UAVs at Manchester Airport
Operation Zenith, an ambitious drone demonstration at Manchester Airport, has shown that drones can be flown safely
UAVs at Manchester Airport
Operation Zenith, an ambitious drone demonstration at Manchester Airport, has shown that drones can be flown safely alongside manned aircraft in controlled airspace.
The drones, overseen by NATS air traffic controllers communicating with drone operators via Altitude Angel's Guardian UTM Airspace Management Operating System, successfully performed a series of on-airfield tasks without endangering or disrupting airport operations.
The carefully-planned unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) scenarios, which included an equipment delivery, runway inspections and obeying an automated instruction to clear the skies for an emergency police helicopter landing, were designed to showcase how it is possible to unlock the enormous social and economic benefit of drones while protecting today's manned aviation.
Live-streamed to an invited audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Operation Zenith is the UK's first contribution to the recently-launched European Commission's U-Space Demonstrator Network.
Employing air traffic management systems and technology interfaces that are compliant with U-Space programme requirements, the success of Operation Zenith provides a realistic view of a future in which UAVs can be flown safely within visual line of sight, and beyond (VLOS/BVLOS), in integrated airspace.
In the words of Alastair Muir, NATS Safety Director, "From distributing medicines to delivering parcels, investigating crash sites to inspecting industrial installations, drones have a great deal to offer and we believe that carving up the skies to offer commercial drones a slice of segregated airspace is not the answer. From our perspective, allowing visible UAVs safe access into controlled, integrated, airspace is the best way forward, both for the drone industry itself and for aviation as a whole.
"With the number of drone-related airspace incidents on the rise, it is essential that we take steps now in order to create a safe environment for UAVs to be integrated with manned aircraft and factor their presence into redesigned airspace that is able to cope with the increasing demands of modern aviation in our busy skies."
Chris Wild, Head of Airfield Operations at Manchester Airport, added, "We are delighted how the demonstration came together to showcase how manned and unmanned aviation can be undertaken collaboratively, within controlled airspace.
"Manchester Airport handles over 200,000 air transport movements. Drone use, regulation and technological mitigation have been real foci for us over the last few years. As an airport, we are fully supportive of co-operative drone operations, and we are committed to influencing regulation and embracing new technology that allows piloted and unmanned aviation to take place in harmony."
SAFETYCOM Conversion to 8.33kHz Voice Channel Spacing
At aerodromes having no notified VHF channel, a common channel is available to assist pilots to avoid potential collisions between arriving and departing aircraft. Pilots may use the channel to broadcast their intentions for safety purposes, and there should be no response, except when the pilot of another aircraft transmits his intentions.
The channel assigned is 135.480MHz, known as SAFETYCOM. All pilots should be aware that SAFETYCOM is not a UK equivalent to the UNICOM system used in the United States and does not work in the same way.
As a shared channel, used in many different locations, SAFETYCOM is expected to be a busy channel, with a significant probability of breakthrough to users at other locations.
It is important to remember that RTF must be concise, unambiguous and that it should include the name of the aerodrome.
SAFETYCOM is not to be used as a 'chat channel' or for the conduct of formation flights. To reduce the probability of breakthrough, it is also important that transmissions are only made within the height and range limits for the channel. Transmissions should only be made up to a maximum range of 10nm from the aerodrome or location of intended landing, and below 2,000ft above the elevation of that aerodrome or landing site.
SAFETYCOM will be monitored by the CAA. Any evidence of abuse may result in its withdrawal; the continued use of 25kHz radio equipment is not permitted. Pilots should not assume that all other pilots in the vicinity are monitoring the same channel. Use of SAFETYCOM is optional, and there may be non-radio aircraft in the area. In the vicinity of a microlight or gliding site, pilots may be monitoring one of the sporting use channels. It is therefore important that, as at all other times, pilots maintain a good lookout.
Improved Procedures Add Runway Capacity to Heathrow
It is claimed that Enhanced Time Based Separation (ETBS) has increased operational capacity by approximately 1.4 additional landings per hour in all wind conditions. This added operational resilience helps the airport deliver to plan, enables airlines to keep to their schedules, and reduces the noise impact on local communities.
The use of Time Based Separation (TBS) for London Heathrow arrivals is continuing to deliver major operational improvements, with the latest analysis revealing the added benefits of new tools introduced earlier this year.
In March, an enhanced version of the system (eTBS) was brought into service by NATS, bringing with it a more refined set of wake categories developed by Eurocontrol, as well as new separation tools. These enhancements have helped make the operation more resistant to delays and disruption.
The first four months of eTBS operations saw a tactical capacity gain of approximately 1.4 additional aircraft landings per hour in all wind conditions, with an additional 1.6 arrivals in strong headwinds, over and above the 0.8 additional landings (2.6 additional in strong winds) already achieved by the original TBS.
That is the equivalent of extending Heathrow's operating day by 30 minutes, which helps ensure the airport can deliver to plan, airlines can keep to their schedules and local communities are not affected by late running arrivals.
Heathrow is capped at 480,000 movements per annum. Therefore, this additional tactical capacity is said to be translating into an improvement of on-time performance and a better passenger experience.
Heathrow is, so far, the only airport in the world where arriving aircraft are separated using dynamically calculated time intervals, as opposed to set distances. This allows them to be adjusted in real-time, in order to suit the prevailing wind conditions and help maintain the landing rate.
The eTBS technology still shows wake pair markers or separation indications to the approach controllers. However, it now also models the compression between each arriving pair as they slow down on final approach. A runway occupancy indicator for pairs of arriving aircraft is also displayed, when the time spent getting off the runway is more limiting than wake separation.
NATS intends to continue adding tools and refinements to the TBS system, creating a suite of functionality it calls ‘Intelligent Approach’. The next step will see the introduction of Pairwise Separation. Here, each pair of aircraft type will have its own separation standard, as opposed to the six categories used today. This is hoped to optimise the gaps between arrivals and departures at single runway airports.
Potential Confusion for London City Airport's Radar
A proposed viewing platform on a City of London building project known as the Tulip Tower is facing serious objections. Gondolas designed to move up and down the top of the tower are at risk of confusing ATC systems, according to telecommunication specialists at London City Airport.
The moving gondolas may have a slightly different effect from the static element of the building. Officials told the authority considering whether to give planning permission that construction on the 305m (1,000ft} tower must not be started until its potential impact on radar systems at the airport, six miles to the east, has been assessed.
This month’s picture is of an Avenger at Duxford – the very aircraft once flown by the recently-deceased ex-US President George Bush Senior. The clue is in the name….