For the millions of people traveling by air each day, air traffic control and airspace management are not typically part of their journey – it is rarely considered beyond the control towers and flight centers that manage the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air. But those who work in air traffic management (ATM) know the complexities and challenges involved in ensuring the safe and efficient journeys of tens of millions of flights each year.
At L3Harris Technologies, air traffic management is personal. For three decades, L3Harris has been entrusted with the safety of the flying public whether through voice communications, telecommunications infrastructure, or real time precision situational awareness in the National Airspace (NAS). Jim Uhing, principal fellow at L3Harris, describes his 30-year tenure at the company: “What we do today directly impacts people; my work matters directly to people taking flights every day, like my wife and children.” L3Harris’ innovators, like Uhing, are advancing their approach as the demands of modern air traffic management require increasingly complex strategies to achieve the industry’s shared mission of safe and efficient travel.
Today’s air traffic management systems are facing a range of new vulnerabilities and challenges, including exposure to private and public operators and cybersecurity concerns. As international air space becomes more complex, including rising numbers of global air passengers, advanced network systems, and heightened cyber security risks have made transforming air traffic management ever more critical. Effective modernization – driven by technical innovation, public and private partnerships and shared security priorities – need to be implemented while simultaneously operating the NAS without disruption – akin to swapping out an aircraft engine while in flight. Only a balance of innovation and security can safely usher in the future of ATM systems that improve secure, efficient travel.
“We have to introduce new technologies at the speed of safety,” says Uhing. “There are many exciting technologies that have not been brought to bear in the air traffic domain because of safety critical needs." L3Harris has created an intelligent, yet resilient network leveraging IR&D investments centered on software-defined networking, enterprise information management and data analytics, machine learning, cloud computing, enterprise surveillance management and more.
Matching the Speed of Innovation with Safety
L3Harris’ leadership in air traffic management has informed the company’s pioneering approaches, guided by appropriate risk mitigation, transparent customer partnerships, and a mission-first perspective. L3Harris’ goal is to make the NAS even more efficient, while maintaining the resilience and security required for the safety of the traveling public. This balance and expertise shapes the company’s approach to modernization and innovation.
For example, L3Harris has been leveraging the latest machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to build systems that preemptively detect and alert operators of anomalies, risks, and vulnerabilities. Based on over a decade of of data, L3Harris can predict required maintenance before serious issues occur that could cause downtime or disruption to operations. This predictive technology enhances the timeliness of decisions and avoids costly delays that can quickly cascade across the NAS.
While L3Harris systems constantly and actively monitor and mitigate cyber issues, Uhing emphasizes that no modern system is 100% protected from cyber threats. Threats to critical networks, like denial of service by malicious actors, can cause surveillance and communication downtime that can significantly impact safety of flight. To defend against cyber threats, L3Harris uses a multi-tiered approach that leverages data intelligence and technologies, including Artificial Intelligence and software defined wide area networking, to monitor, detect, and prevent threats.
A balanced approach to modernization is key to ensuring new technologies are appropriately introduced and leveraged in the NAS without compromising safety. To Uhing, as technology becomes more complex, it only makes its deployment in air traffic management more challenging. “At L3Harris, we’re constantly identifying and researching the new and emerging complexities of modern aviation to deploy solutions that simplify yet increase resilience of air traffic management.”
Modernization Takes Flight
Technology advancements are constantly changing how organizations operate – aviation is no different. Safety is fundamental to the mission of the Federal Aviation Administration. However, the pace of technology evolution/innovation today requires industry focus on continuous development. With modernization essential to the future of the NAS, L3Harris is leveraging its historical leadership in ATM to drive the industry toward a shared goal of creating the safest yet most efficient airspace possible.
To Uhing and L3Harris, the shift toward air traffic management modernization is taking flight. L3Harris’ recent partnership with Airservices Australia illustrates how leaders are embracing this new reality and integrating enterprise-wide network communications, surveillance-broadcast tools, and software-defined networking. According to Uhing, L3Harris’ work with Airservices builds on L3Harris’ reputation and history in the industry defining and deploying the next-generation of ATM. The partnership with Airservices illustrates how “we partner to understand the challenge and work collaboratively with our customers to deploy a solution that balances innovation with the need for mission critical operations.”
By recognizing major modern challenges, partnering with organizations across the globe, and building systems specific to customers’ mission with the next generation of technology, L3Harris is achieving its objective: actualizing modernization that creates safer, more resilient air traffic management. With the strategic balance of risks and innovation, millions of flight passengers around the world are continuing to reach their destination – never having to think about air traffic management as L3Harris takes the wheel and steers the industry toward the future.