New collision warning system now in use at Zurich and Geneva

Geneva, 15 June 2010. Skyguide and Flughafen Zürich AG are adopting a new ground collision warning system for Zurich Airport. The new system, which came into operation on 31 May and whose stabilisation phase of nearly two weeks has just ended up successfully, is already in use at Geneva Airport, where it was introduced last December. Skyguide and the operators of Zurich and Geneva airports are among the first in Europe to adopt a system of this kind for their airport operations.

The new Runway Incursion Monitoring and Conflict Alert System (RIMCAS) supports air traffic controllers in their monitoring and management of the movements of aircraft and vehicles on the airport’s runway and taxiway network. RIMCAS is fed by the data it needs from various sources such as radar and sensors. The system then uses these data to constantly calculate the positions of all the aircraft and vehicles on or near the airport’s runways and taxiways. In doing so, it also identifies any possible movement conflicts as they emerge, and alerts the tower controllers to these by issuing audio and visual signals. “Our new warning system gives us an additional safety net to support our tower controllers in their work,” explains Urs Ryf, Head of Operations at skyguide.

A long development phase
Developing a ground collision warning system is a complex and extensive affair. Unlike in the air, such systems must contend with various possible sources of interference on the ground, such as surrounding buildings or the natural topography, any of which can distort the aircraft and vehicle positioning data obtained. These sources of interference can also trigger false alarms. So to ensure its reliability, the new RIMCAS facility was subjected to extensive development and exhaustive testing before it was put into operation.

Similar system already in use to protect traffic in the air
A similar collision warning system (known as Short-Term Conflict Alert or STCA) has been in operation at skyguide’s Zurich and Geneva control centres for several years now to alert controllers as early as possible to any emerging critical situations in the air. The use of such systems on the ground, however, is a new development. “In introducing the latest-generation RIMCAS, which gives us an overall view of all arrivals and departures and all movements on and immediately around our runways, skyguide and Zurich and Geneva airports are leading the way in Europe,” Urs Ryf adds.

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Ground Traffic Control of the Future

Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Flughafen Hamburg GmbH (Hamburg Airport), Dieter Kaden, CEO of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (German Air Traffic Services) and Kurt Klein, Interim Director of the Institute for Flight Guidance at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt e.V. (German Aerospace Center or DLR), today turned the first soil to officially begin the laying of the cable route necessary for the expansion of the A-SMGCS.

The A-SMGCS is expected to enter operation at Hamburg Airport in summer 2009. Before the system can go live, 16 kilometres of cabling, 23 antennas and a second ground radar have to be installed.

With the additional field test platform, FHG, DLR and DFS are leaving the way open to expand the A-SMGCS (Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System) with additional functionality in the future. A cooperation agreement between Hamburg Airport, DLR and DFS has already been put in place. The aim of the field test platform is to develop the operational A-SMCGS beyond simply supporting traffic controllers to also support pilots and vehicle operators. This aims to optimise ground traffic management in poor visibility and maintain the high security standard as traffic levels increase. By optimising ground traffic and minimising aircraft idling times, fuel consumption, air pollution and noise emissions are all reduced. This is good for the environment and saves money.

Universities and the aviation industry are also involved in the project alongside the three partners Hamburg Airport, DLR and DFS. This ensures that the ground traffic control system of the future is built on competence and efficiency in both research and practical implementation. Already, research projects (e.g. CARMA Car Management on Aprons and WFF Wettbewerbsfähige Flughäfen – “Competitive Airport”) have been launched. These projects will make intensive use of the research platform. The latest research results can thus be immediately tested in a real operating environment.

The close cooperation between research, teaching, operations and industry at Hamburg Airport creates an environment that promotes accelerated innovation processes and contributes to Hamburg’s leading position as a centre of aviation. The cooperation between Hamburg Airport, Air Safety and DLR is an impressive demonstration of the functionality and performance of the combined aviation competencies in Hamburg. Following on from the establishment of the Institute of Air Transport Concepts and Technology Valuation at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg in 2007, this new project sees DLR further expanding its activities in Hamburg.