LDACS - the new air-to-ground communications standard

LDACS (L-band Digital Aeronautical Communications System)

The new air-to-ground communications standard

Rohde & Schwarz shapes the future with LDACS

The aviation sector is currently facing significant challenges, as managing the increasing air traffic and achieving ambitious sustainability targets in terms of emissions reductions. As a major efficiency enabler, the digital transformation of air traffic management (ATM) is the foundation for a sustainable growth of aviation.

New efficiency-driven, operational ATC concepts, like the four-dimensional (4D) trajectory-based operations concept or sectorless flying, are key enabler to contribute to reducing emissions of CO2 via optimal routing and lower fuel usage. Their implementation requires reliable and high-data rate ground-to-air connectivity.

LDACS (L-band Digital Aeronautical Communication System) represents one of the essential pillar of the multilink architecture that will provide a secure and real-time exchange of large amounts of data, paving the way to the digital transformation of ATM.

Rohde & Schwarz is actively participating and supporting some of the key initiatives within the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The Future Connectivity and Digital Infrastructure (FCDI) project, with primary objective to enhance the maturity level of the LDACS airborne implementation, and the Making I-CNSS a Reality (MIAR) project, which will demonstrate with flight trials how LDACS can enable an integrated navigation solution, showing how LDACS can provide Alternative Positioning Navigation and Timing (APNT) services.

LDACS is being standardized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) where R&S is actively providing his contribution especially with the first LDACS flight test campaign, where Rohde & Schwarz demonstrators were used to successfully validate LDACS capabilities also during real flights.

Rohde & Schwarz, with its decades of experience in VHF, UHF and HF communications, which are used by aircraft pilots as well as air traffic controllers, is best placed to drive the future of LDACS.

A closer look at LDACS

LDACS (L-band Digital Aeronautical Communication System) is a new broadband air-to-ground communications data link standard specifically designed for air traffic control (ATC) communication.

It represents one of the essential pillars of the multilink concept that will drive the digital transformation of ATM and it has already reached a significant level of maturity, as evidenced by its extensive specification, verification, and successful application in various scenarios.

Similar to modern cellular telephony, it offers a significant increase in bandwidth. This secure, scalable and spectrum efficient data link with embedded navigation capability is the first truly integrated CNS (communications, navigation, and surveillance) system

LDACS is being validated the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking, an ambitious cooperation project between industry, ANSPs, and research organizations that aims to accelerate the delivery of a more efficient and interconnected Digital European Sky.

LDACS is being standardized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) where R&S is actively providing his contribution.

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FCDI (Future Connectivity and Digital Infrastructure)

The Future Connectivity and Digital Infrastructure (FCDI) project is making significant strides in the development of cutting-edge communications, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) technologies. It supports and manages operational services in the future air traffic management (ATM) systems. The aim of FCDI is to support the implementation of LDACS onboard of aircraft (demonstrating TRL-6 for airborne LDACS radios) and integrate currently used legacy ATN technologies (esp. OSI) seamlessly into this new IP based ATN technology. The FCDI project is set to revolutionize the way air traffic is handled by bridging existing and new data technologies.

As the demand for more complex communication systems continues to grow, the FCDI project recognizes the need for a unified concept of operations, where air and ground solutions are considered a common infrastructure. To address this, the project is focused on implementing concepts, such as infrastructure as a service, which will decouple service provision from the physical location of the infrastructure, ensuring a more efficient and flexible system.

One of the main activities within the FCDI project is the development of the FCI Terrestrial Data Link. One of the essential pillars of this innovative solution is LDACS. LDACS will provide secure, high throughput communication capabilities, including voice and embedded navigation capability. LDACS, standardized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), will enable efficient, secure, and high-bandwidth communication, while also ensuring compatibility with legacy technologies in L-Band, both in civil and military applications. The primary objective of this solution is to enhance the maturity level of the LDACS airborne implementation through the development of an LDACS avionic prototype.

The FCDI project is committed to driving advancements in air traffic management, ensuring safer and more efficient operations for the aviation industry. By harnessing the power of advanced communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) technologies and embracing a unified concept of operations, the project aims to shape the future of air traffic management.

Rohde & Schwarz is part of the program and is joining forces together with project partners such as Leonardo, Airbus, Frequentis and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to cooperatively develop LDACS technology.

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MIAR (Making I-CNSS a Reality)

LDACS, a digital broadband radio link, offers a secure, scalable, and spectrum-efficient data connection between aircraft and terrestrial infrastructure, similar to cellular telephony. What sets LDACS apart is its integrated navigation and surveillance capabilities, making it an attractive solution for the aviation industry's communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) needs.

The project's primary objective is to demonstrate how LDACS can enable optimized separation between aircraft in real-time, enhancing safety and efficiency. Additionally, the project aims to showcase the use of multiple non-GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technologies to provide a comprehensive integrated navigation solution, which can provide safe navigation even under conditions of GNSS spamming and spoofing.

Rohde & Schwarz, a leading provider of communications and information security solutions, developed the LDACS demonstrator devices in close collaboration with DLR and DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH. Successful flight tests conducted with a DLR test aircraft have validated the effectiveness and potential of LDACS in real-world scenarios.

Building on this success, Rohde & Schwarz is now focusing on implementing new, miniaturized demonstrators for both ground and avionics applications. These advancements will further enhance the capabilities and versatility of LDACS, paving the way for its future integration into the aviation industry.

LDACS has the potential to revolutionize aircraft communication and navigation, offering a secure, scalable, and spectrum-efficient data link. With its integrated navigation and surveillance capabilities, LDACS presents a compelling solution for the aviation sector's CNS requirements. The ongoing development and implementation of avionic LDACS demonstrator devices by Rohde & Schwarz, in collaboration with DLR, Frequentis and DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, represents a significant step forward in the evolution of aviation communication and navigation systems.

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4D trajectory concept – A future concept enabled by LDACS

LDACS is foreseen to enable future air traffic management (ATM) modernization as for example the 4D trajectory concept. This concept connects aircraft and terrestrial infrastructure to optimize trajectory in three dimensions (altitude, latitude and longitude) plus time with real-time exchange of trajectory information between aircraft and air navigation service providers (ANSP). Aircraft are able to automatically adapt their speed and trajectory in-flight to arrive at a given point in space at a time pre-agreed with air traffic control. It is the key to the concept of the future Air Traffic Management (ATM) system being developed by the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programm, of which Rohde & Schwarz is a very active member.

Sectorless flying – A future concept enabled by LDACS

LDACS is one of the main enablers for future air traffic management (ATM) modernization as for example the sectorless flying concept. This enables en-route ATC without conventional sectors, where one controller will be assigned several aircraft regardless of their location and will guide these aircraft during their entire flight. This will bring a significant increase in capacity and controller efficiency, more flexibility, fewer handovers and enables user-preferred routes.

LDACS flight tests

In partnership with the German Aerospace Center DLR and the German air air navigation service provider, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, Rohde & Schwarz is heavily involved in various German research projects funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BWMi), such as the Aeronautics Research Program LUFO.

In this context, Rohde & Schwarz built LDACS demonstrator devices and carried out flight tests with a DLR test aircraft. The aim was to validate LDACS’ basic functions. These flight tests have proven the capabilities and maturity of LDACS. As part of this research project, Rohde & Schwarz will now implement new, miniaturized demonstrators for both ground and avionics applications. In addition, a ground infrastructure was implemented at three DFS locations, which will serve as a future reference for air-to-ground and ground-to-air interoperability.

Rohde & Schwarz is one of the few manufacturers that is deeply involved in the implementation of both ground and airborne LDACS equipment. For this reason, Rohde & Schwarz can guarantee interoperability in ground and air communications better than any competitor.

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White paper

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An essential pillar for the digital transformation of Air Traffic Management

The aim of the white paper is to provide an overview of digital transformation of aviation and with special focus on the necessary supporting CNS technologies.

ANSPs, airlines, CSPs and industry present in this white paper their own perspective, highlighting the importance of LDACS and explaining the role this terrestrial technology must play in supporting the adoption of new operating procedures

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