Last week I attended the Avionics Europe 2013 conference, which was held in Munich for the last time perhaps (as it is moving to Abu Dhabi in 2014).
The theme of this year's conference was 'Tackling the Challenges in Avionics: Single Sky Many Platforms', which continued to focus on the growth in air traffic across Europe and challenges arising for air traffic management and navigation. However, rather than continuing to focus on the regulatory challenges as in 2012 (which I have discussed previously), there was a shift in emphasis towards the implementation of technologies such as SESAR.
One of the keynote speakers, Captain Sascha Unterbarnscheidt, A320 Captain and Director Operations Support, Lufthansa Germany made some very interesting observations in his address "Single European Sky - Delivery to Daily Operations". In particular, how the fragmented European air space (compared to the United States), led to ATM inefficiencies in 2011 resulting in 17.9m minutes of ATM delays, 8.1m tonnes of wasted CO2, and increased costs of around 5billion Euros (with the effect on passengers of delayed flights, longer flight times, wasted fuel and increased noise). He then went on to explain how the increased levels of automation and productivity through SESAR would result in increased capacity, reduced costs and lower accident rates.
The impact and benefits of SESAR were also discussed in a number of other presentations at the conference, but the one which really caught my attention was the one which proposed changing the ATM model from peer-to-peer communication over proprietary network infrastructure, to making all airborne and ground-based information available to all users on (publicly-accessible) IP-based networks. I was alarmed at the obvious security implications of this approach, but the potential cyber security threats and their mitigation weren't even mentioned during the presentation. When networking critical infrastructure systems together, security must be considered from the outset rather than as an afterthought!
I also presented a conference paper "Use of ARINC 653 and ARINC 661 in Developing a Touch Screen Avionics Display", which I had co-authored with David Randall of Presagis. This included a discussion on the requirements of the upgrade of a cockpit avionics display for a military rotary-wing platform, and the use of standards-based architectures including ARINC 653 and ARINC 661 with COTS hardware platforms. The paper also presented the experience gained by the use of these technologies on a European military helicopter programme, including the benefits in overcoming hardware obsolescence and the contributions towards reductions in operational and through-life costs.
If you weren't able to attend the conference, we will make the paper available on the Wind River website soon.