An Aeronautical Surveillance System is defined in ICAO Document No 9924 as a system that "provides the aircraft position and other related information to ATM and/or airborne users”. This means that the system provides users with knowledge of "who" is "where" and "when".

The simplicity of the definition masks a range of complexities which include:

  • Interoperability: ensuring that the performance and interfaces between all the components in the chain, from the avionics through to the displays, operate as required with each other – not just with European systems but globally. Interfacing with non-ATM components is also essential to avoid interference from and to other systems, such as mobile telephones;
  • Performance: ensuring that the performance achieved by the various components, often in demanding operational environments, is sufficient to allow air traffic controllers to safely separate aircraft;
  • Efficiency: ensuring that the essential tasks are carried out with an efficient use of valuable Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum. Cost has to be reduced, too, by developing alternative techniques which meet or exceed the requirements at a lower through-life cost. It is also important to extend surveillance in volumes of airspace in which surveillance was not previously viable.

EUROCONTROL is committed to supporting all stakeholders in ensuring that these complexities are addressed and that aeronautical surveillance, a cornerstone in every Air Traffic Management system, remains fit for purpose, both today and in the future.

Support to operators in the context of the EU regulation on aircraft tracking 

We produce ATC surveillance charts to support flights operating within the European area to determine whether an airspace block is covered by ATC surveillance means capable of locating the aircraft at time intervals not exceeding 15 minutes.

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EUROCONTROL’s surveillance activities

The Surveillance and Code Coordination (SCC) Unit, the focal point of EUROCONTROL’s surveillance activities, belongs to the Directorate of Network Management.

The SCC ensures that the necessary surveillance functionality at the required level of performance is available. It is structured in this way:

  • Regional Monitoring Agency (RMA) was established in 2003 by EUROCONTROL’s Provisional Council, at the request of the European Air Navigation Planning Group (EANPG), to provide safety oversight of European Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) airspace. It monitors generic and individual aircraft height-keeping performance. It verifies the approval status of aircraft flying in airspace designated as RVSM and conducts an annual safety evaluation, submitting results to the EANPG;
  • Mode S Interrogator Code Allocation (MICA) service ensures that Mode S Secondary Surveillance Radars are correctly allocated and configured with an Interrogator Code (IC);
  • Radio frequency management mitigates the network impact of the limited aeronautical radio spectrum;
  • Surveillance Modernisation and Support (SMS) are key roles which includes supporting the performance-based modernisation and rationalisation of European ATM Network Surveillance. Activities cover both ground surveillance - such as ADS-B, (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) and WAM (Wide Area Multilateration) - as well as airborne surveillance applications. We support short-term implementation as well as longer-term SESAR projects.

The SCC also works closely with EUROCONTROL’s Support Services to maintain and develop support tools (such as Surveillance Analysis Support System for ATC Centres, SASS-C) as well as data distribution (Surveillance Data Distribution System, SDDS) and multi-sensor trackers (ATM Surveillance Tracker and Server System, ARTAS) products. Data formats such as the All-purpose Structured EUROCONTROL Surveillance Information Exchange (ASTERIX) are key to ensuring interoperability.