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Air traffic management (ATM) services are migrating towards a global seamless concept. This requires new thinking not only on the necessary operational changes but also on the technological paradigms that determine our current service architectures. Driven by the availability of more and more bandwidth within wide area ground networks new technologies are emerging such as Cloud Computing. Beyond that, operational concepts of FAA's NEXTGEN and Europe's SESAR include dynamically moving the responsibility for airspace blocks from one facility to another, and ensuring continuity of operation by providing contingency operations. This contribution assesses the applicability of cloud computing in ATM, and the key differences to existing commercial applications. It presents the technical cloud computing elements necessary to achieve a truly global ATM system and addresses harmonization and interoperability aspects such as standardized working procedures and controller working positions equipment for air traffic controllers. Situational awareness is key for the decision making process of controllers and pilots in NEXTGEN. A key element different to commercial cloud applications is the necessity to communicate with aircraft and pilots as cloud participants via narrowband VHF radio communications, SATCOM, or other wireless communications technologies. Situational awareness of these participants is paramount which, in the current system, is automatically provided due to the broadcast nature of voice transmissions from controllers and pilots that can be received and heard by all listeners on a particular frequency nearly simultaneously (propagation delay of the radio signal not considered). To efficiently manage the access to this shared media and limit the access only to “relevant” participants, the concept of ATC sector within a geographical area, with boundaries (horizontal and vertical) aligned with traffic patterns exists today. This paper describes mecha- isms that demonstrate how SATCOM, VHF, and various data link technologies can be integrated into a service cloud by virtualizing the sector concept and relaxing or completely removing the dependence on the underlying communications media. The advantage of this concept is that sectors can be dynamically defined based on operational ATM service needs without having to adhere to the coverage limitations of the underlying telecommunications service. The current ATM system is severely limited by the underlying telecommunications service models, most often by programmatic and contractual issues rather than their technical nature. We introduce the concept of a multi-point service within a virtual sector taking into consideration operational NEXTGEN issues and demands related to capacity, performance, and global coverage. Finally we introduce a new communications service model where selected parts of the infrastructure can be selectively and partially outsourced to certified service providers. This concept allows for smoother transition between the existing and next generation technologies, and reduces cost for the taxpayer while maintaining the safety of the flights.
Date of Conference: 24-26 April 2012