CGI lands Inmarsat ESA contract work to improve pilot/ground control communications

CGI has been brought in by Inmarsat to help improve the data communications between pilots and air traffic control across Europe.

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CGI has been brought in by Inmarsat to help improve the data communications between pilots and air traffic control across Europe.

Inmarsat was awarded the Iris Precursor contract by the European Space Agency (ESA). As part of this contract, CGI will provide safety systems development, integration and IT security services to better support data communications between pilots and air traffic controllers within European airspace.

Iris Precursor is not only being developed to support the needs of existing European ATM (air traffic management), but will provide the capacity and performance demanded by future applications planned through the Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) programme. This will include the ability to update flight plans en-route and improve the sequencing of aircraft into busy airports – providing major benefits in terms of airspace efficiency, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Modernisation on this scale demands a stepped approach, said Inmarsat, so Iris has been divided into two phases - Iris Precursor for the short to medium term, which will evolve into the full Iris service, supporting the long-term objectives of SESAR.

CGI says it has been selected to develop key Iris Precursor safety and security features that are required for future European air traffic management communications. Inmarsat’s existing SwiftBroadband service is already in use by airlines, and will be enhanced by Iris Precursor with extra reliability and protection, says Inmarsat.

CGI is now responsible for developing ground-based gateways that will enable the SwiftBroadband system to interface with the European ATM Network (EATMN), and incorporate security measures to protect the over-the-air communications link from cyber attack. The systems will undergo validation and verification tests to assure safety and security requirements are met, before entering initial flight trials in 2016.

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “The Iris Precursor project is a key initiative that paves the way for our SwiftBroadband service to meet the European regulations and standards for data link communications and play an integral role in the future of European air traffic services infrastructure.

"CGI’s role in developing, integrating and deploying the required ground network systems is a central component of the work and we selected the company based on its deep space industry experience, safety and security systems expertise."

CGI has five people in the European Space Operations Centre’s flight control team that recently guided the European Space Agency's Rosetta space craft and its lander to a comet.

Image: Photo of comet from Philae © ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

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