FANS Aviation Navigation: What to Know About Data Comm Systems with FANS 1/A+

Data Comm is a highly complex system development that international and domestic Air Traffic Control organizations and the associated regulatory agencies have undertaken till date. Originally established as a feature for cost-savings, the Data Comm technology has been used in North Atlantic for more than three decades. Canadian and US authorities have established FANS 1/A+ requirement in some North Atlantic airspaces and ATN B1 (Aeronautical Telecommunications Network Baseline) ability in European airspace. In the US, the FAA is employing FANS aviation system Domestic functions by the implementation of CPDLC DCL (Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications Departure Clearance) capability to manage airspace, improve safety, and address congestion of communication frequency more effectively.  

Components of Data Comm 

The term Data Comm applies to an expanding set of data communication systems and elements that may be integrated neatly into a single system for transparency of flight crew. In such a case, there may be several CPDLC type systems having remarkably differing ground infrastructure which will largely operate and look the same on flight deck. Some Data Comm elements are almost entirely transparent to flight crew.  

The chief components of Data Comm include: 

  • Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications or CPDLC 
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract or ADS-C (needed for FANS aviation system Oceanic)
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out or ADS-B Out (for ATN B1/FANS operations) 
  • VDL Mode 2 data link radio and/or an appropriate SATCOM 

Development of FANS 1/A+ and Data Comm 

For aircraft to operate in remote/oceanic regions of airspace, it was essential to establish a method of surveillance and communication for managing aircraft that are out of range of conventional ground-based radar and VHF radio systems for prolonged periods. 

For long years, HF (HIGH Frequency) radio system had been the sole means of communication in oceanic/remote airspace. An HF radio system uses the atmosphere or line of sight for bouncing the transmissions to recipients. There are some problems associated with HF Radio because of noisy transmissions arising from language barriers and atmospheric conditions.  

FANS aviation system led to an improvement in HF radio communication by employing data link communication via satellite communications. The satellite-based existing ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) was utilized when Data Comm Fans systems were implemented for the first time.  

In 1983, the industry officials were concerned about the increasing air traffic, and tried addressing an ageing infrastructure, not capable of effectively handling increasing congestion. In response to the issue, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) set up the Special Committee for Data Comm FANS. The Special Committee was assigned the task of finding new technologies for development of surveillance and communication in the future which would help manage air traffic under Data Comm FANS infrastructure.  

In 1988, the initial FANS aviation system report was published that laid the foundation for the future strategy of the industry for CNS/ATM concept. Then, work began to develop the technical standards necessary for realizing Data Comm FANS concept.  

The Boeing Company declared the first implementation of FANS aviation system in early 1990s, called FANS-1. The aim of FANS-1 deployment was improving choice of route for operators, and thus, cut down fuel burn.  

A similar technology was later built by Airbus, called ‘FANS A’. The two technologies are today collectively called ‘FANS 1/A’. Minor enhancements have been added to it and is now referred to as FANS 1/A+. Today, Data Comm FANS uses CPDLC and automatic position reporting to communicate with ATC directly over VHF making use of SATCOM or VDL Mode 2 in place of ACARS, so as to facilitate more efficient communication between ATC and aircraft.  

Benefits of Data Comm FANS 1/A+ 

Decreased Separation Between Aircraft 

CDPLC communication between ATC and flight crew reduces communication error possibility drastically and allows diminished separation between aircraft in airspace. Heightened airspace capacity makes more desired routes available for aircraft flying in that airspace. 

Data Link Communication 

The VDL Mode 2 network is a high-capacity and high-speed digital communication network, providing around 20 times the message capacity compared to the commonly used ACARS. Using VDL Mode 2 is also more cost effective compared to traditional VHF.  

Data Comm FANS 1/A+ has a few more benefits other than these. 

FANS Aviation Technology (FANS 1/A+) – A Must-Have for Aircraft 

The future air navigation system (FANS 1/A+) is a highly helpful aircraft navigation system that can help ATCs and pilots identify the most economical and safest flight paths leveraging advanced satellite technology.  ATN B1 update – the latest FANS version – will be a mandate by February, 2020 over European airspace. If you are an aircraft owner, consider getting this latest version of FANS installed in your flying machine promptly.  

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