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Singapore Airshow 2018: CAAS inks 3 pacts to advance air traffic management

(From left to right) Tang Kum Chuen, president of satellite systems, ST Electronics; Soh Poh Theen, deputy director-general (Air Navigation Services), CAAS ; and Børge Witthøft, chief commercial officer, GomSpace; sign a research collaboration agreement to conduct a design study on the implementation of space-based VHF communications for air traffic management in the Singapore FIR.

THREE agreements on advancing Air Traffic Management (ATM) were signed on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow 2018 by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Tuesday.

The first will see a partnership between CAAS, ST Electronics and GomSpace - a Danish company that specialises in high-end nanosatellites.

In what could be the first space-based VHF communications system for aircraft, they will work together on a design study on the implementation of space-based Very High Frequency (VHF) communications for ATM in the Singapore flight information region (FIR).

Said the CAAS: "This technology will improve safety and facilitate the safe reduction in separation between aircraft, from the current 80 nautical miles (NM) to potentially five NM, in airspace where ground-based VHF communications is currently not available, increasing ATM capacity and enabling more efficient use of airspace."

This agreement follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by the three parties in July 2017 to explore the application and deployment of the space-based system.

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Soh Poh Theen, CAAS's deputy director-general (air navigation services) said: "We are encouraged by this next milestone towards implementing space-based VHF communications for ATM, which will be a world-first, and pave the way for more ground-breaking solutions to safely support the growing air traffic in the region."

Tang Kum Chuen, president of satellite systems at ST Electronics, added: "We are very excited about the prospect of demonstrating a space-based VHF communications and location service for smart air traffic control operations."

The second partnership - between the CAAS and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) - will give the advancement of ATM in Singapore and Europe a boost.

CAAS said: "The partnership will facilitate cooperation and exchange of knowledge in a range of ATM-related areas, including air traffic flow management, ATM research and development, and ATM training."

Kevin Shum, director-general of CAAS noted: "As we celebrate brisk air traffic growth around the world, we also need to recognise the challenges such growth presents to air traffic managers. It is now more crucial than ever that we collaborate and innovate to find safer and more efficient ways to manage growing air traffic."

Building on its multi-year research work programme, American non-profit organisation The Mitre Corporation too, has joined hands with the CAAS in exploring the use of artificial intelligence to improve ATM operations. This could pave the way for the partners' next collaboration on building a future ATM system.

The third pact - CAAS's collaboration with Mitre Asia Pacific Singapore (MAPS) will see them develop machine learning techniques and speech recognition capabilities that can be applied to ATM to enhance the performance of air traffic control operators.

CAAS's Mr Shum said: "Rapid developments in artificial intelligence will push the envelope in taking Singapore's ATM capabilities to a whole new level, delivering even higher levels of safety and efficiency for ATM."

Said Gregg Leone, vice-president and director of Mitre's aviation programmes: "Artificial intelligence presents an exciting new area of research for solving problems in air traffic management. Through this collaboration, CAAS and Mitre will investigate how air traffic controllers can achieve greater productivity, efficiencies and safety when they are supported by machine intelligence."

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