COMSOFT's Ulrich Kaage and Dr Andreas Höfer discuss the actualisation of aeronautical information management (AIM).
The future ATM system will introduce a high degree of collaborative decision-making between stakeholders of the air transportation industry, as well as interoperability on a global scale. A prerequisite of this is the availability of high-quality, consistent and reliable electronic information. In this context, ICAO recognises the importance of aeronautical information in particular. Only by using the same data are various stakeholders able to interpret flight-related information uniformly and unambiguously.
Today, aeronautical information is predominantly managed by aeronautical information services (AIS). AIS is responsible for publishing aeronautical data periodically as an amendment to their aeronautical information publication (AIP) and in case of immediate information as ATS messages; for example, NOTAM. It is now the target to migrate the information into a harmonised, electronic data presentation with high quality that can be easily exchanged between stakeholders. The changes foreseen are such that this development is being referred to as the transition from AIS to aeronautical information management (AIM).
AIS includes the information documentation necessary for the safety, regularity and efficiency of international air navigation, including AIP, aeronautical information circulars (AIC), NOTAMs and pre-flight information bulletins (PIB).
Today, the predominant product-centric approach focuses on the creation, update and generation of the individual documents. Common and shared data is copied and synchronised by laborious and often error-prone procedures that require repeated entry of the same data on different computers.
A broader data-centric method is essential if aviation is to meet the requirements arising from the 'Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept' and achieve the shared information environment of the future. Instead of creating and maintaining individual documents with complex release processes, the focus is on the maintenance and integrity of the aeronautical data and a collaborative process.
It is of utmost importance to have a standardised way of exchanging data to become more efficient and cost-effective. EUROCONTROL and FAA have set the ground with publication of the AIXM 5.1 specification, an XML-based data-exchange format, and its success has led to the advent of progressively more XML-based formats, including FIXM for flight information exchange and WXXM, for weather-information exchange.
COMSOFT was the first company to fully embark on these new information-exchange concepts and, as the first company, built a new product line based on the new paradigms.
COMSOFT's core AIM product is CADAS-AIMDB (COMSOFT's Aeronautical Information Management Database) and, as a native implementation of the upcoming worldwide aeronautical information exchange format AIXM 5.1, is part of any AIM solution COMSOFT delivers today. Its modular system design facilitates a step-by-step replacement of existing AIS systems so it can integrate into any environment in the most cost-effective way. Moreover, a unique feature of this system is a web-service-based system-to-system interface that makes all functions and all data of the database accessible by any system in an easy and controlled way.
In addition to storage of AIXM 5.1 data, CADAS-AIMDB comprises functions that go beyond those of standard relational database-management systems (RDBMS). CADAS-AIMDB provides a mechanism that allows the user to store draft data, and perform quality checks and analysis before committing it as operational data. An integrated editor/approver workflow facilitates data reviews of modified data and the business rule module allows for automated consistency checks of data under review.
Regarding interoperability, CADAS-AIMDB provides publish/subscribe and request/response interfaces in line with future concepts like the system-wide information management (SWIM). Fully automated data exchange with the European AIS Database (EAD), as well as ATM systems, is one of the many unique features.
In order to smoothly integrate into any processing chain, CADAS-AIMDB comes with an internal configurable workflow subsystem and, furthermore, can be integrated with third-party workflow-management systems, providing the flexibility that is paramount for a versatile use. CADAS-AIMDB has been designed to serve as a base for integrating AIM applications and components such as electronic AIP, charting, procedure design, NOTAM office or briefing. COMSOFT's design concept facilitates a modular migration scenario for AIS data and services that enables organisations to approach AIM smoothly and at low risk - making high-quality, consistent and reliable electronic information readily available.
Another major asset in the transition from AIS to AIM is COMSOFT's CADAS-EPS a collaborative document-management system specially designed for the electronic aeronautical information publication (eAIP), including amendments, supplements and circulars. It is an essential tool for modern AIS offices around the world. Based on a content-management system, CADAS-EPS is highly customisable and can be extended to support other non-AIP specific publications. CADAS-EPS natively processes AIXM 5.1 information and uses the CADAS-AIMDB web service for data exchange.
CADAS-EPS is ready for configuration to comply with European Regulation EC 73/2010, commonly known as AIS Data Quality (ADQ). Being fully compatible with European standards, its integrated and easy-to-manage eAIP production environment, single-click publication and seamless interoperation with legacy systems have already won over many ANSPs in various ICAO regions including Estonian Air Navigation Services, CORPAC Peru, Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation and Libyan Civil Aviation Authority.
ICAO published the 'AIS to AIM Roadmap' giving guidance to all ANSPs for their migration from conventional paper-driven AIP to a truly data-centric AIM, including aeronautical products that are published in a fully data-driven way. ICAO noted that to meet the future requirements of the aviation community, the introduction of new products and services, and a greater emphasis on improved data distribution, were the keys to improving aeronautical information.
The combination of COMSOFT's AIP tool CADAS-EPS and the central aeronautical database CADAS-AIMDB is the answer to the AIS-to-AIM migration challenge, with major parts of the ICAO 'AIS to AIM Roadmap' able to be completed immediately. The system also serves as a first-class foundation for further steps of the roadmap like electronic terrain and obstacle management (eTOD), aerodrome mapping (AMDB) and digital NOTAM. Therefore, implementing CADAS-AIMDB and CADAS-EPS are a crucial prerequisites for a cost-effective and smooth transition from AIS to AIM.
CADAS-AIMDB and CADAS-EPS can, in fact, look back on an impressive track record. The very first version went operational in 2011 for Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS). As an ECAC member state, connection to the EAD was an important achievement, as the AIXM 5.1 data managed by EANS had to be converted back to AIXM 4.5 in order to be accepted by EAD. The project started in 2009, when the ICAO 'AIS to AIM Roadmap' had just been released, and it soon became clear that this project was to be a pioneer in the AIS to AIM migration.
Today, COMSOFT counts an impressive list of clients, including long-term customer and partner skyguide, which implements CADAS-AIMDB as a central database in its environment and continues using its legacy publication tools due to its full backwards compatibility. Other clients include Singapore, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Kuwait, Estonia and Peru. The elaborate system interface provides a unique access point and powerful data-exchange hub. Eventually, it will enable any ANSP to implement the 'AIS to AIM Roadmap' at its own pace with its preferred tools.
Although the ICAO 'AIS to AIM Roadmap' leads ANSPs towards AIM implementation, it does not keep users from sparking new ideas once they operate a fully AIM-based system, such as the possibility to use aeronautical data as a source for radar-tracker configuration. It is a major statement of the roadmap that once AIM is achieved, new concepts for further processing of digital data will automatically emerge generating further benefits from the quality assured and consistent information available.
COMSOFT is fortunate to have some very active customers in Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East that work closely together on system evolution. With GCAA UAE and the Swiss skyguide, COMSOFT has established strong partnerships in order to speed up the innovation process. Together, it defines the targets and decides on the strategy to most effectively reach them.
With skyguide, the focus is on improving the workflows and user interface (UI) components that are used by the operators for their daily task of encoding data. Modern concepts like use-case-driven UI development are applied alleviating the gap between complex data models and ease-of-use. For GCAA UAE, a core requirement for its database is interoperability with external data sources or data users. Consequently, COMSOFT focuses on exchanging data in AIXM 5.1 between countries and demonstrating that the system can manage the business rules necessary to guarantee retained data quality.
With COMSOFT and its partners committed to the common goal of improving the usability and functionality of CADAS-AIMDB, the operational and technical changes and challenges of the future are being addressed, with the aim of achieving much higher automation, a lower work load and a safer handling of aeronautical information.
COMSOFT is aware that a shift towards a fully digital global data chain requires the combined efforts of all stakeholders worldwide, and therefore offers all the tools and expertise to support the transition to a more efficient and capable aviation network, prepared for future demands.
COMSOFT's turnkey AIM solution is fully in line with the ICAO 'AIS to AIM Roadmap' and European regulations. It is constantly being improved together with customers in order to stay at the top of today's solutions. Its modularity allows each ANSP to perform the AIS-to-AIM migration at its own pace. COMSOFT remains a reliable partner throughout this important transition phase, while additionally offering crucial services like data migration, AIM training and change-management support.