People can see our commitment to better services. I think this puts us in good shape for linefit procurements. We will see a more rapid migration from retrofit to linefit because of that shift. The nature of the pipeline will change. We are already seeing that. We have already picked up several wins this year, and we are confident of picking up another couple by the end of the year. By, the end of the year, it will not have been a bad year, but not an exceptional year either.
Pearce: For IFC, this is a statement of intent that we intend to be a fully global player. I don’t think you can be truly credible in this industry, unless you have a North American strategy, because it is such a big part of the global aviation market. Clearly we can play in North America, but we can help North American carriers fly elsewhere in the world. So, yes, it is a very strong statement of intent. We intend to be the leader in IFC globally.
We are a confident, forward-looking company that is not in survival mode. We are in growth mode. Our maritime business is doing great, it has just gone through 10,000 Fleet Xpress installations. Our government businesses, both globally and in the U.S., are performing ahead of budget. Our enterprise business is also doing well in areas like logistics and transportation. We have a diverse aviation business. We are leaders in business aviation, which is bouncing back far quicker. We are in the cockpit of a lot of air transport and cargo planes, which are also bouncing back much quicker. We feel very confident about the future. We are doing our next five-year plan and it is a growth plan. We have a strong balance, and four very large new shareholders with a lot of financial firepower behind them. We are very free cash flow generative. A lot of that is going back into investment into our new satellites. Within 24 months, we start to generate more cash flow as our capital expenditure falls away, giving us more options. We have had to take stock of COVID. We had to make sure our liquidity was really strong. We had to help customers and channel partners though this the best we can. That has reset us. But, we are very much back on the front foot now. We are looking to invest, looking to grow.
Pearce: They are very different businesses. Maritime is a very mature business. It is about migrating our customers up the bandwidth curve from narrowband to broadband. That is going very well. The business is now turning the corner and starting to grow modestly. So, it is a very large business with tremendously powerful cash flow characteristics. But, it won’t grow at double-digit rates because it is so mature. Aviation is much smaller, but at the beginning of a very exciting journey to become what I hope is will be at least as big of a contributor to free cash flow as our maritime business. It is nice as a business to have several shots on goal. Also, don’t forget our government businesses. We are number one in the U.S. We serve 60 other governments. There are some very big growth opportunities there as well.
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Check out the Oct. 25 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.
United Airlines started its COVID-19 pilot testing program for passengers traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii on Oct. 15, 2020. Passengers who return a negative result to the test will be able to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine requirements.
Two tests will be made available to passengers traveling to Hawaii, including a “a rapid test option taken at the airport on the day of travel or a drive-through test conducted at the airport 48-72 hours before departure,” United said in an Oct. 15 press release.
“Customers who produce a negative test result through either option will be exempt from quarantine requirements in Lihue, Maui and Honolulu. Customers traveling to Kona will be required to take a second complimentary test when they arrive to the island to avoid quarantining,” according to United.
“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the travel experience, and United is committed to innovating to help customers continue to travel where they want to go in a way that is safe,” said Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer at United. “In partnership with the San Francisco Airport, we look forward to helping re-open the Hawaiian economy, and look forward to making testing options more broadly available to our customers so we can continue to connect people and unite the world.”
The U.S. Air Force updated software code on a Lockheed Martin U-2 reconnaissance plane in-flight on Oct. 16, according to Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper.
“Friday, a U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane updated code during flight–a military first!” Roper said via Twitter on Oct. 19. Roper said that the two updates involved a “docker containment generating log files” and “improved target recognition algorithms.”
The Air Force’s Air Combat Command at Langley AFB, Va., has been testing a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) that uses open-source container-orchestration systems, such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s (CNCF) Kubernetes, originally designed by Google, for improving cybersecurity through the automation of computer application deployment, scaling, and management.
Check out the full story as first published on Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International.
In September, a total of 40 aircraft and five land units joined other space and cyber capabilities for a multi-domain, large force test series exercise, Orange Flag. During this exercise, they accomplished a dramatic change in how test professionals engage with test data, made progress in connecting F-35 Lightning IIs directly to Army fires without human-in-the-loop intervention, and made improvements to the way complex kill webs are analyzed, according to an Oct. 19 press release.
Orange Flag, which took place at Edwards Air Force Base, aimed at using joint and coalition forces to maximize resources across air, land, sea, space, and cyber domains, according to the press release.
According to the press release, the Air Force focused the Orange Flag exercise on data-driven assessments of interoperability, lethality, and survivability.”Orange Flag is an opportunity for participants to integrate technology into operationally representative scenarios at any and all technology readiness levels,” Maj. Brandon “Siphon” Burfeind, Orange Flag director, said in a press statement. “Our goal is to disrupt traditional test timelines and expose technologies to difficult situations early and often.”
These exercises happen three times per year and test aircraft in environments similar to their operations to achieve test objectives for COCOMs and participating units, according to the release.
“Large force, multi-domain test requires new ways to interact with data and report results,” Christopher Valentino, Orange Flag engineering lead, said in a press statement. “We are generating interactive, app-based reporting tools as a means of ushering in next-gen data engagement.”
Hexagon’s Geospatial division and ScioTeq have been selected by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) to be technology suppliers in the development of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), according to an Oct. 20 press release. The industry solicitation event, Blue Magic Belgium (BMB), took place virtually during the week of Sept. 21.
Hexagon’s Geospatial division, which provides software solutions and geospatial tools for visualizing location intelligence, and ScioTeq, which provides advanced visualization solutions, competed with 18 other companies in interviews and deep-dive engineering panel reviews during BMB, according to the release.
According to the release, ScioTeq will be studying the feasibility of a vision-based navigation capability for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Hexagon’s Geospatial division will be working on enhancement to the auto-routing capability that is currently being developed.
“We were very impressed by the many talented companies that participated in Blue Magic Belgium, and particularly by the innovative concepts presented by the two companies selected,” Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, said. “Belgium’s decision to acquire the MQ-9B speaks to the strength of the NATO alliance, and the importance of interoperability.”
The Seamless Air Alliance has published Release 2.0, which the organization defines as “provided by each network component, enabling suppliers to design and build OpenIFC products using the modular architecture and open interfaces from its first release.”
Seamless Air Alliance is an industry coalition of airlines, in-flight connectivity service providers, avionics suppliers and mobile communications companies looking to “seamless roaming” into the in-flight Internet passenger experience.
“Seamless Release 2.0 completes the blueprint needed for the industry to scale the deployment of future-proof, OpenIFC systems,” Jack Mandala, CEO of Seamless Air Alliance, said in an Oct. 20 press release. “This breakthrough will allow airlines to purchase best-of-breed components in a multi-vendor ecosystem, improving the efficiency of deploying, operating, and maintaining inflight systems – which is especially important as recent events have highlighted the critical role of connectivity.”
Aitech Systems created a new single-board computer (SBC), U-C8770, that is aligned with Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA), and will offer users a proprietary cybersecurity framework for I/O-intensive data processing applications commonly used in the military and aerospace markets, according to a press release. Aitech Systems provides rugged boards and system-level solutions for military, aerospace, and space applications.
U-C8770’s proprietary cybersecurity framework, AiSecure, allows secure transmission and storage of sensitive data, enables firmware and data protection, and prevents reverse engineering and tampering, according to the press release.
The SOSA aligned 3U I/O-intensive SBC Slot Profile will be able to transport large amounts of uncompressed video and sensor data quickly because it supports PCle4x and 40GE data plane options, according to the release.
“The emerging SOSA standard is designed to facilitate interoperability as well as simplify integration and innovation,” Pratish M. Shah, General Manager US for Aitech, said in a press statement. “By ensuring our proven SBC technology aligns with the standard guidelines, we are able to quickly offer solutions that help our military and defense customers build and deploy their products faster and more efficiently.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina Directorate of Civil Aviation, BHDCA, introduced Air Traffic Services Message Handling System (AMHS) to replace the Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network (AFTN) and enhance airspace communication.
The AMHS system enables of all types of ground-to-ground aeronautical messages such as flight plans, meteorological messages and NOTAM messages to be sent and received in accordance with the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Continuous and secure flow of aeronautical messages is crucial to safe air traffic management. The system for BHDCA consists of a location-independent, redundant operating system (OPS), contingency system (CONT) and a training and testing system (TRAINING/TEST) and has been successfully operational since May 2020.
The AMHS system is a process of communication system that represents a central point of access to international AMHS networks and data, linking user terminals of operational services and units of BHDCA into the world exchange of data and information.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has delivered a digitalized and secure system for the exchange of drones registration data among the national authorities of the Member States, putting the technical framework in place to allow registered users to fly their drones anywhere in the European Union with a single registration.
Commercial drone operators in Europe will use a new web-based system unveiled by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) last week to register and manage the certification, oversight and other regulatory aspects of their operations.
Operators will be required to register their drones on a “broker system” managed by EASA that acts like a hub between individual European Union member states where their information and data can be transferred and analyzed securely by regulators. The solution, launched by EASA on Oct. 15, 2020 is “a broker system based on open web technologies and secured standards,” the agency said in an Oct. 22 press release.
“Drones are a new entrant to busy urban environments in particular, and it is important that the aviation authorities know who is using them and for what purpose, to ensure that citizens who are going about their daily business feel, and indeed are, safe, even if drones are flying nearby,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.
“We want to make this process as straightforward as possible for the users. The repository allows information registered with one authority to be shared with others, creating the basis for seamless drone usage across the European Union without the need to register in separate Member States,” Ky said.
Drone users will be required to register as users of their drones with their national aviation authorities starting Dec. 31, 2020, when the EU’s 2019/947 regulation takes effect. 2019/947 was originally slated to become effective on June 30, 2020, but its applicability was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Initially, it calls for the mandatory registration of drone operators and of “certified” drones, which are typically the larger drones used for business purposes,” according to EASA.
Honeywell, a technology company delivering industry-specific solutions, has been selected to provide the Nuuva V300 cargo unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a compact fly-by-wire system that is about the size of a backpack to provide stability and performance capabilities to the UAV, according to a press release. The Nuuva V300 UAV is made by Pipistrel, a small aircraft designed and manufacturer.
The compact fly-by-wire system was designed specifically for small UAVs and urban air mobility (UAM). The Nuuva V300 can carry up to 300 kilograms for approximately 186 miles.
“One of the toughest challenges logistics companies face today is meeting the demand for same-day delivery,” Stéphane Fymat, vice president and general manager of UAS/UAM at Honeywell Aerospace, said in a press statement. “Vehicles like Pipistrel’s Nuuva V300 are going to be a real breakthrough in the race to solve this problem. We listened to our customers and built a product that meets the unique needs of this segment, and we’re extremely proud that our Compact Fly-By-Wire system will be guiding these vehicles as they take to the skies.”
Honeywell makes a full line of avionics equipment including flight controls, navigation, and radar that are designed for piloted vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAM, according to the release.
“After years of excellent cooperation in the UAM sector, we chose to work with Honeywell in the development of the Nuuva V300 as well,” Ivo Boscarol, founder and CEO of Pipistrel Group, said in a press statement. “We see this cargo aircraft paving the way for the passenger-carrying Pipistrel 801, our proposed air taxi for Uber Elevate, as both aircraft share similar architectures. Honeywell’s expertise and the proven capabilities of its Compact Fly-By-Wire system will provide airliner levels of safety for our novel air vehicles.”
A new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identifies six key recommendations for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) current regulation of cybersecurity requirements for commercial aircraft avionics systems.
The report calls on the agency to hire new staff, standardize its process for assessing the cyber resiliency of connected avionics systems and establish new methods for penetration testing of aircraft networks. Important findings and insights shared by GAO also show some software vulnerabilities and the potential disruption of aircraft network functioning under penetration testing that heavily complicates how the FAA can address the recommendations moving forward.
“Specifically, FAA has not assessed its oversight program to determine the priority of avionics cybersecurity risks, developed an avionics cybersecurity training program, issued guidance for independent cybersecurity testing, or included periodic testing as part of its monitoring process,” GAO said in the report.
Another key finding in the report is more guidance on independent testing to be integrated into the way the agency certifies new airplanes. GAO’s six recommendations include the following:
In the report the investigators note that the FAA concurred with five out of their six recommendations.
“The FAA believes any type of testing conducted on the in-service fleet could result in potential corruption of airplane systems, jeopardizing safety rather than detecting cybersecurity safety issues,” the report says.
Several cyber risks to avionics systems are highlighted in the report including flight data spoofing attacks and outdated systems on legacy aircraft. Other risks include software vulnerabilities and the long update cycles that are common for in-service avionics systems. Malware or malicious software is also referenced because of its ability to be inserted into installed on an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) application, which are increasingly becoming more connected to flight management computers.
“[Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System] ACARS transmissions are unauthenticated and, thus, could be intercepted and altered or replaced by false transmissions. For example, unprotected ACARS communications could be spoofed and manipulated to send false or erroneous messages to an airplane, such as incorrect positioning information or bogus flight plans,” the report says.
In recent years, several cybersecurity researchers have also highlighted risks and demonstrated vulnerabilities to in-flight connectivity systems at the annual BlackHat and other professional cybersecurity conferences and events. As an example, during the August 2020 BlackHat virtual presentations, an Oxford researcher presented his team’s results using some basic home television equipment to eavesdrop on satellite signals that expose in-flight passenger data.
That research also was able to view communications and data generated by a tablet EFB connected to an aircraft network used by a Chinese airline.
Avionics manufacturers have taken steps to address vulnerabilities highlighted in the report, and the FAA has collaborated with industry to develop a consensus on managing cyber risk to connected aircraft systems primarily through the use of DO-326/ED-202, an airworthiness security process specification jointly developed by RTCA (U.S.) and EUROCAE (Europe). FAA officials told GAO that they’re still developing new policy and official regulation around more consistency for the way it assesses cybersecurity of avionics systems.
Some technology suppliers have also developed new methods of monitoring and improving the cyber resiliency of connected avionics systems. CCX, a Canadian avionics manufacturer, makes a computer designed to monitor aircraft network traffic in real time.
“Our perspective is there should be perpetual monitoring of onboard networks all the time, the Ethernet-based activity and proprietary avionics data bus networks such as ARINC 429 traffic should be monitored,” Bartlett told Avionics International. “How do you know what’s going on with your aircraft’s network if you’re not actually monitoring and alerting on certain events that you have pre-established as a risk? I think there needs to be a paradigm shift that happens in the industry that at a baseline there should be active monitoring of all onboard networks.”
Airlines also expressed concerns to GAO on the ability of the FAA’s certification process to address avionics cybersecurity and disclosure of independent testing results from manufacturers. Under the current certification process, applicants typically submit a final testing plan that includes cybersecurity testing prior to entry into service. After that, airlines are required to adhere to an Aircraft Network Security Program that they submit to the FAA covering how they will maintain the aircraft’s internal networks.
The Aircraft Network Security Program also includes “a forensic analysis process to address safety-related cybersecurity incidents,” with no specification for periodic testing to reduce risk.
“In the absence of FAA guidance, representatives from one airline stated that they have formed a group with four other airlines to try to determine how to safely perform independent testing on their respective fleets,” the report says.
Third-party testing is however starting to become more standard, as the report highlighted interviews with Airbus and Boeing officials who both allowed third-party penetration testing during the development process of their most recently certified in-service aircraft types. Boeing has also established a new web-based vulnerability disclosure program where independent researchers can directly report potential new threats that they discover.
“You can establish filters, and identify the root causes of problems if you’re constantly monitoring what you consider to be a critical alert on, for example, a 429 data bus. If you have the ARINC tags identifying critical alerts, you would be able to see for example if your rate of climb changes in excess of the aircraft’s capability. When you’re constantly monitoring, you can do data forensics and understand what actually happened to cause a critical event, set alerts around that, and troubleshoot to discover the root causes of those critical events,” Bartlett said.
According to GAO, the FAA is preparing detailed responses to all but one of its recommendations: to develop a method for independently testing the in-service fleet.
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On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, James Pavur, an Oxford cybersecurity researcher and Ph.D. student provides insights into his experience performing satellite eavesdropping on aircraft in-flight Internet data.
Pavur was part of a team of European experts that used home television equipment and specialized software to enable satellite eavesdropping on in-flight passenger Internet data, as Pavur demonstrated during a live presentation at Black Hat 2020. The team’s setup included a Selfsat satellite dish with a TBS-6983/6903 PCIe card/Digital Video Broadcast-Satellite tuner computer card.
Using the dish and tuner in combination with a program called EBS Pro that enables personal computer users to find and view satellite television feeds, Pavur’s team was able to analyze 4 terabytes of data on signals from 18 satellites in geostationary orbit.
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Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) completed a low-speed taxi test of the Boeing Loyal Wingman aircraft, an unmanned aircraft that will use artificial intelligence (AI) as the foundation for the Airpower Teaming System (ATS), according to an Oct. 22 press release. The aircraft is expected to make its first flight by the end of the year.
The Boeing Loyal Wingman aircraft is one of three prototypes of the ATS, according to the press release. According to Boeing’s website, the Loyal Wingman aircraft and the other prototypes will be unmanned aircraft with fighter-like performance and the ability to fly 2,000 nautical miles. These aircraft could be used for tactical warning missions using sensor packages to collect intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
“The low-speed taxi enabled us to verify the function and integration of the aircraft systems, including steering, braking and engine controls, with the aircraft in motion,” Paul Ryder, Boeing Australia Flight Test manager, said in a press statement.
According to Boeing, the aircraft reached a speed of 14 knots (about 16 mph) and was able to maneuver and stop on command. The aircraft will include a customizable modular nose section and a conventional takeoff and landing approach.
“Runway independence ensures the aircraft will be a highly flexible and adaptable system for our global customers,” Dr. Shane Arnott, program director, Boeing ATS, said in a press statement. “This latest test marks the first full unmanned movement of the Loyal Wingman with our Australian partners and takes us a step closer to first flight.”
Boeing presented the first prototype to the RAAF in May and was able to start the engine in September. The aircraft is powered by a commercial turbofan engine. Loyal Wingman is to be a reduced radar cross section (RCS) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) flying at high-subsonic or low-supersonic speeds and providing support to manned fighters via the UCAV’s weapons and data sharing.
“Air Force partners with industry to ensure we can find innovative solutions to meet our future priorities,” Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability, said in a press statement. “Boeing’s Loyal Wingman project is a perfect example of what this collaborative approach can achieve. Seeing the prototype take to the runway for this low-speed taxi test is an exciting moment – another significant development milestone ahead of its first flight.”
Boeing announced the Loyal Wingman in February of 2019 and conducted a test flight for the ATS in November of the same year.
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Inmarsat and Hughes Network Systems have established a new strategic collaboration that will see their two satellite networks available as “GX+ North America” in-flight connectivity (IFC) for airlines flying in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Under the new partnership, GX+ North America will combine the Hughes Jupiter satellite fleet–the largest Ka-band satellite capacity over the U.S.–with Global Xpress (GX), the aviation satellite network launched by Inmarsat in 2016. Inmarsat will provide end-to-end management of the GX+ North America, which will be enabled by a Thinkom Ka-band flat panel antenna and a “dual aero modem,” according to an Oct. 20 press release.
“This unique strategic collaboration leverages the full power of the JUPITER System, including the depth of capacity of our Ka-band High-Throughput Satellite fleet, as well as our JUPITER gateways and modems,” Paul Gaske, Executive Vice President and General Manager, North America division at Hughes, said in a statement.
The modem is capable of choosing the “optimal satellite path with no service interruption or delay for passengers,” according to Inmarsat.
Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation, told Avionics International that GX+ North America will not require any aircraft modifications or upgrades to existing aircraft equipped with Inmarsat connectivity. The combination of their GX satellites with Jupiter will bring a leap in capacity available to airliners that is “orders of magnitude” above what is available today, according to Balaam.
“Technologically it’s really not that complicated,” Balaam said. “The onboard technology remains the same, what you have now is a new layer that will enable you to work either on one satellite network or the other. You can switch from one to the other with no interruption.”
According to Inmarsat, prototype flights for GX+ North America are expected to begin later this year, with commercial availability scheduled for 2021. The Hughes partnership also comes as Inmarsat continues to expand its existing GX network.
The company plans on launching new GX satellites, including their sixth through ninth generation satellites by 2023. Balaam said the partnership was driven by what they see as a need for expanded availability of capacity for IFC to allow more streaming and usage of modern Internet services in-flight.
“What this will do is it will bring a very significant increase in capacity to the aircraft. What that really does is to allow the airline to unlock their ambitions in terms of providing services to passengers. Today they’re not really providing the services they want, they’re not providing the full fast and free Internet to the whole cabin at the moment in the way they desire. The legacy systems are just too capacity constrained and they’re going to remain capacity constrained,” Balaam said.
The increase in regional operations compared to international flying due to unpredictable changes in border policies under the COVID-19 pandemic is also well aligned to the regional coverage that GX+ North America will provide. While the number of passengers flying onboard aircraft right now is significantly lower on a global basis compared to 2019, those who are flying are connecting more than ever according to Balaam.
“We’ve been looking at this, what we’re seeing from the airlines with whom we currently work is that passenger behavior has changed during COVID, we’re seeing far higher usage per passenger per session when they get on an aircraft now,” Balaam said. “We have examples elsewhere in the world where we have carriers providing full free capacity to their passengers and you can stream on that without a problem. Often we have take-up rates of 40 percent on some of the long-haul flights, streaming, audio, video, browsing, etc. We want to bring that to the U.S. market because we feel that the North American market in particular is absolutely ready for that.”
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