CGI to support Inmarsat and ESA’s Iris flight trials

23 June 2020: Inmarsat has awarded CGI a contract to support the second phase of its Iris air traffic modernisation programme with the European Space Agency (ESA), which includes important flight trials across Europe to assess the ground-breaking service in a real operational environment.

Iris is being developed to deliver powerful benefits to European aviation by enabling high bandwidth, cost-effective satellite-based datalink communications across Europe. The programme contributes to the delivery of the ‘Single European Sky’ (SESAR), which focuses on modernising air traffic management and air navigation efficiency.

Iris is also an important contributor to reducing the environmental impact of aviation and meeting CO2 emissions goals by delivering more efficient, direct flight paths to save time and fuel. Its 4D trajectory air traffic management also alleviates pressure on ground based frequencies.

Operational capability

Approximately 20 commercial aircraft will commence the second phase trial once normal traffic levels start to resume. CGI will continue to support the specialised security gateway developed as part of its first phase contract and further enhance routing between existing radio communications and Iris technology operating over our satellite network.

CGI will also design and develop the full operational capability of Iris to support Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or drones and system safety functions.

Antonio Garutti, Head of Telecommunication Systems Project Office at ESA, said: “Iris is making great progress towards deployment maturity, which in turn will move us closer to commercial availability. ESA is very proud to continuously contribute to the evolution of this process and to the digitalisation of our skies, which we hope will lead to a greener environment, a better passenger experience, and a more competitive European economy.

Key milestone

“This is only possible thanks to the contribution of important industrial partners, like CGI and Inmarsat, who are demonstrating continuous effort and valuable competencies, making Iris one of the most prominent datalink solutions for the future of aviation.”

Jerome Soumagne, Vice President of Networks at Inmarsat, said: “Flying the Iris technology marks a key milestone for this important programme and brings us closer to the realisation of modernised air traffic management across Europe. We are pleased to partner with key technology providers such as CGI to deliver this ground-breaking, secure and reliable data link, which will enable more efficient and environmentally friendly flights.”

Emily Gravestock, Head of Applications Strategy at the UK Space Agency, said: “Iris is a great example of the potential for satellite applications to bring real benefits to industry and people’s lives, by cutting carbon emissions and modernising air traffic management. The UK is the leading investor in ESA’s telecommunications and applications programme, which supports our growing space sector and world-class companies like CGI and Inmarsat.”

Aircraft communications

Shaun Stretton, Vice President of Satcoms and Space Data Platforms at CGI, said: “This is a significant step for the Iris programme towards transforming aircraft communications across Europe. We have a long history of developing secure and safety-critical software systems for satellite communications and are delighted to support Inmarsat and the European Space Agency as we move towards operational flight trials.”

CGI has been one of the main partners in the Iris Programme since its inception in 2014 and was selected to develop key Iris safety and security features that are required for future European air traffic management communications.

CGI has developed ground-based gateways that will enable SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S), the platform for Iris, to interface with the European ATM Network and incorporate security measures to protect the over-the-air communications link from cyber-attack.