International standards mooted for ‘aviation data cloud’ to track aircraft
Kuala Lumpur, 27 May 2014 – A two-day dialogue between experts on real-time monitoring of flight data took place in Kuala Lumpur, 26-27 May. The meeting was facilitated by ITU and hosted by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Malaysia.
Following a call from the Minister of Communications and Multimedia of Malaysia, Ahmad Shabery Cheek for an international effort to find solutions to track commercial aircraft in real time, industry leaders and experts from the aviation and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors, representatives of international organizations, governments and trade associations met to explore global initiatives and current and future technological developments that could provide such solutions.
The Expert Dialogue was motivated by the events surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on 8 March 2014 with 239 people on board.
Participants took note of the preliminary report on MH370 by the Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, Ministry of Transport, Malaysia dated 9 April 2014 and its recommendation addressed to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real-time tracking of commercial aircraft.
Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek noted that international consensus is building and that the Government of India has already issued a circular to instruct airlines to track all aircraft in real time. “We hope this means the learning has begun and we want to crystalize and leverage on what has happened,” said Mr Shabery. “We are aware of the growing interest within governments to look for alternative means to track aircraft and the need to set up processes for real-time tracking of flight data.”
“Thankfully, the number of aircraft which disappear are not many,” Mr Shabery said. “But having gone through the experience of MH370, even one aircraft disappearing is one too many.”
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré expressed his deep concern for the families affected by the disappearance of Flight MH370 and urged experts to look for technological solutions to track commercial aircraft more effectively and in real time. “The aviation and aerospace industries epitomize state-of-the-art in technology; and air travel is the safest mode of transport in the world,” said Dr Touré. “Yet, even as the multi-nation search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft continues, we must make every effort at the international level to develop real-time tracking solutions for the aviation industry.”
“ICTs are instrumental to the safe and efficient operation of tens of thousands of flights each day,” said Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. “The challenge is to bring the capabilities of the rapidly advancing telecommunication and ICT technology to the aviation sector in a coherent and coordinated manner. ITU has a long history of harmonising the use of the radio spectrum and developing international telecommunication/ICT standards and is offering to bring this competence to assist aviation, in partnership with ICAO, to consider alternative ways of using technology such as cloud computing and big data, to provide these solutions.”
Nancy Graham, Director, Air Navigation Bureau, ICAO, said that an Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF) will address the near-term needs for flight tracking and that ICAO in partnership with ATTF will develop guidance material, based on available flight tracking best practices. Pending the outcome of the ATTF, airlines will be encouraged to use existing equipment and procedures to support flight tracking. She called for the global tracking of airline flights as a priority to provide early notice of and response to abnormal flight behaviour, and thanked ITU for its offer to assist in developing long-term strategy for aviation data and information.
This first meeting of experts took into account the views of aerospace and avionics manufacturers, satellite system operators, providers of services and solutions in the area of ICTs and computer-based networks as well as from those directly involved in operating and flying aircraft: airlines and pilots. Requirements and concerns from the flight deck were also taken into account.
Industry experts provided information on current technological developments including solutions for position reporting, and opportunities for future technological enhancements using cloud computing and big data. They recognized the advantages of international standards, open architecture and harmonized spectrum to ensure global interoperability and compatibility as well as reduce costs through economies of scale.
“This experts’ dialogue provided an opportunity to build on the results of ICAO’s ‘Multi-disciplinary Meeting regarding Global Tracking’ held earlier this month in Montréal and to establish clear actions going forward, in particular related to ITU’s expertise in the fields of radio-frequency spectrum, satellites and ICT standardization,” said Malcolm Johnson.
communiqué outlining a roadmap for the way forward was issued at the end of the dialogue.