The cockpit of an aircraft is a major location for avionic equipment, including control, monitoring, communication, navigation, weather, and anti-collision systems.

 Avionics plays a keyrole in modernisation initiatives like the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiative in Europe. The modernisation of the air transportation system relies on a series of key developments affecting both the air traffic infrastructure and the aircraft systems.

Significant technology advancements in satellite-based navigation, automatic dependent surveillance, and data link communication are being developed. Initial operational improvements will be based on the aircraft capabilities that are already deployed in some aircraft, to provide initial growth in capacity without delay in implementation.

Additional changes will be required for net-centric access to better weather forecasts, traffic predictions, and the status of supporting infrastructure to improve 4D trajectory planning.

Enhanced flight-vision systems will improve flight-crew awareness and provide airport access in low-visibility conditions with reduced supporting infrastructure. The need for additional parameters to be extracted from aircraft avionics will continue. The download of aircraft derived data supported by enhanced surveillance has the potential to enable improved ATM ground applications (such as better trajectory prediction and conformance monitoring tools).

Advanced functionalities on the aircraft to be added in the future or which are already in place make the aircraft a full partner with ground systems in supporting new and more beneficial operations.

Avionics and navigation

Avionics can use satellite-based systems (GNSS), ground-based systems (such as ILS and VOR), or any combination thereof. New capabilities will include improvements in navigation to extend performance-based time requirements throughout the aircraft’s planned trajectory and integration of a two-way data link capability with the navigation systems to request and update  4D trajectory clearances.

Airborne technological changes are also drawing navigation closer together with communications and surveillance. Nowadays, pilots can monitor navigation data (flight planned route) with superimposed Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) data on one Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) display and toggle between radio communication channels and navigation function selections on a single control device.

In terms of navigation, the following avionics-related systems can be considered:

Area navigation systems (RNAV) that uses a method of navigation which permits aircraft operation on any desired flight path within the coverage of referenced navigation aids or within the limits of the capability of self-contained aids, or a combination of these (en-route, terminal and approach navigation)

Navigation sensors that enable aircraft to determine either the correct path to a known point, or their current position, velocity and time (PVT) in order to be used by a navigation computer to calculate the required path to any point. Some civil aircraft also make use of Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) which can be very accurate over short distances but drift with time. It is likely that INS will be more closely integrated into the PVT solution and hence improve the overall integrity of the positioning data.

Landing systems that will provide aircraft with a precision approach capability. There are three principle Precision Approach landing systems:  ILS (Instrument Landing System), MLS (Microwave landing System) and GLS (GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite System) Landing System. All three systems may be implemented in a Multi-Mode Receiver (MMR) on board the aircraft.

EUROCONTROL activities

Avionics are being addressed in EUROCONTROL activities in the context of SESAR work package 9.49: Global Interoperability - Airborne Architecture and Avionics Interoperability Roadmap.

The main objectives of project 9.49 are to develop a consolidated functional airborne architecture and an avionics interoperability roadmap. The consolidated functional airborne architecture will mainly build on the results from other different SESAR projects, thus validating them as part of an overall coherent approach.

The Avionics Interoperability Roadmap will also build on an Interoperability Risk Report considering in particular other ATM modernisation programmes (e.g. US NextGen) and will be an input for potential updates to the Standardisation Roadmap.