Moving towards initial four-dimensional (i4D) operations

For MUAC, i4D is a natural evolution of the Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) message set. It provides airborne trajectories downlinked via Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C) for further use by ground systems.

MUAC has been active in the SESAR i4D project, bringing its experience with Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), dating back to its initial trials (1997) and operational introduction (2003).

Both the current CPDLC and the new extended CPDLC and ADS-C make use of the same data link infrastructure.

In addition to more than 35 days of real-time simulations between 2011 and 2014, on 10 February 2012, MUAC, together with its partners Airbus, Honeywell, Thales Avionics, Indra, Thales ATM and NORACON, participated in the first flight trial, which tested the initial fourth dimension – time.

This is expected to:

  • improve air traffic predictability and flight efficiency,
  • contribute to reducing emissions, and
  • facilitate continuous descent operations into airports.

This flight trial was the very first live demonstration of an initial four-dimensional flight. It is also a key element of the SESAR programme moving towards 4D trajectory management. A second trial to test the air-ground data exchange and concept took place in March 2014.

MUAC has continued the i4D work under SESAR via the PEGASE Airbus ferry flights. These flights between Hamburg and Toulouse are equipped to downlink the airborne trajectory. MUAC will continue to gather more live data and experience until mid-2017 under SESAR2020.

SESAR2020 is also enabling MUAC to continue its work on the new Aeronautical Telecommunication Network (ATN) ADS-C data link (a sub-set of i4D). The centre will test, analyse and elaborate new data and thus improve air traffic control operations. Several research topics are planned, including:

  • the display of the downlinked airborne trajectory to the controller,
  • an automated consistency check, and
  • the enhancement of the trajectory predictor.

This work will be based on data from revenue flights, supported by Airbus and expected to fly as from mid-2018.


Flying a new dimension

10 Feb 2012 - initial 4D in Maastricht UAC - premiere.mp4

i4D and SESAR