The future of communication technology in the aviation industry

The future of communication technology in the aviation industry

The aviation industry is a thriving industry that is experiencing significant growth. Alongside that growth is a constant push for innovation and development, which is necessary to keep up with demand. Advancements in aeronautics and air traffic management are essential to creating usable frameworks that can handle future growth within the industry.


The three biggest components of effective air traffic management are communications, navigation and surveillance. In this article, we are going to look at the future of communication technology in the aviation industry to determine what air traffic management tools might be implemented in the future.


Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC)


Free-space optical communication (FSOC) is a type of optical communication technology that uses light to transmit data. FSOC relies on light propagating in free space (air, outer space, in a vacuum or in water) to wirelessly send data for telecommunication. This is in contrast to communication that uses solid space, such as fibre optic cables.


The major benefit that FSOC brings to air traffic management is that air traffic controllers can stay in communication with aircraft in remote areas, in the middle of the ocean and even during severe weather.


Fibre optic systems provide high-speed digital links across most of the globe. However, in some cases, it is impossible or impractical to lay down fibre optic cable. Free Space Optical Communications offers an alternative. It can provide high-speed connectivity to link air, land and maritime platforms.


Troposcatter communications


Troposcatter communications, also known as tropospheric scatter, is a form of communication that uses microwave signals over long distances that span up to 200 miles. Using the tropospheric scatter phenomenon, radio waves can be transmitted through the upper layers of the troposphere. A narrow beam is aimed just above the horizon, towards the receiving station. As the signal passes through the troposphere, energy is scattered back to earth which allows the receiving station to pick up the communication.


When using microwave frequency ranges for standard communication, you are limited by the visible line of sight where a receiver can be seen by the transmitter. This tends to limit distances to around 40 miles. Troposcatter communications can extend this significantly, which can help air traffic controllers who are working in areas with poor satellite coverage.


Near vertical incidence skywave


Near vertical incidence skywave (NVIS) is a type of skywave radio-wave propagation that allows for communication over a long distance (around 400 miles). Radio waves are sent in an almost vertical direction into the ionosphere, where the waves are refracted back to our atmosphere where a receiver can pick up the communication.


It is an incredibly useful form of communication in areas that are working through disaster relief communications, but the aviation industry could see benefits from this technology. It is an ideal communication method for developing regions with no existing infrastructure, which can help air traffic controllers communicate with aircraft over these areas.