Technology & innovation

Voice Communications System 

Air/Ground and Ground/Ground data communications control.


Description of the voice communications system

The voice communications systems (VCS) for controlling air traffic are located in the air control centres, both on route and on approach, and in the airport control towers, and they provide support for:

  • Ground/Air (G/A) data communications, between air traffic controllers and aircraft pilots;
  • Ground/Ground (G/G) data communications between air traffic controllers for coordination and between air traffic controllers and support, management and administrative personnel;
  • support for system operation and administration.

These systems are employed by the following users:

  1. In the control tower:
    • Tower supervisor
    • Tower (or local) controllers
    • Taxiing controllers
    • Apron controllers
    • Clearance controllers
    • Flight plan operators
    • Coordinators
    • Support and Maintenance Personnel
  2. In the Control Centre:
    • Operations Room supervisor
    • Area supervisors
    • Executive controllers (radar)
    • Planning controllers
    • Flow Managers (FMP - Flow Management Position)
    • Flight plan managers (FDP - Flight data position)
    • Equipment room supervisor.
  3. In simulation:
    • Simulation supervisor
    • Instructors
    • Simulation session controllers
    • Pseudo pilots
    • Equipment room supervisor.

Basically, a voice communications system consists of a set equipment enabling air controllers and support personnel to initiate, receive, attend to and maintain communication by radio or telephone, both in real situations and for training purposes; in addition, it includes equipment by which operating system support tasks can be performed (administration, configuration, sectorisation, supervision and the creation of usage and maintenance records and statistics).

EvolutioN (COMETA Proyect)

The voice communications system is currently undergoing a process of technological change and international standardisation. The architecture of the next generation of voice communications systems is based on the current architecture standards for VoIP systems, in which the nodes are interconnected through a local area network and interconnection with other voice communication systems is made through a WAM IP or through circuits via the corresponding gateways.

The VoIP voice communications system will consist of the following physical elements:

  • Communication positions.
  • Redundant communication servers (proxy, registrar, DNS, etc.).
  • Configurable communication gateways either "in cluster" or independent.
  • Management positions.
  • Redundant management servers.
  • Statistics server.
  • Printers.
  • Network features such as concentrators, switches.

The network nodes will be interconnected in two independent double sub-networks (A/B):

  1. double voice network, and
  2. double management network.

The voice networks will interconnect the communication positions, the communication servers and the gateways.

The management networks will interconnect the management servers, the statistics server, the printers and the management clients. The connection to the Automatic Air Traffic Control System (AATCS) will be made through these.

The management and statistics servers will be connected both to the management networks and the voice networks.

They will have operational support positions that will enable use to be made of the different management tools. The operational support positions can be local, in which case they will interconnect to the management servers through the local networks of the system used, or remote, in which case they will interconnect through a WAN IP.

Through configuration it will be possible to dynamically assign the communication positions to any branch office of the control centre and to any of the operational centres of a branch office, without restrictions.

Communication with voice communications systems from other branch offices will be made via the air navigation data network (ANDW) using the ATS-SIP protocol (Eurocae ED-137), or via the interfaces of the switched circuits (ATS-R2/N5, ATS-QSIG, etc.) managed through the gateways.

The physical architecture of the system will be such that all the vital features are duplicated.

Through the system configuration function, it will be possible to create different system partitions, so that the nodes (positions, servers, gateways, etc. ) can be dynamically reassigned to each of these "partitions". Thus, on the group of physical nodes it will be possible to create various voice communications systems, each consisting of a certain number of positions, servers and gateways and with different configuration data. In this sense, in accordance with the configuration data, the positions and gateways will be divided between the different defined voice communications systems, and the servers (communication and management) will operate on some occasions in dual configuration (main/reserve) and on other occasions will serve the different voice communications systems.

Once the voice communications systems using IP technology have been introduced into various branch offices it will be possible to establish direct communication between them using IP technology, eliminating the communication chain gateways, thus reducing the chance of errors occurring.

The voice communications systems using this technology have the following advantages:

  1. Reduction in the amount of equipment. Improved maintenance, fewer replacement parts and all the hardware that makes up a voice communications system becomes COTS.
  2. A WAN is efficient and simple to administer. Network duplication is improved, network costs are reduced and management is centralised and improved. It allows for greater integration with other applications.
  3. It will be possible to undertake new functionalities, which are impossible to tackle with the current networks, for example interdependency sectorisation
  4. Given that the WAN will reach radio positions, these can be used from any branch office.
  5. Improved interoperability. International interoperability standards have been created for all ATS voice services, both telephony and radio.

In general, the flexibility and the possible evolution and incorporation of new functions within this type of system are practically limitless.

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