The modernisation of ATC systems, in particular in combination with all harmonisation programs, rises the degree of complex IT installations. Whether SESAR, NextGen, CARATS, OneSKY or any other cooperation of domestic or transnational air traffic sectors: Only the use of the respective systems can expand the airspace capacities, which are necessary to manage the growing number of flight movements. Where once analogue techniques were employed, now data centres are used to provide us with all necessary information. From radar and weather information about flight positions to networked structures for a system-wide information management - computerized systems have become an integral part of today's ATC. Therefore, an optimal system control is indispensable. Because installations have to be operated, administrated and properly protected in times of cyber security - and they should also provide reliable redundancies.
KVM technology offers a significant contribution to such safe and easy to operate structures. For decades, German manufacturers Guntermann & Drunck have been dealing with applications especially developed for the ATC industry. With their knowledge, they offer a range of concepts for the optimisation of working conditions, the design of redundancy concepts and the safe storage of IT installations.
Optimised operation and conditions through KVM
KVM technology helps to create optimal working conditions. Thus, the interface technology makes it possible to extend and distribute computer signals in real time, without delays and completely without any additional software installation. This way, computers can be operated remotely. KVM switches let users operate multiple computers with only one set of keyboard, mouse and monitor.
By removing the systems from the working space - the tower or the control room - users are able to benefit from an environment that is free from heat and noises emitting from computers. The computers, however, are placed in a central equipment room, which facilitates the central administration of the system: The technicians do not have to interrupt their work in the control room.
More safety through redundancy and cyber security
But the use of KVM does not only improve the working conditions for humans and machines. The essential advantage of applying KVM equipment lies in the sophisticated redundancy concepts that can be developed using the technology.
Wherever a redundant system runs as a fallback for the primary system, KVM switches show their real strength. The controller simply presses a button to change to the redundant system in a split second.
The monitoring functions of G&D units further increase the safety of the system. Thus, the KVM system even detects if a computer is powered on to provide a video signal. This allows pro-active administration: Redundant systems can be activated before the ATCO's work at the primary system would be interrupted since the technicians are able to carry out the administration and maintenance of the running system in the background. This allows continuous and uninterrupted 24/7 operation.
In times of increasing networking and the associated risk of cyber attacks, the redundancy concepts described here provide another approach: If the redundant installation is set up on a completely different framework, it is easier to prevent attacks from the outside. This way, G&D makes a decisive contribution to cyber security. Placing the systems into access-protected areas couldn't be easier thanks to KVM extenders anyway.
Based on their long experience in the ATC sector and from collaborations with many well-known ANSPs and integration partners, G&D's portfolio now offers several new products, which will be presented at the World ATM Congress in Madrid at G&D's stand 337.
A special highlight will definitely be the new DP1.2-VisionXG. The extender system enables the remote operation of computers and offers uncompressed transmission of 4K videos at a refresh rate of 60 Hz. High resolutions are not only extremely popular in the consumer segment, but also continue their advance in professional control room applications. Now Controller Working Positions can be designed in a way that they are provided with one large screen only. On this screen, various applications (radar information, meteorological data, flight plan data, flight documents, etc.) are visualized in different segments. Some of the advantages are, for example, being able to display contents on a continuous area without any disturbing monitor frames and the flexibility to arrange the information in accordance with the tasks and preferences of the ATCO. But even besides that, the new displays offer the general advantage of displaying image information down to the last detail.
However, high resolutions also come with technical challenges. Computers need to be even more powerful in order to provide the required image data. On top of that the industry standards for interfaces needed to be updated to support a range of 4K with a refresh rate of 60Hz.
Hence, G&D have developed a new KVM extender system to comply with the new standard for DisplayPort signals. Unfortunately, high performance computers also mean lots of heat and noise - and therefore an even greater need to ban them from the control room.
By removing computers into central equipment rooms, other nuisances vanish from the working environment, too. Air traffic controllers benefit from more space as well as a cleaner working environment that is free from heat and noises emitting from computers. For the new DP1.2-VisionXG, fibre optics connect the KVM transmitter at the computer to the KVM receiver placed at the workstation. Despite distances of up to 10,000m between computer and workstation, ATCOs operate their systems in a 1:1 connection without any latency.
To ensure high video quality, the new DP1.2-VisionXG system transmits video signals transparent meaning pixel by pixel and without any compression. Here, the difference lies in the detail: Compressing systems are often called "visually lossless" even when they are not. Comparisons clearly show the difference. That's one of the main reasons why G&D willingly provides test devices. Thanks to the totally lossless transmission provided by the DP1.2-VisionXG, all details remain visible even when it comes to high-resolution 4K images at the full refresh rate of 60 Hz and across the entire transmission distance.
In addition to the basic functions - the transmission of computer signals - the KVM extenders are as reliable as all G&D devices: high quality made in Germany combined with additional safety features that have been developed and implemented in close cooperation with EUROCONTROL, and, since then, have been further developed and improved.
A number of other control room functions completes G&D's offer. Matrix systems can now be operated via "scenario switching". The function allows, for example, to use one single command to switch an entire control room to a different computer constellation - for example, during the changing of shifts. Or it is possible to provide a controller working at any CWP with the entire configuration of consoles - which considerably simplifies a free-seating concept.
For ANSPs who value perfect workplace ergonomics, the DP1.2-VisionXG and DL-Vision extender systems now offer support for the DDC/CI protocol. Thus, the screens in the control room can be automatically configured and the brightness of the screens, for example, is simply adjusted to the external light conditions.
To particularly facilitate the system operation for ATCOs, G&D offer the CrossDisplay-Switching function. With this feature, the pilot does not have to worry about the technical infrastructure in the background but can intuitively pursue his primary responsibilities: At a CWP, which is equipped with multiple monitors, the system can be operated with just one set of keyboard and mouse - even if the monitors are supplied by different computer systems. This does not only save peripherals but ensures clearly arranged workstations. On top of that, the function lets users switch from one computer system to the next without any additional operating steps. The operating focus simply follows the mouse pointer. If the mouse pointer is moved over the screen edge, the KVM system will automatically switch keyboard and mouse focus to the computer of the respective neighbouring screen.
G&D have now perfected this functionality: Right from the start, the CrossDisplay-Switching was not limited in the number of integrated screens, and so now also computers with multi-head graphics are supported. Thus, an unlimited mix of scenarios can be switched from all sources and the user always operates in the visible area and never "flies blind". The configuration is easily adapted to the screen arrangement, and thus does not need to be strictly ordered in row or one above the other.
Around the globe, many ANSPs have been using the systems from G&D for years. Where possible, G&D gladly share the know-how gathered from these close cooperation with other industrial partners. The team of the German manufacturer will consult visitors at the World ATM Congress on these topics and more. A lecture on Tuesday, 08/03/2016 at the Frequentis Aviation Arena gives further insight into a comprehensive KVM installation within the scope of the P2 project of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH.
The various possibilities that an in principle "simple" technology like KVM allows can be adapted in the most individual ways. That's why intensive planning and consulting is extremely important. At G&D, both aspects are offered directly by the manufacturer and in conjunction with system integrators from the ATC industry.