France’s air navigation services joins Iris to modernise Europe’s air traffic management

Iris, the leading programme developed by Inmarsat in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) to modernise air traffic management (ATM) over Europe, can now name DSNA, France’s primary Air Navigation Services Provider (ANSP), as its latest partner

DSNA joins a consortium of five major European ANSPs, including DFS (Germany), ENAIRE (Spain), ENAV (Italy), EUROCONTROL MUAC (North-West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) and NATS (UK). Together, they handle the majority of European air traffic and are participating in an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) pilot with Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Working to improve the speed and accuracy of air traffic management across Europe’s congested airspace and relieve existing congested radio frequencies, the Iris programme will enable secure, high-bandwidth, satellite-based datalink communications. ANSPs will be able to rely on this certified, efficient and reliable datalink to increase ATM efficiency, relieve air traffic controller workload and enhance flight safety.

DSNA’s involvement with the programme carries great significance because they operate the biggest and busiest section of European airspace, so the performance data they can capture from pilot flight demonstrations will provide critical insight.

Their participation also leaves the DSNA better prepared for the programme’s rollout and commercial service introduction, which is underway. 

A stationary aircraft refueling and another aircraft taking off in the distance

As Maurice Georges, CEO of DSNA, puts it: “Iris has the potential to deliver the additional datalink bandwidth beyond VDL mode 2 to cope with increasing datalink data volume as European airspace continues to get busier. We now need to assess how this new system can secure the future CPDLC performance, hence enabling new SESAR applications like 4D trajectories. For this reason, we are pleased to be involved in this ambitious and agenda-setting programme along with other major ANSPs."

Iris is also designed to enable ‘4D’ trajectories, pinpointing aircraft in four dimensions: latitude, longitude, altitude and time. One of the major concepts defined in the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) modernisation programme, 4D trajectories allow precise tracking of flights and more efficient management of traffic. Pilots and controllers are able to collaborate on flight trajectories and calculate the shortest available routes, cruise at optimum altitudes, and use continuous climb and descent pathways to reduce delays, save fuel and address environmental factors.

With Iris now in its commercial implementation phase, following the successful completion of an extensive five-year research phase, commercial flight trials are due to begin soon. These trials will confirm initial operating capabilities and facilitate EASA certification, with a view to commercial service beginning in the 2021-2022 timeframe.

John Broughton, Senior Vice President, Aircraft Operations and Safety at Inmarsat Aviation, had this to say: “As we enter the commercial implementation phase of Iris, we are delighted to have DSNA - another leading European ANSP - onboard with us to support delivery of this ground-breaking project. Iris is fundamental to the future of aviation and with the support of a growing allegiance of ANSPs and European partners, the programme will revolutionise air traffic management and enable secure, high bandwidth datalink communications over Europe.”

Iris is powered by Inmarsat’s award-winning SB-S digital aircraft operations platform, using its world’s leading L-band satellite network, which has underpinned global safety services for 40 years.

In addition to this, Inmarsat is scheduled to launch two new, advanced L-band payloads in 2020 and 2021, continuing its long-term commitment to provide highly reliable satellite services to the aviation industry.