Saab Acquisition of Sensis Will Broaden Swedish Company’s ATM Portfolio

 - July 11, 2011, 8:30 AM
An air-traffic controller monitors an ASDE-X display of aircraft movements on the airport surface at Louisville International Airport. (Photo: Sensis Corp.)

Saab will strengthen its air-traffic-management (ATM) business, adding to its portfolio a ground surveillance system deployed at major U.S. airports, with the planned acquisition of Sensis Corp., of Syracuse, N.Y. The Swedish defense and security group is to acquire Sensis for $155 million, with another $40 million based on winning future contracts and meeting profitability goals. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter pending U.S. government approvals.

Sensis brings a legacy in civil ATM that includes a decade rolling out the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) system to 35 major U.S. airports, a deployment completed this year with all systems commissioned by the FAA. ASDE-X integrates data from surface-movement radar, multilateration of transponder replies and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transmissions to provide air-traffic controllers with real-time surveillance of aircraft and vehicles on the airport surface. The system also supports the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Runway Status Lights system, an automatic, runway-advisory system Sensis is deploying to 23 airports.

In December, the FAA issued a request for offers to equip nine additional airports with an Airport Surface Surveillance Capability (ASSC) leveraging ADS-B, a program seen as a follow-on to ASDE-X. The FAA also is conducting a Low-Cost Ground Surveillance program to evaluate systems for small- to medium-sized airports. Demonstration contracts were awarded to Sensis, Thales, Northrop Grumman and SRA International. Saab’s ATM business is developing a “Remote Tower” concept–a center capable of remotely controlling several airports–that is seen as complementary to the Sensis product line.

Asked about responsibility for the ASDE-X system following the planned acquisition, John Belanger, Saab North America spokesman, said the new subsidiary, to be called Saab Sensis Corp., “will remain responsible for it as [it is] today.” Under U.S. defense security rules, the new foreign-owned entity is expected to have to establish an independent board of directors chaired by a U.S. citizen.