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Roke Partners with Technology Strategy Board for UK’s Future Air Traffic Management Strategy

Roke Manor Research Ltd (Roke), a Chemring Group company, Thales and NATS, have been selected to support the Technology Strategy Board's Highly Innovative Technology Enablers for Aerospace (HITEA) programme to help build the UK's future air traffic management (ATM) surveillance strategy.

The 24-month programme is a demonstration of the suitability of a new type of air traffic control radar, Multi-Static Primary Surveillance Radar (MSPSR) as a replacement for traditional, costly Primary Surveillance Radars (PSR). Rather than relying on a dedicated transmitter to locate aircraft, MSPSR uses existing digital broadcast signals, thus freeing up valuable spectrum for other uses, such as current and future mobile phone technology.

Another key advantage of MSPSR is its resilience to interference caused by wind turbines, which can lead to an improvement of air traffic surveillance performance in the areas where large wind turbines are being deployed. Introduction of MSPSR thus offers the promise of simultaneously contributing to the safety of air travel whilst helping the government to achieve its renewable energy strategy goals.

The superior surveillance performance of MSPSR is based on highly advanced multilateration technology, where the location of aircraft is derived from the time of arrival of the broadcast signal reflected from the aircraft and measured at multiple receiver locations on the ground.

Roke has proven expertise in multilateration surveillance technologies - Vigilance™, our Wide Area Multilateration secondary surveillance system, is already in operation across Europe. Roke will use this experience to support NATS in the development of the MSPSR system requirements, assessment of the system design and in an independent verification and validation of the MSPSR system performance.

Simon Atkinson, Business Sector Manager, Air Transport for Roke, said:

"Many air navigation service providers are hoping that MSPSR is a cost-saving alternative to replace the expensive primary surveillance radar systems currently being used. Furthermore, as there is an increasing demand for the use of the electromagnetic spectrum, the current frequency allocations for PSR are coming under threat. MSPSR could be the answer to freeing up valuable spectrum and herald the first major revolution in radar since its use by the British during World War Two.

The Technology Strategy's Board's decision to appoint Roke, teamed with Thales and NATS, is testament to our continual commitment to develop the most innovative technologies while delivering excellent customer service. Our two partners share this ethos and we look forward to working with them to deliver an effective new approach to the way that air traffic is managed in the future."


Related information

  • Vigilance - Wide Area Multilateration System