Interoperability refers to the ability of different systems or components to work together seamlessly.
Technological advancements with every successive interval have brought the inclusion of new devices. Every forthcoming device is more advanced as compared to the previous one. It is good to hear that these advancements are changing the world around us. But in this rejoicing, we cannot keep our eyes off the challenges that are being offered by every magnificent technological breakthrough. These challenges are a part and parcel of advancement in technology. Knowing all this a probable question is expected to knock on the door. Although these advancements are offering remedies for an existing challenge, why do these advancements bring challenges upon us? It is simple but a pretty good question.
Technological Advancement and Pre-existing Framework
Technological advancements are bridging the gap between technological framework and our ultimate requirements. On one end technology provides a solution for this requirement by bridging the technological gap. But at the same time, it creates a gap within the preexisting technologies. Technology within an organization from a slanted view can be considered modular in structure. In some places, it is a purely structured segment and in some places, the boundary lines are delineated. Most technological advancements are brought in chunks. Even if we assume a complete system update or replacement. Still, there are very eminent chances that out there some of the dependent or interlinked technology remains on the old track. These gaps and the prevalence of old technology creates an issue of interoperability.
System Developed By Multiple Vendors or Based on Different Technologies
In the context of radar, interoperability errors can also occur when radar systems from different manufacturers or using different technologies are unable to communicate or function properly with one another. This can happen due to differences in the communication protocols, data formats, or signal processing methods used by the different systems. It can also occur when different radar systems are operating in the same frequency band and are not properly coordinated to avoid interference. Interoperability errors can lead to reduced performance, increased false alarms, or even system failure.
Impact of Interoperability Error on Air Traffic Control Environment
The problem in Interpretation of Radar Data
In an air traffic control (ATC) environment, interoperability errors in radar can have significant consequences for the safe and efficient operation of the airspace. When radar systems from different manufacturers or using different technologies are unable to communicate or function properly with one another, it can lead to confusion and errors among ATC controllers. For example, if two radar systems are using different data formats or signal processing methods, the radar images displayed on the controllers' screens may not match, leading to confusion and errors in the interpretation of the radar data. For instance Air Traffic controllers measure distance between two points on the radar scope for calculating crossing time between two aircrafts in order to give them climb and descent safely. The distance calculated between two points by Air Traffic Controllers may vary if systems are developed by two vendors.
Reduced Performance and Increased False Alarms
Another potential problem is when different radar systems are operating in the same frequency band and are not properly coordinated to avoid interference. This can lead to radar signals from one system being blocked or distorted by signals from another system, resulting in reduced performance and increased false alarms. This can compromise the ability of ATC controllers to detect and track aircraft and can lead to an increased risk of collisions or other safety incidents.
Delays in ATC System Due to Incorrect Detection of Same Aircraft
There are premises in air traffic control services where primary as well as secondary radars are coexisting and supplement each other. In addition, if the different radar systems are not properly configured to work together, it can also lead to delays and inefficiencies in the ATC system. For example, if two radar systems are not properly synced, they may not detect the same aircraft at the same time. The information after primary plot extraction in PSR and secondary plot extraction SSR is fed into the plot combiner. If the plot extractor by any of the systems is not correct it can be leading to confusion and delays in the ATC system.
Interoperability Error and Air Traffic Management System
Similarly in an Air Traffic Management (ATM) system, interoperability errors can occur when different systems or components used by different agencies or countries are unable to communicate or function properly with one another. These errors can lead to confusion and errors among air traffic controllers and can compromise the safe and efficient operation of the airspace.
Different Communication Protocols and ATM Systems
One example of an interoperability error in an ATM system is when different systems use different communication protocols. This can lead to a lack of communication between systems, resulting in controllers being unable to access important information or being unable to pass on information to other controllers.
How to Prevent Interoperability Issues in ATM Systems
To avoid these problems, ATM systems must be thoroughly tested for interoperability before they are deployed. This includes testing for compatibility with other systems, checking for compatibility with the communication protocols and data formats used by the ATM system, and ensuring that the systems are properly configured and calibrated to work together. Also, standardization of communication protocols and data formats is key to ensuring interoperability among different systems and minimizing errors.
Steps That Should Not Be Missed By ATSEP in Rectifying Interoperability Issues
Air Traffic Safety Electronic Personnel can take several steps to rectify interoperability issues in an Air Traffic Control System.
Identify the problem
ATSEP must first identify the specific air traffic system-related interoperability issue that is causing problems. This can be done by reviewing system logs, conducting system tests, or talking to other ATS personnel who may have noticed the issue.
Coordinate with other agencies
ATSEP in coordination with ATC must coordinate with other agencies, such as other ATC centers, to identify the source of the problem and to ensure that the issue does not affect other systems.
Isolate the problem
Once the issue has been identified, ATSEP must isolate the problem by determining which air traffic systems or components are affected and how they are interacting with one another.
Communicate the problem
ATSEP must communicate the problem to the appropriate parties, such as other ATSEP, system administrators, and management. This will allow others to understand the problem and take steps to rectify it.
Follow standard procedures
ATSEP must follow standard procedures for rectifying interoperability issues. This includes troubleshooting procedures, system configurations, and software updates that have been established by the system's manufacturer or system administrator.
Troubleshoot and implement a solution
ATS personnel must troubleshoot the problem and implement a solution. This may include configuring the radar systems inversely, updating software, or recalibrating the systems.
Implement a contingency plan
ATSEP must have a contingency plan in place to handle interoperability issues. This includes procedures for managing the problem and minimizing the impact on the ATM system, as well as procedures for communicating the problem to other ATSEP and management.
Once the problem is solved, ATS personnel must continuously monitor the system to ensure that the issue does not recur and take appropriate actions if it does.
Preventive Measures related to Interoperability Errors
Preventive measures can be taken to minimize the likelihood of interoperability errors in an ATM and radar system. Some of these measures include
Adopting standard communication protocols, data formats, and signal processing methods can help ensure that different systems can communicate and function properly with one another.
Testing and validation
Thoroughly testing and validating systems for interoperability before they are deployed can help identify and rectify any potential issues.
Coordination and communication
Coordinating and communicating with other agencies and organizations can help ensure that systems are properly configured and calibrated to work together.
Maintenance and Up-gradation
Regular maintenance and software upgrades on systems can help ensure that they are functioning properly and can adapt to new technologies and changes in the ATM environment.
Providing proper training to ATS personnel on the use of different systems and technologies, as well as on standard procedures for identifying and rectifying interoperability issues, can help minimize the likelihood of errors.
Implementing a risk management plan to identify potential issues and vulnerabilities and develop strategies for mitigating them can help minimize the impact of interoperability errors.
Overall, a combination of standardization, testing, coordination, maintenance, training, and risk management can help prevent interoperability errors in ATM and radar systems, ensuring safety and efficiency in the airspace.
SkyRadar's System Monitoring & Control Solution
SkySMC - SkyRadar’s System Monitoring and Control Suite is a pedagogically enhanced, fully operational monitoring & control tool. We have optimized it to cater for the ATSEP-SMC training compliant to EASA's Easy Access Rules for ATM-ANS (Regulation (EU) 2017/373) and ICAO Doc 10057.
SkySMC is not a simulator, but a fully operational open monitoring system. It comes by default with a server including various virtualized applications and virtualized servers. In addition, there are various hardware extensions available including training infrastructures, monitorable training radars, or even complete ATM systems, all connected to the System Monitoring & Control solution.
SkyRadar's System Monitoring & Control training system can be easily blended into distance learning solutions.
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- Revolutionising Air Traffic Management (November, 2012), by fdocuments
- Interoperability Challenges (June, 2017), by acumenmd