AeroMACS: It’s like a Real-time GPS, but Better!

May 23, 2016 | Author: Aloke Roy


Have you ever driven your car through thick fog in the middle of the night? It’s not fun and it’s not easy. You can’t see very well and you are constantly wondering how close you are to the car in front of you. Well, airplane pilots have to deal with similar obstacles when taxiing a plane around an unfamiliar airport. When bad weather strikes, pilots can’t see other vehicles or people on the taxiway that’s where Honeywell’s Aeronautical Mobile Airport Communication System (AeroMACS) comes in.

Among other capabilities, AeroMACS enables a pilot to navigate the airport like a real-time car GPS. It digitally sends pilots real-time visual cues and alerts, so they are aware of any dangers. Essentially, it allows a pilot to see that baggage truck moving on the runway using a high-level broadband communication system.

What is AeroMACS

Aeronautical Mobile Airport Communication System (AeroMACS) is one of the essential enablers of the global Air Traffic Management (ATM) initiatives and one of the three required communication technologies under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP). It is based on latest broadband mobile wireless communication capabilities such as Time Division Duplex/Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (TDD/OFDMA) specified in IEEE Standard 802.16. AeroMACS is the only wireless technology that has been validated by ICAO, FAA and EUROCONTROL to support safety and regularity of flights. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has dedicated 60 MHz of protected spectrum worldwide in the 5091 MHz to 5150 MHz band for AeroMACS. It is designed to support Air Traffic Control (ATC), airport and Airline Operational Control (AOC) safety services on the airport surface. AeroMACS integrates Voice over IP (VoIP) capabilities with broadband data communications over the same infrastructure yet provides differentiated services.

AeroMACS Technology Differentiators

Unlike other cellular and wireless systems that share spectrum with other consumer and commercial users, AeroMACS offers protection from interference from unauthorized users of the aviation spectrum. AeroMACS has been designed by aviation organizations such as ICAO, RTCA and EUROCAE to support critical safety services. Interoperability of AeroMACS systems are assured worldwide due to global allocation of dedicated spectrum and compliance to AeroMACS aviation standards. This in turn, reduces AeroMACS development, certification, installation and operating costs. Each AeroMACS radio channel uses 5MHz bandwidth to provide a throughput of more than 5 megabits per second. In addition, AeroMACS implements priority and preemption capabilities at the Media Access Control level system wide to deliver guaranteed performance for safety-critical services. This prioritized service flows typically assures 50 millisecond of transit delay over AeroMACS, which is at least a magnitude better than any other communication system being used or planned for aviation today. AeroMACS employs extremely strong peer entity authentication and encryption functions based on latest Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and NIST-approved security algorithms to protect information exchanges and to prevent unauthorized network access. Therefore, AeroMACS offers much higher capacity, reliability, integrity, security and quality of communication service (QoS) than other comparable systems using cellular, wireless, satellite or radio technologies.

Aeronautical Mobile Airport Communication System

Benefits of AeroMACS

AeroMACS enables services such as airport taxi guidance, Advanced Surface Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS) and conflict alert to the pilots and ground vehicle operators simultaneously using graphical moving map displays. Accurate aircraft and ground vehicle position reports can be exchanged over AeroMACS at much higher refresh rate and at much lower cost than traditional systems using Mode-S and/or UAT technologies. AeroMACS has sufficient bandwidth and QoS management capability to accommodate flight clearance delivery, conflict alerting, wireless lighting control for taxi guidance, graphical weather, simultaneously with high volume AOC information exchanges, such as navigational database uploads and electronic flight bags. AeroMACS is the only wireless communication system to be approved by FAA Airport Planning for critical airport operations, such as foreign object detection sensors on runways, multilateration sensors, avian radar backhaul, runway lighting control, video from airport emergency responders, etc. AeroMACS exceeds FAA’s enterprise security requirements for data encryption and intrusion protection.

Worldwide AeroMACS activities

ICAO completed the AeroMACS Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) in 2014, which has been approved by 192 ICAO nations. ICAO is in the process of finalizing the AeroMACS Technical Manual and Guidance document which would be adopted in 2016. RTCA and EUROCAE completed the AeroMACS Profiles and Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS), which will be used by FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to certify AeroMACS avionics for safety services. Finally, the Airline Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) is developing the avionics form, fit and aircraft installation specifications, which are planned for completion in 2017. The AEEC activities are supported by Boeing®and several US flag carriers, such as American, Delta, Southwest, etc. With all the above standards in place, AeroMACS will be ready for aircraft installation and operations.

AeroMACS is part of FAA and EUROCONTROL’s joint Future Communication Strategy and roadmap supporting NextGen. FAA’s Airport Surface Surveillance Capability (ASSC) program has deployed AeroMACS at San Francisco airport to interconnect multilateration sensors to the airport controller display for situational awareness. ASSC subsequently plans to use AeroMACS at additional eight airports in 2016 because AeroMACS offer more than a magnitude installation cost improvement over traditional cable-loop systems. FAA’s Airport Planning intends to procure and install AeroMACS at Boston Logan Airport for use by Massport and airlines by 4Q2016.  

AeroMACS was part of Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) program where Airbus led AeroMACS trials at Toulouse airport. Subsequently, SESAR 2020 program is planning to continue with AeroMACS big demonstration trials through 2019.

Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) and Electronic Navigation Research Institute (ENRI) are conducting AeroMACS trials at Sendai International Airport. JCAB is planning to replace their existing wireless communication system for emergency vehicles at the airports with AeroMACS to add video from emergency responders.

Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and ADCC conducted AeroMACS trials at Chengdu airport in 2014 and 2015. They reported that modified procedures using AeroMACS reduced the clearance delivery time by twenty minutes per flight and substantially improved operating efficiency of the Tower Control as well as overall integrity of the clearances. CAAC and ADCC are planning to expand AeroMACS trials to Beijing and Pudong (Shanghai) airports in 2016.

Bengaluru International airport in India has expressed strong interest in conducting an AeroMACS pilot program in 2016 for vehicle tracking and A-SMGCS. The pilot program is also considering Ground-Based Augmentation (differential correction of GPS) over AeroMACS for airport surface use.

Honeywell and AeroMACS

Honeywell has been a leader of AeroMACS technology development since 2009. Aloke Roy, at Aerospace Advanced Technology organization, chairs the ICAO and RTCA committees developing AeroMACS standards. Aloke also provides advisory guidance to FAA on AeroMACS and chairs the Aviation Working Group at the WiMAX Forum, a consortium of equipment manufacturers. Honeywell is also the industry editor of the AEEC AeroMACS standards.

AeroMACS brings technology and cost benefits to multiple Honeywell products and services within Aerospace and ACS business units. Some of these products include A-SMGCS, GBAS, airport vehicle management, runway/taxiway lighting control and automation. As an enabler, AeroMACS can expand the capabilities of Connected Airport and Connected Aircraft services, such as ACS Traffic Flow Manager, ACS video services in the ramp/movement areas, airport asset management and baggage handling systems, while opening up possibilities for future services. By leveraging existing technology leadership and relationships with leading Air Navigation Service Providers and AeroMACS vendors, Honeywell can get time-to-market and cost advantages against potential competitors.

Aloke Roy

Aloke Roy

Aloke Roy is a Senior Program Manager with Honeywell Advanced Technology. He currently manages data communication, information security and radio technology development programs in support of Honeywell Aerospace business.

Contact Information