Farnborough Air Show

ADS-B Surveillance Resource Drives ITT Exelis Ops Management Application

 - July 8, 2012, 12:50 AM

ITT Exelis has created a web-based operations management application suite for airlines and airports based on the surveillance data it collects as provider of the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) radio network in the U.S.

In June, the U.S. company announced a contract award from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to apply its Symphony OpsVue airport management system at Washington Dulles International, outside Washington, D.C. This followed an agreement reached in April to provide Symphony OpsVue at Philadelphia International Airport. The latter airport also licenses the Symphony EnvironmentalVue system, a module within the Symphony suite.

Symphony OpsVue draws from multiple surveillance sources–radars, multilateration, ADS-B–to visualize the airport surface in two or three dimensions. It is a first step toward “collaborative decisionmaking” among airport stakeholders, providing a common picture of airport activities based on surveillance data supplied to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through the ADS-B network, said Ted Carniol, ITT Exelis general manager of commercial aviation solutions.

The OpsVue system and sister EnvironmentalVue, RevenueVue and MobileVue modules are hosted applications based on cloud-computing architecture, requiring users to log into a web page with their user name and password. “These are web-hosted applications all running off the same NextGen [Next Generation Air Transportation System] database,” said Carniol. “This is critical in that different parts of an airport, whether or not they use our application, all need to be using the same underlying data source so you’re comparing apples and apples across the different business areas within an airport.”

The MWAA is using Symphony OpsVue to monitor taxi times for all flights on the Washington Dulles airport surface. The system sends automated alerts as email or text messages when taxi-time thresholds are exceeded. It comes with the 1.7 software release, “which doubles the amount of data available” and adds customized two- and three-dimensional models of airspace, runways and gates, according to ITT Exelis. The system also incorporates a “geofencing” capability that enables users to create a virtual perimeter around a specific geographical area at the airport to track the volume, speed and movement of aircraft within that area.

At Philadelphia International

Philadelphia International Airport is using Symphony OpsVue to better monitor operations against the FAA’s three-hour tarmac rule, which requires, in the case of long takeoff delays, that passengers be afforded the opportunity to deplane on the ramp, at a gate or at an alternate deplaning area no later than three hours after the cabin door is closed. The system keeps track of the current taxi time for each flight and sends text messages when certain time thresholds are crossed–for example, at 60, 90, 120 and 150 minutes. The airport can then proactively manage delays, Carniol said.

“In Philadelphia, the airport operations superintendent will receive an email if a flight has been on the surface for more than two hours. He can simply log on at home and see exactly what’s going on on the surface,” Carniol explained. “On a good night, if you are at Philadelphia between 5:30 and 7:30, there’s a big departure push and you may have 20- to 30-minute taxi times when there’s no weather, no traffic flow restrictions. When you throw weather into the mix and you start closing departure fixes, maybe have to close a runway, things could turn south pretty quickly. Having this system gives [operations managers] an easy way to view and understand which flights have been taxiing the longest and allows them to better manage the situation.”

The former ITT (the company’s defense and air traffic management businesses were renamed ITT Exelis in 2011) was awarded a contract from the FAA in August 2007 to build the nationwide ADS-B network of 794 ground radio stations, which is expected to be completed in 2013. Under terms of the contract, the FAA owns the surveillance data that is generated by the system and then piped to ATC facilities; ITT Exelis owns the infrastructure. ITT Exelis also has the right to sell some surveillance data commercially.

At the last Farnborough International Airshow in July 2010, the company said it would make available surveillance data collected from the ADS-B network to customers such as airlines, airports and aviation service providers for fleet management and tracking applications. In November that year, ITT acquired the airport operations solutions group of SRA International, including what Carniol described as a rudimentary version of Symphony OpsVue.

Carniol said trials had started at Houston’s Hobby and George Bush Intercontinental airports; Dallas-Fort Worth; Las Vegas McCarran; San Diego’s Lindbergh Field; and John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Trials were also planned with U.S. carriers Spirit Airlines and JetBlue.

ITT Exelis is focused on rolling out the Symphony suite to the U.S. domestic market initially, after which it will pursue international customers. “The point is, we’ve really worked on maturing this product and now that it’s ready for market, we’re getting people to try it,” Carniol said. “We’re expecting most of these [trials] will lead into sales.”