Communications, navigation and surveillance

At the heart of the air traffic management network.


Communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) technologies are at the heart of aviation. All of them rely on sufficient frequencies (spectrum) being available. Without CNS and spectrum, air transport could not function.

At EUROCONTROL, we work towards a more unified and inter-related view of CNS, as well as performance-based CNS, combining satellite-based, ground and airborne based technologies and their applications in order to deliver a more resilient, safe and secure package of CNS aviation services, at reduced cost.

We consult with a wide range of partners and offer impartial expertise, bridging the operational and technical worlds. Our aim is to capture ATM requirements, both civil and military, for the benefit of the entire European network.

We translate operational requirements into CNS technologies always remembering associated spectrum needs. This will culminate in the development and validation of international standards, and work toward ensuring global interoperability of civil-military CNS systems forming the basis of CNS services.


The need for communication is a long standing need in aviation. Whilst air traffic controllers and pilots need to communicate to ensure the safety of flight, there are also other communication needs such as those between ATC centres (ground-ground) or between aircraft and their operators (air-ground). As traffic increases, voice-communication between pilots and controllers reaches its operational limits.

To solve this problem, the aviation community began to develop and use digital data communication to support and, perhaps at a later stage, replace voice as the principal means of communication between the ground and the air.

This major shift involves operational changes for the air traffic controller and pilot. There are also technical and institutional challenges in safely implementing a harmonised and coherent system, one which can operate in parallel with the existing infrastructure and ensure a smooth transition locally, regionally and globally.

EUROCONTROL’s communication and frequency coordination activities underpin this migration to digital communication while maintaining current operations. We conduct studies, develop tools and give support to implementation and services; we help devise and maintain international standards, and contribute to the SESAR research.

Navigation is key to ATM. For both pilot and air traffic controller, knowing an aircraft’s position and an aircraft being able to navigate between any two points remain today’s key navigation challenges – despite impressive sophistication in capability. Aircraft navigation has various dimensions: lateral (the aircraft must follow the route centre-line); vertical (the aircraft must remain at the right altitude, even on a slope), longitudinal (being over a particular point within permitted margins) and reaching a point within a particular time. Pilots and air traffic controllers are both involved in an aircraft’s navigation.

Our work covers four main areas:

  • Navigation applications which include Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) and precision landing. Here, the emphasis is two-fold: adapting navigation to different phases of flight and improving navigation performance the closer the aircraft is to the ground. Ensuring landing capability during low visibility conditions is also a key goal.
  • Navigation infrastructure, which mainly deals with positioning i.e. providing position information to the aircraft.
  • Tools which have been developed for stakeholders either regarding navigation applications or navigation infrastructure.
  • Training courses and workshops which have been developed by IANS and which our experts support.

At EUROCONTROL we have considerable operational expertise in PBN in particular, working closely with airspace colleagues. We also have considerable expertise in different fields of navigation infrastructure (covering conventional navaids and global navigation satellite systems). We work closely with stakeholders and have three large consultation groups, acting as the pivot point for information sharing, taking lessons learned and feeding them into research and shaping research ideas towards future stakeholder needs.

Surveillance is another cornerstone of aviation as it provides users with knowledge of “who” is “where” and “when”.

The focus is on:

  • Interoperability: ensuring that the interfaces between all the components in the chain from the avionics through to the displays - operate as required with each other; globally. Interfacing with non-ATM components is also essential to avoid interference from and to other systems, such as mobile telephones.
  • Performance: all the various components have to perform properly, even in demanding operational environments, so that users like air traffic controllers are able to use the surveillance service effectively.
  • Efficiency: the essential tasks have to be carried out in a cost-effective way. Proper use of the valuable radio frequency spectrum must be made. It may also be important to extend surveillance to airspace in which surveillance could not be done before.

EUROCONTROL helps stakeholders to ensure that their surveillance requirements are addressed and that aeronautical surveillance remains fit for purpose, now and in the future. We work closely with an extensive range of stakeholders including air navigation service providers, aircraft operators, industrial partners for airframes, avionic components and ground-based infrastructure, as well as international organisations and standardisation bodies.

Services and projects


4D trajectory management

8.33 kHz implementation support


Aeronautical mobile airport communications system datalink


Air traffic management ground voice network coordination


Air traffic management surveillance tracker and server

Air traffic management voice

Our tools


8.33kHz implementation support group workspace


Advanced frequency manager

AGVN database

Air traffic services ground voice network database


Air traffic services messaging management centre

Anomaly reporting tool for surveillance avionics


ARTAS Dashboard


Join our training courses

We share our knowledge and experience through trainings and courses at our institute (IANS).