Hidden Level joined the Uber Elevate ecosystem as a provider of advanced sensors and airspace monitoring capabilities.
Uber Elevate added sensor and data processing company Hidden Level to its ecosystem to further its development of safe, reliable low-altitude operations in the national airspace.
Through the non-exclusive partnership, Uber intends to access data from Hidden Level’s custom-built sensors, placed strategically around cities, as a supplemental data source for its Elevate Cloud Services suite of technologies that will undergird its future network of scalable urban airspace operations.
“Our partnership with Hidden Level seeks to enhance our ability to demonstrate the ways in which Uber Air will meet industry safety standards, and we look forward to collaboration in the years ahead,” said Tom Prevot, director of airspace systems at Uber Elevate.
Founded in 2018, Hidden Level is a venture-backed company seeking to install, operate and maintain its proprietary sensor infrastructure in metropolitan areas through a data-as-a-service model that will help enable drone delivery, urban air mobility, airspace security and other similar services by detecting and tracking cooperative and noncooperative airspace traffic. The company raised $3.6 million in seed funding in November 2019, according to Crunchbase.
Founders Gary Domincos, Jeffrey Cole and Kevin Nasman previously worked on a number of commercial and military sensor projects, including the development of Gryphon Sensors’ R1400, counter-UAS systems of systems, and ground moving target indicator (GMTI) radar technology, among other projects. Hidden Level has also participated in standards development through RTCA SC-228 — creating minimum performance standards for UAS around detect-and-avoid and command-and-control — as well as ASTM’s working group on remote ID.
“From our lessons learned, we have built world-class sensors with tremendous detection and tracking capability at long range,” a representative for Hidden Level told Avionics. “Depending on the metropolitan topography, on the order of 15 installation sites can cover up to 170 square miles.”
Hidden Level is engaged on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot programs on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) linear infrastructure inspection and airport drone security. Members of the company have also worked with NASA on early unmanned traffic management (UTM) concept development, safety cases and technical capability exercises.
Like other airspace service providers, Hidden Level is closely watching how regulators intend for UAM and other low-altitude operations to integrate into the airspace. The FAA recently released its first draft of a UAM concept-of-operations, which suggests evolving current helicopter routes into “UAM Corridors” that can define an evolving set of performance and equipage requirements to support higher tempo operations over time.
“Hidden Level operates as an SDSP under the FAA’s proposed CONOPS, providing our airspace data to [UAM service providers] and UAM operators such as Uber,” a company representative told Avionics. “We want to ensure that corridors that are approved for flights remain clear of non-cooperative airspace participants, but if they do appear contingencies can be best planned given the comprehensive picture from Hidden Level’s Airspace Monitoring Service. Other cooperative aircraft can also be checked against to ensure that their positional reports reflect their actual position in the sky, providing a safety net for potential off-nominal activity.”
Hidden Level is currently working through testing, active rollout and planning with early customers and partners in metropolitan areas on both the east and west coasts of the United States, with public announcement slated for later this year.
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Aero K, a South Korean startup low cost carrier, has partnered with Skytrac Systems to add cellular connectivity to its fleet of Airbus A320s. (Aero K)
Aero K Airlines, a low-cost startup carrier based in South Korea, has entered into a partnership with Skytrac Systems to enable global mobile data coverage to its fleet of Airbus A320s operated on domestic and international flights.
The airline is the final stages of obtaining an aircraft operating certificate with plans to begin domestic flights from Cheongju International Airport next month. Under the partnership, Aero K’s fleet is being equipped with Skytrac’s Dynamic Air Link 200 (DAL-200) wireless communications and data technology that provides cellular data coverage in more than 200 countries.
“Our goal is to become the leading airline in Northeast Asia, and that means investing in our pilots and infrastructure so we can optimize efficiencies right out of the gate,” said Aero K Airlines Chief Operating Officer Stuart Cross. “We are pleased to select SKYTRAC due to their position as a market leader in intelligent connectivity.”
Cellular data service on Aero K’s A320s will be enabled by Skytrac’s partnership with GigSky, first announced in a Jan. 29 press release. That partnership integrated enterprise level SIM card technology provided by GigSky into the purchase of data plans sold by Skytrac to give operators the ability to improve data sharing across their fleet.
The service will also auto-select the best performing national mobile network based on where Aero K aircraft are operating.
When the GigSky partnership was announced, Ruben Stepin, director of GADSS and airline business development for Skytrac, described it as a “a significant development as instead of operators utilizing and expensing personal or local SIM cards, an organization can now manage all their SIMs from one location, using one supplier and one giant pool of data for seamless global data connectivity.”
Aero K pilots will also use Skytrac’s mobile data coverage for pre- and post-flight electronic flight bag (EFB) cockpit connectivity. Flight crews can also use tablet devices to access flight plans, weather reports, eTechLogs and charting map updates using the new cellular data service, Skytrac said.
Skytrac’s partnership with Aero K is one of the latest digital investments by the airline, after announcing its decision to adopt Comply365’s operational content management platform to manage operational manuals and creating of analytics reports. The Aero K partnership is the latest new airline adoption announced by Skytrac in recent weeks, after confirming another new airline, Quebec-based OWG, will use its satcom technology for a fleet of Boeing 737-400s.
Operations for Aero K are scheduled to launch despite the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) projection that Asia Pacific region airlines are expected to be the hardest hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on an air travel. IATA is projecting global revenue losses for the airline industry to total $84.3 billion for 2020, with the Asia Pacific region expected to collectively account for $29 billion of that.
The region’s airlines will see passenger demand drop by 53.8 percent this year, while capacity is projected to be reduced by 39.2 percent, according to IATA.
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EASA released a proposed special condition for certifying unmanned aircraft intended for use in medium- and high-risk applications, such as drone delivery flights over populated areas. (Wingcopter/UPS)
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released a proposed special condition for certifying unmanned aircraft intended for use in medium- and high-risk applications, such as drone delivery flights over populated areas.
The proposed certification approach, SC-Light UAS, would apply to all drones with a maximum takeoff weight of up to 1,322 pounds (600 kg), not intended to transport humans, and operated either via remote pilot or autonomously — defined as operating without a remote pilot being able to intervene. The special condition is open for public comment until September 30.
The document also applies to drone operations defined as “specific” — the middle of three risk-based categories under the EU’s risk-based framework: open, specific, and certified. Rulemaking on the certified category, likely to include carrying dangerous goods or human passengers, is ongoing.
“This proposal forms part of EASA’s wider initiative to ensure drones can be operated safely and acceptably, particularly in areas which are densely occupied by people and moving or static objects,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said.
The proposed special condition, similar to one released last year for passenger-carrying VTOL aircraft, uses objective airworthiness standards in lieu of a prescriptive approach and takes into account variations in operational risk — an approach that industry has lauded as more fitting for a rapidly-evolving industry segment with wide variation in designs and applications.
“Until today, the certification basis of UAS has been either derived from manned aircraft CS integrated with Special Conditions to address specific UAS aspects, or defined with Special Conditions based on documentation developed and published by JARUS (joint authorities on rulemaking for unmanned air systems),” EASA authors wrote in the special condition. “In both cases the approach has been prescriptive. Objective based CS are deemed more appropriate for UAS.”
Safety objectives for the special condition were calculated based on an assessment of a probable urban scenario in 2035, created by the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR-JU)’s Drone Outlook Study, taking into account the projected number of flight hours flown by drones in European cities, urban population density, and representative products and operational assumptions.
“With no occupant on-board, the risk inherent to any UAS operation is strictly dependent on the characteristics of the operational volume, and of the adjacent ones which the UA might inadvertently enter,” the special condition states, adding that every UAS certification application will be linked to a detailed definition of operational volume, along with buffers, adjacent volumes, and air and ground risks.
For example, the acceptable quantitative probability of various failure conditions is presented based on population density in the operational area, with higher safety requirements defined for flight “over assemblies of people” rather than “in a populated environment.”
EASA’s SC-Light UAS proposes different safety objectives based on the aircraft’s intended operating environment, (EASA)
The proposed special condition does allow for the use of strategic and impact mitigations as part of the certification process, the former intended to reduce the number of people at risk on the ground and the latter to reduce either the area affected by a crash or the energy transmitted on impact.
In other words, parachutes or energy-absorbing designs will be taken into account when evaluating an unmanned aircraft’s failure conditions — unlike EASA’s means-of-compliance for its special condition for passenger-carrying VTOL aircraft released earlier this year.
“We are thrilled to see that EASA is recognizing the advantage of a whole airframe recovery parachute system and recognized how it can reduce the energy transmitted in a crash to a very low level,” Larry Williams, chief executive officer of ballistic parachute-maker Aviation Safety Resources, told Avionics. “Applying the benefit of a recovery system toward safety objectives as a means of compliance is a logical, time-proven mitigation strategy. ASR is currently working with many OEMs that not only appreciate the importance of an on-board recovery system as a means of compliance but understand the public’s awareness and outright demand for this increased level of safety.”
EASA’s authors note that the SC-Light UAS is based on certification standards produced by JARUS, as well as previous EASA special conditions for remotely piloted aircraft (SC-RPAS) and VTOLs (SC-VTOL).
Michael Blades, vice president of aerospace, defense and security at Frost & Sullivan, told Avionics this document is EASA’s “answer to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 23, Amendment 64,” through which the U.S. regulator created flexible, performance-based standards for light aircraft meant to accommodate a wide variety of new designs.
“EASA points out that these standards are for the specific category and not the certified category, which likely means there will be even stricter standards to conduct certain operations,” Blades wrote in an email. “This looks good for cargo UAS operations, in my opinion, because it seems they will require less strict standards — rightfully so — than passenger-carrying UAS.”
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Mannarino Systems & Software, a Canadian supplier of safety critical aircraft software, unveiled its new M-RTOS real time operating system during an opening session of the Farnborough International Airshow-hosted FIA Connect 2020. (Mannarino Systems & Software)
Mannarino Systems & Software unveiled its disruptive new real time operating system (RTOS), M-RTOS, Monday July 20, during an FIA Connect 2020 spotlight session hosted by the Farnborough International Airshow.
M-RTOS, according to the Quebec-based supplier of safety critical airborne software and systems, has the potential to lower the cost of ownership for an RTOS over the lifecycle of an aircraft system by 50 to 70 percent. The company says that it has priced it as a reusable product across multiple microprocessors and categorized the cost of ownership based on the criticality of the Design Assurance Level (DAL) required by the application that M-RTOS is supporting.
An RTOS is used in aerospace electronics to serve as the interface between the hardware/ microprocessor and the application software that controls associated aircraft functionality.
The way that Mannarino has introduced M-RTOS is also under a major cost advantage, as a $10 million development investment from Lockheed Martin several years ago completely offset all development costs.
“The $10 million invested into Mannarino by Lockheed Martin was used to develop the M-RTOS. This initial investment to develop the product does not need to be recovered financially speaking,” Mario Iacobelli, engineering project manager for Mannarino told Avionics International. “So our business model has been structured based on recovering the incremental costs of customizing the M-RTOS to our customers’ needs.”
Lockheed’s investment was awarded in 2017 under an Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy agreement signed with Mannarino. The offset investment was in direct support of Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) obligations associated with Canada’s purchase and in-Service Support maintenance, and support of 17 CC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, which were delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2010, according to an April 2017 press release published by Lockheed covering the award.
Mannarino told Avionics via emailed statements and web-based presentations that the driving force behind the development of the new M-RTOS was the lack of what they felt was an operating system specifically supporting the unique requirements of modern aircraft, which can feature hundreds of individual computers and systems with their own requirements.
Where M-RTOS poses the potential to disrupt the business models for aerospace safety critical software development is within the economics it brings to cost of ownership and product lifecycle. In a completely new buying approach, it is being offered on a fixed annual subscription basis ranging from 1 to 7 years. Additionally, the company stresses that there are no run-time license limitations or quarterly reporting required on the number of units shipped. They have also eliminated the royalty payments that they say are common among the real time operating systems that are available to the aerospace industry today.
Mannarino’s Tracer is a feature within the Workbench that allows users to visualize the entire system execution / behavior and
identify hard to reproduce errors. (Mannarino Systems & Software)
“This fundamental change offers opportunities to leverage savings across multiple end-use products and even an entire product portfolio that use the same microprocessor. This compounds savings even further. Some competitors also ask that royalty payments be made for each instance of the RTOS within a system. For example, if your system uses two of the same microprocessor, then each instance of the RTOS that is embedded in the microprocessor requires a royalty payment,” Iacobelli said.
Iacobelli also provided some perspective on the factors that have been increasing the cost of developing safety critical aircraft software over the last several decades within his FIA Connect presentation. In one slide, he showed how since the 1970s, the size of aerospace software on aircraft systems has doubled every five years. A chart showing software lines of code growth referenced that a 1980s built Boeing 737 featured 470,000 lines of code, while the in-service Boeing 787 features 14 million lines of code.
Mannarino’s first M-RTOS customer is MicroPilot, a Canadian provider of unmanned aircraft autopilot software. MicroPilot is using M-RTOS to support a Texas Instrument supplied ARM-based microcontroller as the core element of their autopilot system. Since the micro controller selected by MicroPilot did not feature a memory management unit, Mannarino claims that the “market leaders couldn’t support the processor.”
On the traditional manned air transport side of aerospace, the company also sees M-RTOS as ideal for supporting federated line replaceable units and unique aircraft systems like a landing gear, steering, or engine controllers.
“An emerging market we see is the certifiable COTS hardware. The M-RTOS also works very favorably for these types of aerospace manufacturers like Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, Abaco Systems. The COTS hardware are typically OS agnostic which means as aerospace companies look to use certifiable COTS hardware, they have the freedom to choose the RTOS that best fits their overall aircraft needs. Having an affordable option with the commercial approach to help minimize overall aircraft cost we believe will be looked upon quite favorably,” Iacobelli said.
Along with the introduction of M-RTOS, the company also describes its new Mannarino Workbench as an associated development enabler. Workbench includes a modeling tool that uses graphical user interfaces to configure M-RTOS to different partitions. The Tracer featured within Workbench also enables visualization of overall system execution and behavior.
John Mannarino, president and founder of Mannarino Systems, participated in an opening question and answer session for the company’s FIA Connect spotlight where he helped to demystify some of the functionality within aircraft systems that M-RTOS is designed to support.
“Generally for software on any system on an aircraft, there’s many layers of software that are required to actually get the computer to do the right thing and control the aircraft correctly,” Mannarino said. “There’s a boot loader that’s very low level that boots up the computer. There’s an operating system which really is the brain that controls all the apps and interfaces with the hardware to do the low level processing required, and then there’s higher level application software that knows how to control an engine, knows how to transfer fuel, and knows how to form navigation functions.”
Beyond the introduction of M-RTOS, the company is also actively in partnership with several Quebec universities researching how the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to reduce multi-core processor interference. There are also ongoing discussions with one aircraft and one avionics manufacturer – both are still unnamed – to learn about their progress with multicore processor development.
Mannarino also discussed why the cost of next generation safety critical aircraft software development has been skyrocketing in recent years as well.
“Everything needs an operating system, which is fantastic from a manufacturing perspective, because I can sell it to many folks. But we also recognize it as a core element that is required for every system and we’re trying to take that core element and our financial advantage and give a revolutionary product to the industry,” Mannarino said. “The industry is tired of paying way too much for an operating system and tired of being neglected as well. Aerospace, as we were talking about it today is a critical industry, but it’s not the highest volume industry for electronics and software. So the current market leaders in these areas for RTOS sometimes don’t treat their aerospace customers the way aerospace customers deserve to be treated.”
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Check out the July 19 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the top headlines and stories across various segments of the global aerospace industry that you should be aware of for the week ahead.
At the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow, a concept of the Tempest sixth generation fighter jet concept aircraft was on display. (Leonardo)
The 2020 Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) is presenting an all digital webcast experience this week in place of its bi-annual live gathering at Farnborough International Airport.
In 2018, there were 80,000 visitors from 96 countries at FIA, which should mean a large online participation this week as the airshow has planned for five days of keynote speeches, presentations and networking opportunities. Topics featured on the agenda include space exploration, real time operating systems, sixth generation fighter jet technology and several sessions dedicated to the future of sustainability in aviation.
FIA is providing free registration for the event via its website here.
Boeing Announces Second Quarter Aircraft Deliveries
In a July 14 press release, Boeing announced its major program deliveries for the second quarter, that included 20 commercial aircraft deliveries. That brings the total number of commercial aircraft delivered year to date for Boeing to 70.
“Our commercial airplane deliveries in the second quarter reflect the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our customers and our operations that included a shutdown of our commercial airplane production for several weeks. We have and will continue to work with our customers on specific timing and adjustment to deliveries,” said Greg Smith, Boeing executive vice president of Enterprise Operations, chief financial officer and interim leader of Communications.
Stratos Aircraft announced the first flight of its Stratos 716X model – registration N716X. The flight lasted 22 minutes, according to a July 10 press release published by the company.
The Stratos 716X is a “multi-role” VLJ (Very Light Jet) designed to seat six people to support personal, business, and air taxi use.
Flown by test pilot Sean VanHatten, the Stratos 716X is a spacious six-place jet with generous space for baggage. The all-carbon airframe, single-engine jet is designed to cruise at 400 knots. The first flight was a full power takeoff and climb to 13,500 ft. A series of maneuvers were then conducted to evaluate handling characteristics. The flight is the first of an extensive flight test program that will span the next several months, according to Stratos Aircraft.
The 716X is 4.5 ft longer, and has a wider cabin, than the 714 Proof of Concept (PoC) aircraft introduced at Oshkosh in 2017. The all-carbon-fiber 716X features trailing link gear, is powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 turbofan, and is configured with dual G3X screens, GTN 750 MFD, integrated Garmin Autopilot, dual standby attitude indicators, custom switch panels, fully automated pressurization system, and air conditioning.
VersaLogic Has a New Embedded Computing System with Error Correcting Memory
VersaLogic Corp. has released a new compact and rugged embedded computing system with error correcting (ECC) memory. This is VersaLogic’s eighth product family released in the popular Embedded Processing Unit format.
Named “Owl”, this new computer features error correcting memory combined with Intel®’s latest 5th generation Apollo Lake processors (dual or quad core). The Owl also includes TPM 2.0 hardware security, on-board power conditioning, Mini PCIe expansion sockets, and analog input ports, along with standard USB and Ethernet I/O ports.
On-board I/O includes dual Gigabit Ethernet, one USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports, eight analog inputs, eight digital I/O ports, and four serial ports. A SATA interface, eMMC Flash, mSATA slot, and a microSD socket provide a range of data storage options, according to the company.
Microchip Technology introduced its newly-expanded portfolio of Transient Voltage Suppressor (TVS) vertical arrays – the MDA3KP Transient Voltage Suppressor (TVS), a 3 kW diode family of more than 25 products with different screening levels, polarities and qualification standards.
Microchip’s MDA3KP TVS diode array family provides an integrated multi-diode solution. These voltage-clamping devices provide fast-reacting Avalanche Breakdown Diode (ABD) features that divert excess current around sensitive components to protect them from electrical overstress, the company said in a press release.
“Digital controls, logic and diagnostic system circuit blocks require highly reliable, secure current and power protection to ensure operations in extreme environments,” said Leon Gross, vice president of Microchip’s Discrete Product Group business unit. “This diode family also addresses the challenges system designers face with a more efficient vertical construction and requirement for less board space than other devices.”
Skydio, a U.S.-based developer of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for recreation, commercial and military use, closed $100 million in Series C funding, bringing its total funds raised to $170 million.
Known primarily for its industry-leading autonomy systems and producing high-quality video footage of recreational activities, Skydio also has contracts with the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and Drug Enforcement Agency. It’s one of a few domestic companies the Pentagon is hoping will be able to provide secure, affordable small drones after the DoD acted to ban the use of Chinese-made DJI drones due to data security concerns.
Last May, Skydio was one of six companies the Army chose, through the Defense Innovation unit, to develop short-range reconnaissance (SRR) platforms. The other five are Altavian, Teal Drones, Lumenier, Vantage Robotics and Parrot.
Alongside the fundraise, Skydio announced a new family of drones it calls X2, available in enterprise and military configurations. The military version meets the Army’s SRR requirements, pairing Skydio’s autonomous navigation technology with a ruggedized airframe, folding arms, a thermal camera and up to 35 minutes of flight time.
The Pentagon recently announced $13.4 million in awards to UAS and related technology developers through the Defense Production Act Title III, as part of the national response to COVID-19. Skydio received $4 million to continue work on their flight controller hardware and software and data link.
As policymakers continue to voice concerns about Chinese-made DJI drones and data-harvesting, Skydio is well-positioned to capture a significant share of the enterprise and military market looking to move away from foreign UAS.
Honeywell Offers New GPS-Denied Navigation System
Honeywell is introducing HGuide n380, a new inertial navigation system that communicates position, orientation and velocity of an object even if GPS signals are unavailable. This version is developed to offer a smaller, lighter, lower-priced version of similar systems, for use on smaller, more weight-constrained aircraft.
“We recognized a need for a small, high-performance inertial navigation system in areas like 3D mapping, surveying and other applications where space is at a premium and performance cannot be compromised,” said Chris Lund, offering management senior director, Navigation and Sensors, Honeywell Aerospace. “We responded by developing the HGuide n380 inertial navigation system, which provides our customers with proven, cost effective inertial sensor technology, created for aerospace applications, but that can be integrated into almost any architecture.”
This new inertial navigation system is composed of Honeywell’s HGuide i300 inertial measurement unit (IMU), a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver and Honeywell’s proprietary sensor fusion software, which is based on the algorithms used for navigation on millions of aircraft every day. Inputs from these components are fused together to determine position, orientation and velocity to deliver critical navigation information even in areas where a satellite signal is degraded or altogether unavailable, such as canyons, bridges, tunnels, mountains, parking garages or dense forests.
Lilium Selects Toray Industries As Carbon Fiber Composite Supplier
German air taxi developer Lilium, which is working to certify its five-seat, all-electric, vertical takeoff and landing Lilium Jet, is partnering with Toray Industries to supply high-performance carbon fiber composite for production of future technology demonstrators and eventual manufacturing of its aircraft.
“Securing this supply agreement marks an important step in the maturity of our supply chain and in our preparations for serial production,” commented Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and CEO at Lilium.
The agreement also paves the way for further collaboration between the two companies, both in the provision of other high-performance materials and the establishment of research and development partnerships.
Lilium, which expects to begin commercial operations in 2025, recently added Bailie Gifford as a shareholder and brought its total funds raised to date up to $375 million.
The U.S. Space Force is investigating hosting payloads on the Airbus Skynet, pictured here, and other satellites (Airbus Photo)
The U.S. Space Force is working with the United Kingdom on military space projects and looking into further areas of cooperation. Areas of interest include small satellites, space deterrence and reduction of on-orbit space debris, satellite communications, and launch.
Last July, the then-U.K. Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt discussed the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s space program, including the commitment of £30 million to accelerate the launch of a small satellite demonstrator within a year under Team Artemis, a transatlantic group of U.K. and U.S. defense personnel developing an end-to-end space system.
“We remain interested in supporting the U.K. on Artemis,” Space Force’s Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond told the London Air & Space Power Conference in a July 15 virtual keynote speech. “Our Space Force and Air Force teams are currently evaluating where we can best leverage this capability across the space enterprise. Satellite communications is another area where we are working closely together. Our mutual needs for increased communications bandwidth and a more resilient SATCOM architecture has the United States investigating partnership arrangements and hosted payloads on Advanced Extremely High Frequency [AEHF] evolved strategic satellite communications systems, Skynet and Wideband Global SATCOM [WGS] systems, to name a few. Additionally, our nations recently reached agreement on technology safeguards that allows United States companies to support launching spacecraft from the U.K.”
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman built the AEHF satellites, while Airbus builds the Skynet X-band military communications satellites. Since 2007, the U.S. military has deployed 10 Boeing Wideband Global Satcom satellites (WGS) that use the Ka-band frequency, but bandwidth demands continue to rise for forces in the field and commanders back in the continental United States.
At the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado in April last year, the then-commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, currently the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the U.S. military was sharing its space plans for the first time with allied nations under Operation Olympic Defender. At the same conference, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein held a meeting with international air chiefs in the inaugural Air Chiefs Space Conference.
Last year, the U.K. became the first nation to join the U.S.-led Operation Olympic Defender, a coalition to deter hostile space actors, such as China, Russia, and Iran, and decrease the spread of on-orbit space debris.
“Information advantage is a critical enabler of space superiority,” Raymond said in his July 15 address. “Without time relevant information, data and intelligence, our satellites and their operators will be unable to respond fast enough to threats that we see today. The speed of information is central to our ability to defeat anti-satellite weapons which can reach their targets in minutes; jammers whose wave forms travel at the speed of light; and cyber weapons which are largely difficult to detect and interdict.”
“Therefore, to build a credible deterrent, our Space Force portfolio must be able to deny our adversaries the benefit of attack or be able to impose costs upon them, and this places a high value to threat relevant information, not only in our operations centers, but also on the edge within our satellites and their command and control systems,” Raymond said.
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Delta Air Lines has removed 600 aircraft from active service and plans on permanently retiring 100, including the MD-88 fleet, one of which is pictured here. (Delta Air Lines)
Delta Air Lines has permanently retired 100 aircraft and removed another 600 from active commercial service, while also delaying and canceling some future planned deliveries according to the international carrier’s July 14 second quarter earnings call.
Between April and June, Delta reported a net loss of $5.7 billion due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, passenger refunds, fleet impairment charges and a collection of other costs that include order cancellations associated with bankruptcy filings of major airlines that it holds ownership stake in. The loss was Delta’s largest since 2008, with a large portion due to drop in domestic passenger revenue that began, which was down by 93 percent compared to the second quarter of 2019.
Over the next few years, Delta will accelerate fleet retirement for their entire MD-88, MD-90, Boeing 777 and 737-700 fleets along with portions of the 767-300ER and Airbus A320 fleets as well. Future purchases for four Airbus A350s scheduled to be delivered to LATAM – the Chile-based carrier where Delta holds a 20 percent ownership stake – have been cancelled. The cancellation included a $62 million termination fee.
Both LATAM and Aeromexico, another Latin airline that Delta holds an ownership stake within, have filed for US Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The airline’s ownership stake in Virgin Atlantic is also suffering as the U.K.-based carrier is working through an out-of-court recapitalization, according to Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.
Two other subsidiary U.S. regional operators, Compass and GoJet, which both had contracts operating for Delta through the end of 2020, also ceased operations in April.
“The 777 fleet for us was the sub fleet that made the most sense to sit down. We certainly have additional international capable aircraft. We have a very large 767 fleet with opportunities to early retire as we get a better sense for where the recovery is,” Bastian said during a question and answer session with analysts.
There are also ongoing discussions with Airbus on other future aircraft deliveries.
Members of Delta’s line maintenance crew disinfect the surfaces of the cabin including tray tables, seat backs and in-flight entertainment screens in a Boeing 757. Delta says this is one of the ways it is enhancing cleaning procedures in cabins between flights. Photo: Delta Air Lines
“We are working with Airbus, as you can appreciate, and they’ve been very good partners with us managing the crisis. Clearly, we’re in a situation where we don’t need any aircraft, we have a lot of aircraft on the ground and doing our best to manage through the next 18 to 24 months to minimize deliveries. We’re not ready to make any announcements yet. I can assure you there will be no cash CapEx on any aircraft at Delta for some period of time, certainly through the end of this year,” Bastian said.
Parking more than 700 aircraft helped reduce fuel expenses by $1.9 billion compared to the same period a year ago, and maintenance expenses were also down by 90 percent during the quarter. According to Delta’s 10-Q filing, the majority of capital expenditures during the first six months of June came in the form of “purchases of aircraft, fleet modifications and technology enhancements prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“In order to preserve liquidity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we are deferring substantially all of our previously planned 2020 capital expenditures,” Delta said in the filing.
More than 40,000 employees, out of Delta’s workforce of 91,000, have also helped reduce salaries and benefits expenses for the airline by taking voluntary unpaid leaves.
A number of steps were also taken during the second quarter to improve social distancing onboard Delta flights, where a commitment has been made to block middle seats through September and cap load factors at 60 percent. Partnerships have also been formed with the Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics to provide COVID-19 testing for Delta employees.
Masks are also being required onboard and Delta has also released a video featuring Dr. Michael Saag, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, explaining how the cabin air filtration system on its aircraft keeps in-flight air clean for passengers.
“The international trips that we’ve all been on where we’ve flown over to Europe for a two-hour meeting and flown back that does nothing but beat you up can certainly be much easily better accommodated over a video call,” Bastian said. “It will take some time to get back. I don’t think we’ll ever get back entirely to where we were in 2019 on the volume of business traffic, but the resiliency of the business traffic that we are going to now bake into our business model going forward I think will be a better way to measure the sustainability of the recovery.”
The post Delta Retires More Aircraft as COVID-19 Losses Hit Billions in Second Quarter appeared first on Aviation Today.
On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, we’re joined by Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware.
FlightAware operates the world’s largest flight tracking and data platform. Baker provides insights on how air traffic is slowly starting to go back up since the lowest levels that occurred in April and May due to COVID-19 pandemic related air travel restrictions.
Baker also explains how FlightAware is introducing new artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms into its global flight data platform.
Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC.
The post PODCAST: FlightAware CEO Talks COVID-19 Air Traffic Trends appeared first on Aviation Today.
Nolinor Aviation is using a fleet of 10 newly acquired Boeing 737-400s to start operating a Quebec-based leisure airline, OWG, in September. Photo: OWG
Canadian charter operator Nolinor Aviation launched a new Quebec-based regional airline with a fleet of Boeing 737-400s that feature extensive avionics modifications and upgrades.
Along with launching the new airline, scheduled to start passenger carrying service in September, details on the fleet’s avionics equipment were outlined on their fleet website and through a press release published by Skytrac, a Canadian supplier of aircraft satellite communications and internet connectivity enablement.
“The interior of each plane was refurbished with new, lighter and sturdier seats. All of this work represents an investment of several millions of dollars,” according to a July 7 press release published by Nolinor announcing the launch of OWG.
Each Boeing 737-400 operated by OWG features 158 economy seats with a 2,500 nautical mile range and top speed of 550 mph. Nolinor also equipped each aircraft with new GPS and Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance (LPV) technology. The use of LPV enables one of several minimum approach types that can be flown using the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) and other regional aircraft navigation augmentation systems.
OWG notes that the addition of LPV represents “an investment of over $400,000 CA per aircraft.”
Another system that Nolinor highlighted throughout its announcements about the new fleet is the real-time satellite communications system for the aircraft supplied by Skytrac. ISAT-200A, Skytrac’s GPS and Iridium satellite transceiver is capable of facilitating real-time fleet awareness, group communications, and systems performance trending and analysis, according to an Iridium product description of the technology.
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Skytrac also integrates the ISAT-200A’s data gathering into its cloud-based data management portal SkyWeb.
“Adding the Skytrac system to our new fleet of Boeing 737-400 was a no-brainer for the OWG division. Following our aircraft in real time is a must – the rest of the features are bonus points,” said OWG President Marco Prud’homme.
Nolinor further notes that each of its aircraft’s flight management systems include True North’s Super Attitude Heading and Reference System (AHRS) to deal with the operating environment that the company says is more susceptible to “the greater risk of indication errors related to magnetic north.” Some flights operated by Nolinor also still feature mechanical engineers onboard in the event of a mechanical breakdown occurring in one of the other remote regions that it provides charter and cargo services to.
Beyond the fleet technology, Nolinor is looking to use OWG to “win the hearts of Quebecers with a new airlines whose mission is to get travelers excited again,” according to Prud’homme.
“The flight portion of your trip should be an integral part of your vacation. Traditional airlines have chosen to cut the quality of their services year after year with no regard for the passenger experience,” he said.
OWG’s launch comes as other Canadian airlines adjust to the COVID-19 global pandemic, with some going through fleet retirements and increasing operating schedules to regions where travel restrictions are being lifted.
Air Canada for example, is accelerating the retirement of 79 aging Boeing 767s, Airbus A319s and Embraer E190s while also suspending service on 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight stations at regional airports in Canada. The carrier also reported a net loss of $1.05 billion in the first quarter of 2020 and reduced its staff by more than 50 percent through layoffs, severances, early retirements and special leaves.
Nolinor described the launch of the new airline as occurring “against all odds,” with OWG being its first expansion beyond Canadian regional flying and into the tourist flight market.
Flying out of Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport, OWG will focus on Caribbean destinations. The Nolinor subsidiary formed a new partnership with Caribe Sol and Hola Sun Holidays to also start offering direct flights to Cuba starting in November.
The post Nolinor Invests Millions in New Canadian Airline and Fleet Avionics appeared first on Aviation Today.
An FAA award marks progress toward integrating a fault detection and mitigation framework into unmanned traffic management systems. (Photo: Airbus)
A team of companies received $1.6 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to build and test their Contingency Management Platform at the New York Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York.
Though much progress has been made toward creating and testing unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems that will enable safe integration of drones into the national airspace, little work has been done to identify and prepare for potential system faults outside of aircraft malfunctions.
That’s the task these five companies have set out conquer, led by CAL Analytics, which will also provide systems integration, and working with Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research, or NUAIR. ResilienX is contributing health and usage monitoring and fault mitigation software; TruWeather is providing micro-weather services; Assured Information Security (AIS) is offering a cybersecurity module and Kongsberg Geospatial is providing beyond visual line of sight airspace visualization and mission management.
“We’re excited to work directly with the FAA to bring together some of the most innovative companies in the industry to tackle operational safety in UTM,” said Dr. Sean Calhoun, Managing Director of CAL Analytics, as reported by UAS Weekly. “Validating a contingency management approach is a critical, but often overlooked, step to achieve routine commercial drone operations.”
ResilienX’s health and integrity monitoring system, called FRAIHMWORK, performs both active and passive monitoring, according to Andrew Carter, president and CTO. Passive monitoring relies on safety-critical components and services of a UTM system reporting who they are, what they are doing, and if they think they are working correctly. Active monitoring entails diving into various sensor feeds and APIs to analyze data in near-real-time and determine whether the devices are functioning properly.
“In research performed in conjunction with the NASA and the FAA, the UTM industry has looked at some failure modes and has unintentionally run across others,” Carter told Avionics International. “Almost all of these fault scenarios, however, are focused on what happens when the drone does something unintended, due to a drone malfunction. As drones improve, and become more automated to autonomous, we believe that the data the drone is using to make decisions will need to be quality assured. We look at the UTM ecosystem and have seen almost no work done to date on failure modes or fault scenarios outside of drone malfunctions.”
The first goal of the project, Carter said, is to monitor for and detect these off-nominal conditions originating off the aircraft that could affect UAS operations. The second goal is to provide situational awareness of these scenarios and their impacts to a user who can then facilitate contingency management, either through automated responses or manual procedures, such as calling a UAS operator or air traffic control.
“Without an understanding of what can go wrong, how to detect it when it does, and what to do about it, the UTM ecosystem is missing many traits that are often considered in safety critical system of systems,” Carter said.
FAA officials speaking during the UAS Symposium earlier this month touted progress toward the deployment of UTM and reemphasize their intention to publish a final policy on remote identification by December.
Officials from the agency’s Aircraft Certification Office and Flight Standards Service — responsible for awarding aircraft certification and operational permits, respectively — noted the new challenges involved in approving drone operations, as each part of the equation impacts the other.
“The role of operational reduction of risk has increased significantly with the introduction of UAS,” said Earl Lawrence, executive director of the FAA’s Flight Standards Service.
“[The Aircraft Certification Office] and Flight Standards Service have been a lot more connected in looking at the mitigations between certification and operational. Because there is a gap there that we’ve been working towards,” said Rick Domingo, executive director of the Aircraft Certification Office.
Missing from that discussion was the third dimension of risk mitigation: a system that exists outside of a particular drone or operational plan that exists to reduce risk.
In other words, UTM.
“To date, neither regulators, operators nor the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) industry has really figured this out,” Carter told Avionics. “UTM is largely a risk mitigation concept. The FAA opened up an avenue to address this in version 2 of their UTM CONOPS through a concept of Performance Authorizations. Until operators can take advantage UTM as a quantified risk mitigation, complex UAS operations will not be done at scale.”
The post Five Companies and NUAIR Begin Work on UTM Contingency Management appeared first on Aviation Today.