Aircraft Collision Avoidance Systems: A lifesaver in the Mid-Air

2 min read

Earlier, there were a fewer mid-air aircraft collisions due to the fact that there were very less number of aircraft in those days. However, as years passed, air traffic grew by leaps and bounds, which led to mid-air aircraft collisions. In 1956, a midair collision above the Grand Canyon of Colorado resulted in 128 deaths. It was the worst commercial air disaster that had happened until then. The collision raised a havoc, created much buzz, and finally led to the establishment of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1958. Once FAA was established, it led to major improvements in air traffic control and airborne travel safety. Measures are taken to keep the aircraft separated while they are in cruise. Stringent rules are being brought into practice, and sophisticated control systems are being incorporated into the aircraft.

Although there are many types of collision avoidance systems, there were three generations in the onboard collision avoidance system that were prominent over the decades. Earlier, there were radar systems, then there were Beacon Collision Avoidance System (BCAS), and then came the Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) and the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), which is an implementation of the ACAS. The TCAS has been very successful in preventing midair collisions over the years, the only problem being the way in which the logic was designed. In cases of collisions, the recorded data from the radar systems showed that the pilots do not always behave as assumed by the logic in the system. An instance where this happened was in 2002, when two aircraft collided over Überlingen, Germany. TCAS instructed one aircraft to climb, but the pilot descended in accordance with the air traffic controller’s instructions. This lead to a collision with another aircraft whose pilot was following the TCAS that instructed it to descend.

Currently, TCAS II has been in operation since many years and has minimized the chances of mid-air collisions on numerous occasions. However, considering the disadvantages of TCAS II and realizing the necessity to minimize the disadvantages of TCAS, the ACAS X was introduced. The ACAS X program has been funded by the Federal Aviation Administration since 2008 and developed jointly by the FAA and teams from the Johns Hopkins Lab and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Lab. The ACAS X program is expected to bring major enhancements to both surveillance and the advisory logic. The system boasts of a surveillance architecture that supports surveillance based on global positioning system (GPS) data and accommodates new sensor modalities that include radar and electro-optical sensors that are especially important for unmanned platforms. The new surveillance capabilities will also enable collision avoidance protection for new user classes, which include small, general-aviation aircraft that are not currently equipped with TCAS.

There are variants in ACAS X, which are under consideration, like the ACAS XA, ACAS XO, ACAS XU, and ACAS XP. With ACAS X, advantages, like the reduction of unnecessary safety alarms, enhanced adaptability to future collision avoidance concepts, incorporation of new surveillance environments, enhancement of safety with minimal chances in existing equipment, are provided. Such developments in collision avoidance systems are likely to attract airline operators and aircraft OEMs to incorporate such systems in the newer generation aircraft.

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About the Market

The Commercial Aircraft Collision Avoidance System Market is expected to register a CAGR of around 5.5%, during the forecast period. Increase in air traffic and implementation of stringent safety regulations for the airliners and aircraft OEMs are huge drivers for the market.

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Mordor Intelligence is a market intelligence and advisory firm operating in 14 industry segments, serving over 600 clients, worldwide.

Harsha Harshavardhan Dabbiru is currently working as a research associate at Mordor Intelligence LLP, in the field of Aerospace and Defense. He has completed his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and has done various projects in aerospace during the course.
Harsha Harshavardhan Dabbiru is currently working as a research associate at Mordor Intelligence LLP, in the field of Aerospace and Defense. He has completed his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and has done various projects in aerospace during the course.  

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