Consolidating Surveillance

NextGen surface technology improves situational awareness; operational efficiency


Surface surveillance technology is becoming increasingly prevalent at airports nationwide. The concept is to give operations officials across the airport a real-time view of the precise location of all surface traffic, and to use that data to streamline operations and exploit efficiencies. AIRPORT BUSINESS takes an in-depth look at two types of this technology; one which provides an asset management solution for ground support equipment, another that consolidates ground surveillance technology into a comprehensive view of an airport’s surface traffic.

Advances in technology are constantly changing the airport dynamic and the way operations officials are communicating with each other. Surface surveillance technology is a working example of this.

Speaking to members of the House Committee on Science and Technology late last year regarding operations at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), FAA senior vice president for NextGen and operations planning Vicki Cox stated, “Last summer, a plane holding on a ramp for hours might not have had an option to turn back to the gate readily, because no one could see where all other aircraft were located on the ramp or at the gates.

“With the addition of NextGen technology,” she testified, “surface operations are no longer a ‘black hole’ at JFK.”

This is due in large part to the Sensis Corporation’s Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X), a runway incursion detection and alerting system that is now in use at 18 U.S. airports, and is planned by FAA to be deployed at a total of 35 airports by 2011.

ASDE-X combines surface movement radar, multilateration, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance- Broadcast (ADS-B)to provide air traffic controllers with accurate, real-time position and identification of all aircraft and vehicles on the airport surface.

In 2007, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters led a task force to develop recommendations to reduce congestion at New York’s airports. Based on the recommendations, the FAA expedited the deployment of ASDE-X at JFK and then decided to expand the multilateration coverage to include gate surveillance. The FAA selected Sensis Aerobahn to monitor and measure surface operations at JFK to address potential changes to airport operations.

The latest installation at JFK, Sensis’ Aerobahn, is a web-based airport management tool which combines airside operational information with aircraft position data gathered by various airport surface surveillance systems. Says Sensis business director for airport automation Dan London, “There are multiple ways to get surveillance data at an airport; Sensis’ core surveillance technology is based around multilateration — a system able to multilaterate on a particular aircraft based on its transponder signal.

“We get very accurate positions from the surveillance system and we overlay that onto a geospacially correct map,” explains London. “Aerobahn doesn’t just collect data from the Sensis multilateration system; it is capable of interfacing with any surveillance system — anything providing an X/Y coordinate.”

A comprehensive display
“We are what’s referred to as the universal data interface,” says London. “That makes our platform unique in that airlines and airports provide information that interfaces with our product.

“Aerobahn interfaces with any number of customer-supplied data feeds and once they are part of the Aerobahn database, any part of the database can be attributed to a targeted aircraft with that information on the display screen in a very useful way to help the user make informed decisions based on the movement occurring on the airport surface.”
The Aerobahn system is scalable, says London. Meaning, the core server runs the product itself, and Sensis packages and distributes the product custom-tailored for the user’s specific needs.

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