in Technology / Features

Hi-tech way to keep Africa’s skies safe

Posted 5 January 2021 · Add Comment

The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) is an air traffic control organisation based in Dakar, Senegal. It came into being more than 60 years ago and manages 16.1 million square kilometres of airspace. Vincent Chappard met the organisation’s director general, Mohamed Moussa.

ASECNA is fully committed to making the skies over Africa as safe as possible – and using the latest technology to do it.

It is currently working with Thales Alenia Space (TAS) to provide satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) services to the African continent and the Indian Ocean to strengthen navigation operations and optimise trajectories, reduce the risk of accidents during landings, and improve accessibility of airports.

From 2022, these services will make it possible to increase the positioning performance provided by the navigation constellations of satellites such as GPS or Galileo.

TAS and ASECNA have been cooperating for 10 years. In 2019, they signed a contract to carry out the preliminary architectural definition study (phase B) of the SBAS programme. It will be spread over a period of 18 months, during which time associated airlines will be able to test the pre-operational service.

“Our main focus will be to continue strengthening our services to improve flight safety and efficiency in terms of fuel consumption and reduction of CO2 emissions,” said Moussa.

The main enablers are automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) – a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked –¬ and SBAS. These are now being applied throughout the ASECNA area.

By 2023, Moussa also wants to implement free route airspace (FRA), which will gradually free itself from fixed air traffic service (ATS) routes – the usually designated route for channelling the flow of traffic. This, he believes, will offer the best trajectories to users of the ASECNA space and will enhance the safety of navigation and surveillance operations during all phases of flight.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is already allowing ‘pre-operational’ technical tests and field demonstrations of the system for aircraft and helicopters. The first operational services are expected from 2024.

A study recently conducted by ASECNA has shown that the use of these services by airlines in the sub-Saharan airspace over the period 2025-2045 will generate an updated global net profit of more than 600 million dollars and will allow a reduction of more than 8 million tonnes of CO2.

Moussa will drive these projects during his second four-year mandate at the head of ASECNA.


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