Airport automatic landing systems: ILS, calibration using drones


AltiGator and skyguide use drones for the calibration and maintenance of automatic airport landing systems

altigator atlas cns drone uav skyguide atm ils check measurement - Airport automatic landing systems: ILS, calibration using drones
OnyxStar® ATLAS is world’s first drone to perform ILS check flights

Flight navigation systems are essential in a world where the global air traffic growths continuously. These systems enable Air navigation service providers to ensure that aircraft can reach their destination in due time safely, despite the permanent density increase.

Indeed, Air Traffic Management (ATM) companies strongly rely on advanced, unfailing and efficient navigation aid equipment in order to accomplish their mission in the best conditions.

Among the numerous requirements from ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), Flight navigation systems must be regularly calibrated, inspected and maintained to ensure that all essential navigation aids for pilots are always working properly. This means that these systems must be tuned to radiate the correct signals in the airspace, at any time.

To achieve this, a combination of ground and air inspections are necessary, like the localizer measurements for ILS CAT III (Instrument Landing System).

altigator drone uav uas airport navigation system maintenance management - Airport automatic landing systems: ILS, calibration using drones
OnyxStar® ATLAS is a CNS drone operating ILS checks since January 2018

ILS is an essential navigation aid to help pilots land their aircraft in low visibility conditions during IFR flights (Instrument Flight Rules). In order to maintain the ICAO ILS certification, dynamic measurements need to be performed by the airport operators, their subcontracted flight inspection organizations or government agencies. These companies are always looking to improve these processes.

The regular ILS (Instrument Landing System) calibration control is made in flight, using a manned aircraft. It requires preparation together with ground measurements in order to optimize the manned flight intervention.

Both of the above operations have their limitations: the manned aircraft is costly, noisy and environment unfriendly while the ground one is limited in terms of reachable distance and height.

The ground ILS (Instrument Landing System) calibration operations are indeed restrained to the runway threshold, since they are performed using masts that generally don’t go higher than around 25 meters, from the ground.

This is where the solution developed in a partnership involving AltiGator and skyguide intervenes. Thanks to its lifting power, efficiency and reliability, the CNS drone performs inspections in the far field. Elevation profiles and mini approaches are conducted by the ILS inspection UAV in order to analyze the ILS signal (course alignment, slope angle, alarms, displacement sensitivity, etc.) and complete the ground and manned flight measurements.

altigator drone uav uas instrument landing system maintenance calibration commisioning - Airport automatic landing systems: ILS, calibration using drones
OnyxStar® ATLAS improves airport management and aircraft safety

The development of the ILS-check UAV solution involving an OnyxStar® ATLAS drone, started in 2015 and is operational since January 2018. The ILS check drone is currently used by skyguide in Geneva (GVA – LSGG) and Zurich (ZRH – LSZH) airports.

The ATLAS drone allows to improve the ILS inspection operations by dramatically reducing the manned aircraft flight check frequency and thus decreasing the overall operational cost for airport operators. Among the numerous advantages brought by these ILS flight inspections performed by the CNS drone are:

  • Extension of ILS ground measurements
  • Excellent repeatability
  • Cost & time saving
  • Reducing operational disturbances
  • Reducing CO? and noise emissions

This major step in ILS maintenance domain for preventive and corrective maintenance is only a beginning. Thanks to the CNS drone, skyguide and AltiGator are going further in developing the next generation ATM systems. In addition to ILS flight checks, new horizon also arise for other systems like VOR, DF, PAPI, radars, etc. from this successful partnership.

Contact us to discover more about this ILS/UAV calibrating solution.

About skyguide

Skyguide, the Swiss Air Navigation Service Provider, manages and monitors Switzerland’s airspace on behalf of the Swiss Confederation. This includes ensuring the daily safe, fluid and cost-effective management of air traffic. It is therefore essential to find the optimum balance between safety, capacity, cost and sustainability of equipment and work process for the benefits of skyguide’s customers. Innovation is the key to reach this optimum balance target.

altigator drone uav skyguide airport flight navigation system maintenance nextgen - Airport automatic landing systems: ILS, calibration using drones
OnyxStar® ATLAS at Zurich airport performing ILS calibration

Additional information on the ILS drone calibration