MODE S: the art of radar

At the EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre (EEC), a team checks that the detection systems of aircraft – whether airborne or at Air Traffic Control level – are working properly. Its expertise is recognised worldwide.

The EEC’s Radar Surveillance Team verifies the proper operation of the systems on board aircraft and the optimal utilisation of the radio frequency bands used for communication purposes by airborne equipment and the secondary radar of ATC centres (1030 – 1090 Mhz). Any anomalies detected are reported to the transponder manufacturers, civil airlines and the military.

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World reference

However, because of the large range of possible cases and the differences in deployments on aircraft, detecting and determining the cause of such anomalies is a challenge. “We are a centre of expertise for the professionals of 41 States and the air operators flying in the airspace of those States. Just like the detectives in CSI: Miami, we identify the cause of a problem and lead the investigation to resolve that problem. Sheer adrenaline is what we live on day in, day out” says Philippe Brun, Head of the Anomalies Investigation Unit of the Radar Surveillance Team.

When a problem arises, the engineers try to find out whether it is an isolated malfunction or a design defect in a family of aircraft. If safety is affected, they immediately examine the aircraft concerned. “In other cases, our long-term work makes it possible to develop new tools which will ultimately be fitted in all aircraft. The Brétigny teams and laboratory have become world references in this area.” The EEC also has a highly effective facility for proactively detecting radar and transponder operating anomalies.

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Not just technical expertise

The Experimental Centre also works with standardisation bodies (ICAO*, EUROCAE**, RTCA***, etc.) to ensure the global interoperability of these systems. They are supported at national and regulatory level by a partnership with the European Aviation Safety Agency.

“Our expertise goes far beyond the technical sphere” says Philippe Brun. “We often need to be skilled negotiators in order to define and get buy-in for scenarios suitable for all players, manufacturers and airlines.”

In brief, the Radar Surveillance Team contributes to the effective and safe operation of its network of partners by using its globally recognised and highly valued experience.

MODE S: Whilst traditional Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) stations interrogate all aircraft within their range, Mode S (Select) establishes selective and addressed interrogations with aircraft within its coverage.

* ICAO: International Civil Aviation Organization
** EUROCAE: EURopean Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment
*** RTCA: Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics