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SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean helicopter demonstration proves Safety of Life (SoL) services

The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd. (NIGCOMSAT) and Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), are working together to accelerate the development of SBAS (Satellite-Based Augmentation System) services for aviation in Africa.

Exploiting the SBAS signal broadcast over the Africa & Indian Ocean (AFI) region since September 2020, including receipt of a SBAS signal at the Optus Satellite teleport in Western Australia in October 2020, and delivering the first SBAS open service in this part of the world, via the NigComSat-1R satellite, and following up the flight demonstrations performed successfully last January at Lomé Gnassingbe Eyadéma International Airport, the three partners recently conducted a successful SBAS demonstration flight on June 2nd 2021 between Douala and Kribi in Cameroon with a rotorcraft.

The aim was to demonstrate in the field the effectiveness of this technology developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean” programme, designed to autonomously provide SBAS services across the continent, thus improving the performance of the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), GPS and Galileo.

The rotorcraft demonstration carried out a low-altitude, two-way demonstration flight along a Low-level route linking two point-in-space (PinS) approaches to the Douala airport and a point near the oil platforms off the Kribi coast. This experimental flight demonstrated the ability of the SBAS Safety of Life (SoL) services and efficiency, further demonstrating Thales’s certified and proven SBAS SoL services can be applied in complex ionospheric equatorial zone using Thales specific algorithms developed over the last 5 years through significant R&D investment, and in view of the operational SBAS services expected to be delivered in 2024. The helicopter was provided by Heli Union and the SBAS receiver by Pildo Labs.

The proven application of Thales’s certified SBAS SoL services in equatorial zones that present challenging ionospheric conditions follows Thales’s recent announcement to enhance space based positioning systems to exploit the integrity that comes with Safety of Life services beyond the traditional aviation certified capability, that could deliver significant benefit to Australia and New Zealand including, broader industry benefits with emerging safety critical applications such as, autonomous vehicles, mining and resources as well as ground transportation, maritime and rail.

“We will continue to support and contribute to the success of SBAS flight demonstrations using NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to sensitize stakeholders towards acceptance and adoption of SBAS technology in Africa’s Aviation sector for its many benefits especially as it concerns improvement of operational safety, reduction in operational costs and environment”, declared Dr. Abimbola Alale, MD/CEO of NIGCOMSAT Ltd. “It is in line with marching order and directive of the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of Federal Republic of Nigeria; Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) FNCS, FBCS, FIIM who has directed full exploitation of the capabilities and capacity of NIGCOMSAT-1R satellite for digitalized economy in all sectors for sustainable development in the continent.”

“Thales Alenia Space is the ideal partner to support countries that want to implement their own SBAS system, based on our proven expertise in developing EGNOS for Europe and KASS for South Korea, coupled with our advanced satellite positioning technologies,” said Benoit Broudy, Vice President, Navigation Business Unit at Thales Alenia Space “This latest demonstration proved the service's ability to improve satellite navigation for helicopters, in addition to civil planes, and it will help accelerate the rollout of SBAS aeronautical services in Africa.”

“I’m proud that we were able to demonstrate the utility and efficiency of SBAS services on our continent for all the community of airspace users, from commercial aviation to general aviation, and including rotorcraft,” said Mohamed Moussa, Director General of ASECNA. “In line with my vision of unification of the African Sky, the upcoming deployment of the ‘SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean’ system, the navigation solution for Africa and by Africa, will benefit to all the aviation stakeholders of the continent, enhancing sustainably the flight safety and efficiency” Commented Mohamed Moussa, ASECNA General Director.

Jasmin Hilleard, Director Communications
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