In December 2020 SESAR 2020 Project 31 DIGITS came to a close after successfully proving, via live pre-operations at MUAC, shadow mode in Germany (DFS), Italy (ENAV) and UK (NATS), and connections to EUROCONTROL’s Experimental Centre in Brétigny, that the European Commission’s Common Project #1 AF6 Initial Trajectory Information Sharing is on track for implementation.
The demonstrations were led by AIRBUS and involved six airlines (AIR FRANCE, BRITISH AIRWAYS, EASYJET, IBERIA, NOVAIR and WIZZ AIR), four air navigation service providers (DFS, ENAV, EUROCONTROL MUAC and NATS), several industrial suppliers (AIRTEL, HONEYWELL, INDRA, LEONARDO and THALES Avionics), EUROCONTROL’s Experimental Centre, DECMA and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager, as well as associated partners*.
Starting in 2019, AIRBUS equipped a total of 90 A319/A320/A321 aircraft with the CPDLC/ADS-C standard called ATS Baseline 2 (ATS B2). As well as the updates to the existing CPDLC messages, the innovative technology relates to ADS-C, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Contract, which enables the downlink of the Extended Projected Profile (EPP) from the flight. The EPP provides the aircraft’s trajectory in four dimensions which can then be displayed to the controllers. It provides early warning of unexpected manoeuvres by improving predictability for the controller when displaying the aircraft’s intentions, enhances the ground trajectory prediction, and can be shared between ground units.
By the end of the project, approximately 20,000 successful flights had connected in shadow mode, with 12,000 of these linking to controllers working on the pre-operational MUAC system. In total, more than 1,400,000 ADS-C transactions were logged.
The DIGITS project has taken a major step towards trajectory-based operations, and has proven that the ATS B2 technology is ready to be rolled out more widely. The project required pilots from the participating airlines and a selected group of Maastricht controllers to be trained to use the new functionality and avoid increasing complexity in an already demanding environment. DIGITS has shown that this introduction is not only possible, but also desirable, with much positive feedback and suggestions for further improvement.