Aviation Communication and Navigation Systems

When aviation pioneers mastered the basic mechanics of flight, they turned towards making advancements that would improve the overall safety and security of an aircraft during flight. The development of many operational safety functions was done successfully with the help of established communication and navigation systems. Communication and navigation systems are significant as they support the thousands of aircraft that are constantly landing and taking off in different destinations. In modern days, technological development has continued with more advanced, lightweight communication and navigation devices fortifying the abilities of pilots. These devices also increase the situational understanding of personnel at any airbase, increasing their usefulness.

Radio communication was the first invention in electronic aviation, followed by navigational radios. Additionally, there are several electronic navigation and landing aids that one may use. Depending on one’s needs, many electronic devices also function for weather awareness, collision avoidance, auto-flight control, recording, management, public communication, and entertainment. 

What Is an Aviation Communication System?

The electronic system that helps in sending messages and communicating with crew members and backend staff in an aircraft is known as an aviation communication system.’ There are two types of communication systems: data communication and voice communication, which can connect with other aircraft and ground staff. 

Methods of Communication For Aircraft

There are 3 main methods of aircraft communication: 

1) Radio Communication – Radio communication allow for a strong connection between pilot and controller to be established. There are two types of radio communication, those of which are HF and VHF communication.

  • HF  High-frequency communication systems use voice communication that can travel along-distance. The system connects with a ground station and an aircraft to establish communication. HF is not as common as satellite communication with its modern advancements. Generally, HF systems operate on an aeronautical frequency range of 2 MHz – 29.999 MHz. The components of HF communication systems include the radio control, HF trans-receiver, and HF antenna. 

  • VHF  Very high frequency (VHF) communication is commonly used for short and medium-range distances with a tunable frequency of 118.000 MHz to 136.990 MHz. This system can help maintain communication between ground stations and aircraft over line-of-sight distances The components of the VHF communication system include the radio control, VHF antenna, and VHF trans-receiver.

2) Satellite Communication – Satellite communication systems use GPS technology for the transmission and receiving of data and verbal communication. This system has a network between a ground earth station and an aircraft earth station that uses a satellite as a relay to send reports over long distances. The aircraft earth station is the satellite communication system on an aircraft that communicates with the ground station and other aircraft through satellite signals. Each ground earth station is a radio station that communicates through ground links. Satellite communication is the most reliable method as compared to other types, and while initially used for maritime applications, the system became a significant component of the aerospace communication system as the technology developed. Satellite communication cannot get affected by atmospheric disturbance, ensuring that it is a very fail-safe technology. 

3) Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) The ACARS is a data link system that allows a pilot to convey messages and report to a ground station. It is an auto-systemic technology that can send messages at a scheduled time or send a necessary message to minimize the staff’s workload. The message sent to the ground station is known as a ‘downlink,’ and a message coming from the ground station is known as an ‘uplink’. 

What Is an Aviation Navigation System?

Technology has radically changed the navigation system of aircraft, shifting them from typical geometry instruments and calculations made by a specialized person to aerial navigation provided by advanced systems. Aerial navigation is achieved through an external and onboard navigation system that helps pilots determine  accurate locations over distances of a thousand kilometers.

Methods of Navigation for Aircraft 

The primary methods of navigation are: 

  • Pilotage  The earliest type of navigation is when the pilot keeps track of landmarks on the ground. With this method, the pilot makes a plan and draws the airpath on a map to indicate landmarks like rivers, bridges, buildings, etc.

  • Global Position System – Global positioning system (GPS) is a space satellite that can identify the location and time in all climatic situations. It can detect a location anywhere on earth using four or more GPS satellites. 

  • Long Range Navigation – Long-range navigation helps an aircraft discover its location and speed at the lowest frequency. It works with a terrestrial radio navigation system in the 90-110KHz frequency range which is transmitted by a fixed radio tower

  • Inertial Navigation  This navigation system includes motion sensors, like accelerometers and rotation sensors, to constantly check flight parameters. The location, position, velocity, and orientation of an aircraft can be determined with a reference at the starting point without using any other consideration. 

Aviation Maintenance for Avionics

Every aircraft demands high maintenance, especially for the airframe and engine. The aviation industry has been using avionics for 50 years, and their use is increasing every day. Due to the usefulness of avionics, avionic maintenance has become much more popular in the industry. In modern times, robust, digitally equipped avionics systems are reliable, though do not reach the levels of mechanical systems. With the capabilities of avionics, some complex types may account for a majority of the total aircraft cost. In military aviation, the estimated cost of navigation, weapons targeting, and monitor systems account for approximately 80 percent of the aircraft’s cost. Additionally, the cost ratio is decreasing as many manufacturers provide highly sophisticated instruments, communication systems, and navigation systems with advanced electronics for every aircraft. Almost all aircraft sizes feature a digital glass cockpit, and the owners of old ones have replaced the navigation equipment and instruments by fitting digital avionics in their aircraft. 

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December 9, 2021

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