5G supports innovation in the aviation industry

November 22, 2021

Is the aviation industry finally playing catch up with new use cases for 5G? Recent developments show traditional air to ground stations (A2G) are being used for private 4G/5G networks that offer an infinite number of new applications. To support developments in the aviation industry, HTZ now features a flight-tracking function. This models the flight path of a mobile (either an aircraft, drone - UAV/UAS or high-altitude platform - HAPS). This function accounts for the altitude, roll, pitch and heading of the aircraft, and analyses its impact on the DL/UL (thresholds) connections and/or the interference between ground stations and the mobile. 

Generally, A2G networks are deployed for civilian organisations like civil aviation organisations and airports to maintain reliable radio comms between air traffic controllers and the aircraft.  HTZ analyses communications with the aircraft throughout the flight phase, including during the take-off and landing, where pitch and roll are prominent. It also models high-altitude platforms whose performance is impaired by strong winds as a result of the high elevations. Analysis of potential interference from mobile to other ground stations is undertaken. The aircraft antenna patterns are modelled in 3D and with the automatic adjustment to the azimuth of the mobile’s antenna according to the 3D path (altitude, roll pitch or heading) of the aircraft along its route. 

Fig. 2. Stations on map

Analysis of the DL/UL connections between LTE A2G stations and an aircraft can be tracked at different altitudes, with the threshold results displayed on a graph. Similarly, the DL threshold can be analysed from the A2G station into the mobile with the power received (power sum) from the aircraft into the LTE station displayed at different positions of the mobile. 

Fig. 3. UL threshold results (mobile into A2G stations)
Fig. 4. DL threshold results (A2G stations into mobile)

The output from this analysis is an Excel table with the roll, pitch, heading and antenna azimuth values for the mobile analysed at different positions.

Fig. 5. Generated report

So what can we expect from 5G A2G networks?

Current use cases being tested include:

  • Onboard entertainment, remote office and customised services for airline passengers (EMBB – enhanced mobile broadband);
  • Replacement or improvements to Wi-Fi. While the current level of needs of passengers, guests and airport management is supported by Wi-Fi, deployment over large areas is problematic. The improved data speeds from private 5G networks will enable the deployment of cable-free, autonomous working environments that support the growing demand for new applications;
  • Virtual aircraft inspections where airline maintenance engineers won’t have to travel for aircraft inspections but instead use high-definition video;
  • As the concept of unmanned traffic management becomes increasingly defined, 5G could serve as a medium for data and information sharing between drones and electric taxis, air traffic and wireless network service providers in the future;
  • Onboard collision avoidance systems that, for the first time, will power a sanctioned flight beyond an unmanned aircraft operator's visual line of sight, without the assistance of visual observers or expensive ground-based radar systems;
  • Dedicated services for onboard medical emergencies using Ultra-reliable and Low Latency Communications (uRLLC ) mode supported by 5G.

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