ACSS targets bizjet market with software

 - September 27, 2006, 4:22 AM

Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS), the Phoenix avionics maker owned jointly by L-3 Communications and Thales, has been holding discussions with a number of business aircraft OEMs about a portfolio of avionics-hosted software it plans to offer based on TCAS and ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) technology.

The overall concept, which UPS has selected for its fleet, is called SafeRoute. Essentially, the package ACSS is developing consists of a new-generation TCAS and various operating software intended to provide traffic-surveillance functions residing inside a common computing platform.

That platform is the TCAS 3000, the third generation of ACSS’s traffic and collision avoidance systems, which is replacing the current TCAS 2000 system used in many business jets. TCAS 3000 system certification is expected this year aboard the Dassault Falcon 7X, now undergoing flight testing in France.

ACSS unveiled SafeRoute at the Paris Air Show last summer and has been marketing the concept since then as comprising two distinct functions. The first is called SAMM, for surface area movement management, which UPS is installing across its entire fleet as part of upgraded TCAS 3000 hardware to help pilots avoid runway incursions. The second primary software tool, called merging and spacing (M&S), is a flight-management tool that UPS predicts will save 880,000 gallons of fuel a year by allowing its aircraft to arrive at its main hub in Louisville, Ky., on extremely precise schedules.

Better Sequencing Anticipated

M&S will use essentially the same ADS-B communications protocol as SAMM, ACSS said. It is a technology designed to sequence and separate aircraft on final approach at high-volume airports such as Louisville, where many UPS aircraft arrive nearly simultaneously each night.

UPS believes the M&S functionality of SafeRoute will make Tracon controllers’ jobs easier by putting more of the responsibility for sequencing in the hands of pilots, displaying in the cockpit the position of other aircraft along with speed cues advising the crew to accelerate or decelerate for proper spacing.

Once an aircraft lands, SAMM displays ground traffic information including own aircraft and other aircraft positions on the airport surface, and generates visual and aural advisories similar to TCAS targets. ACSS recently demonstrated an impressive reenactment of a surface near-miss between two Boeing 747s at Chicago O’Hare. SAMM uses a GPS interface for position data and communicates through ADS-B, a common datalink that many experts believe will evolve into the future standard for aircraft surveillance.

Another piece of the SafeRoute puzzle, announced at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, is the addition of a so-called continuous descent arrivals (CDA) module to the M&S software. UPS touted this software add-on by saying that successful flight trials of CDAs showed the potential to reduce noise by 30 percent and emissions by 3 percent, in addition to “significant” fuel savings resulting from keeping airplanes at higher altitudes longer and being able to get them on the ground more quickly.

It is precisely these capabilities that ACSS officials believe will be of great value to business aircraft flight crews. The good news, they say, is that once a TCAS 3000 system has been installed, the hardware is provisioned to allow the various SafeRoute software components to be installed on the existing TCAS 3000 processor.

The benefit for buyers lies in the fact that as capabilities are added, no more hardware will be required. Among the associated hardware functions that can be added to the new platform are modules for terrain awareness (TAWS) and mode-S transponder.