En­abling tech­nolo­gies of Up­per Airspace Har­mo­niza­tion


The In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ICAO) the UN spe­cial­ized agency, es­tab­lished by States in 1944 man­ages the ad­min­is­tra­tion and gov­er­nance of the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion (Chicago Con­ven­tion). ICAO works with the Con­ven­tion’s 191 Mem­ber States and in­dus­try groups to reach con­sen­sus on in­ter­na­tional civil avi­a­tion Stan­dards and Rec­om­mended Prac­tices (SARPS) and poli­cies in sup­port of a safe, ef­fi­cient, se­cure, eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble civil avi­a­tion sec­tor. These SARPS and poli­cies are used by ICAO Mem­ber States to en­sure that their lo­cal civil avi­a­tion op­er­a­tions and reg­u­la­tions con­form to global norms, which in turn per­mits more than 100,000 daily flights in avi­a­tion’s global network to op­er­ate safely and re­li­ably in ev­ery re­gion of the world.

In ad­di­tion to its core work re­solv­ing con­sen­sus-driven in­ter­na­tional SARPS and poli­cies among its Mem­ber States and in­dus­try, and among many other pri­or­i­ties and pro­grammes, ICAO also co­or­di­nates as­sis­tance and ca­pac­ity build­ing for States in sup­port of nu­mer­ous avi­a­tion de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tives; pro­duces global plans to co­or­di­nate mul­ti­lat­eral strate­gic progress for safety and air nav­i­ga­tion; mon­i­tors and re­ports on nu­mer­ous air trans­port sec­tor per­for­mance met­rics; and au­dits States’ civil avi­a­tion over­sight ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the ar­eas of safety and se­cu­rity.

Hav­ing wit­nessed tremen­dous air traf­fic growth in the last decade and ex­pected con­sis­tent growth of over 7% in­ter­na­tional as well as do­mes­tic traf­fic in the com­ing years, In­dia has taken ma­jor steps in up­grad­ing the air nav­i­ga­tion ser­vices’ ground in­fra­struc­tures and airspace re­struc­tur­ing to en­hance the safety, ca­pac­ity and ef­fi­ciency of airspace and air­ports. One of the ma­jor steps taken by In­dia is “Up­per Airspace Har­mo­niza­tion”. There­fore, it is an at­tempt to pro­vide a gen­eral over­view on the airspace struc­ture, en­abling tech­nolo­gies be­hind the up­per air space har­mo­niza­tion and ben­e­fits ex­tended to stake­hold­ers of avi­a­tion.

Airspace is di­vided sci­en­tif­i­cally into dif­fer­ent re­gions by In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion [ICAO]. They are di­vided into mul­ti­ple Flight In­for­ma­tion Re­gions [FIR]. In­dia has four ma­jor FIRS with the con­trol cen­ters at Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mum­bai. Each one of these FIRS has four lay­ers: Tower, Ap­proach, Lower area con­trol cen­tre [ACC] and Up­per area con­trol cen­tre [ACC] with vertical ju­ris­dic­tion. Each layer will have mul­ti­ple sec­tors with lat­eral ju­ris­dic­tion.

Any re­struc­tur­ing ef­forts on civil avi­a­tion air space over an in­di­vid­ual’s state could be viewed as a part of a global air space plan, as ca­pac­ity changes at one part of the globe, it cer­tainly in­flu­ences the move­ment and ca­pac­ity at an­other part of the globe. By re­struc­tur­ing the air space and air routes, saving of fuel and time, re­duc­tion in emis­sion, en­hance­ment in safety and in­creased air­line on time per­for­mance is be­ing achieved sig­nif­i­cantly. So, up­per airspace har­mo­niza­tion has be­come very es­sen­tial.

Two ma­jor chal­lenges are ad­dressed in har­mo­niz­ing the up­per airspace to en­able the air traf­fic man­age­ment of dif­fer­ent sec­tors from one con­trol cen­tre. First chal­lenge is, ex­tend­ing the air sit­u­a­tion pic­tures of dif­fer­ent sec­tors to a sin­gle up­per airspace con­trol cen­tre. Se­cond, en­abling the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween pi­lot and con­trollers; dur­ing the en­tire flight du­ra­tion within the up­per airspace ir­re­spec­tive of the dis­tance be­tween them.

This fused in­for­ma­tion is fur­ther cor­re­lated with elec­tronic flight plan in­for­ma­tion for en­hanc­ing the safety nets, which in­cludes short time con­flict alert, dan­ger­zone prox­im­ity warn­ing and min­i­mum safe al­ti­tude warn­ing sys­tem etc. This fused data are made avail­able to con­trollers’ work­ing po­si­tion as per the re­quire­ment along with elec­tronic flight in­for­ma­tion. In this way, the con­sol­i­da­tion and de­con­sol­i­da­tion of sec­tors is made fea­si­ble to han­dle the traf­fic based on the den­sity of the traf­fic and hu­man re­source avail­abil­ity.

In case of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween pi­lots and con­trollers, very high fre­quency [VHF] voice com­mu­ni­ca­tion is widely used be­cause of voice qual­ity. How­ever, the range of VHF is lim­ited to line of sight. Even though High fre­quency [HF] voice com­mu­ni­ca­tion can pro­vide bet­ter range, it is not pre­ferred over con­ti­nen­tal airspace due to poor voice qual­ity. Satel­lite based Con­troller Pi­lot Data Link Com­mu­ni­ca­tion

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