The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded a data communications integrated services (DCIS) contract to a Harris-led team, as part of its Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) programmes.
The seven-year contract, worth over $330m, includes ten one-year options and will replace existing analogue voice technology with digital transmission to enhance real-time communication between air traffic controllers (ATC), the flight deck and pilots.
According to FAA, the digital communication system, DataComm, will offer a two-way communication between ATCs and flight crews for clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports, further improving air traffic safety by allowing controllers to give more timely and effective clearances.
The solution will also deliver more reliable messages to lessen the risk of incidents related to voice communications and assist ATCs in safely serving more traffic through reduced congestion in radio frequencies and errors related to them.
The new technology will enable safe flights, more resourceful routes and facilitate congestion in key metropolitan areas all through the US, FAA said.
With Harris leading the DCIS project, the subcontractors include ARINC, GE Aviation and Thales.
FAA administrator Michael Huerta said that the FAA's commitment to data communications is a critical next step for improving air safety, reducing delays, increasing fuel savings and improving the environment.
"When fully implemented, DataComm will make work safer and more efficient for both the air traffic controller and the pilot," Huerta said.
In addition, DCIS is expected to enhance controller productivity through automated delivery of routine clearances and support FAA's move towards its aimed trajectory-based operations.
As a sub-contractor, ARINC will deliver integration and engineering services for the air-ground, ground-ground and avionics field, as well as exploit its collaboration with most of the domestic airline market for early adoption of avionics equipage that complies with data communications.
The new digital data communication systems will be installed in ATC towers by 2016 and, from 2019, they will be set up in air traffic facilities controlling high-altitude traffic.
Image: Implementation of digital communications will enhance communication abilities between ATC and pilots in the aircraft. Photo: courtesy of the US Department of Transportation.