Voice communications for the future
The Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) is the first in Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC) to use the New-generation Voice Communication System, N-VCS.
Built by Frequentis, it is, they say, the fastest VCS on the market, with the ability to share workloads and management responsibilities.
MUAC N-VCS Project Manager, Tom Goossenaerts, explains: “We need a technology that will put us in a comfortable position for the system’s lifetime – 20 years or more. We had the foresight to select internet protocol (IP) a decade ago and we now have the foundation for integrating VCS into the complete ATM environment with minimum adaptation.
“The industry is rapidly moving away from an environment based on classical point-to-point digital connections to a network-centric infrastructure, favouring IP-based services. We anticipated this from the beginning and have oriented our system requirements accordingly.”
MUAC’s controllers like the new features of the Frequentis VCS 3020X. For instance, sector handovers involving frequency changes are now done with a dedicated role-allocation tool, which automatically assigns the correct set of frequencies to the designated controller.
“The N-VCS also allows you to make a voice connection with an adjacent centre by using the mouse to make inputs on the screen,” says Ivan Pelegrin Morales, who has worked with the N-VCS from the outset.
The system is connected to MUAC’s radio direction finder system where it helps with situation awareness by determining which aircraft is calling and then displaying this on screen. More features that can be accessed via the screen will be added later to improve safety and ease controller workload.
The N-VCS uses Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) whereby the voice signal is digitised and divided into IP packages which travel over two separate networks to ensure security and coverage. The switch is also backwards compatible to support the traditional point-to-point connections still found in legacy systems.
“In a network-oriented environment,” points out Goossenaerts, “if you take out one node, the intelligence itself remains in the network so the data stream can be redirected to another position with the same capabilities. This means that one air navigation service provider could handle aircraft crossing another’s airspace, possibly at night when traffic levels are low or in contingency situations.”
In addition to its 100 controller positions, MUAC also has 30 standby positions, all equipped with N-CVS.
“If another centre had a calamity, we could host controllers here, provided that they had access to radio resources over the same network and if the adjacent centres could be contacted for coordination,” declared Goossenaerts.
Read more about MUAC’s new voice communication system in our Skyway article.