The purpose of the NASA Glenn Research Center Weather Information Communications (WINCOMM) project was to develop advanced communications and information technologies to enable the high-quality and timely dissemination of strategic weather information between the flight deck and ground users as well as tactical turbulence hazard information between relevant aircraft and to the ground.
The WINCOMM element successfully developed a knowledge base and technologies to a mature technology readiness level (TRL) 6 and validated them in a relevant system environment. When implemented in the National Airspace System (NAS), WINCOMM will be part of the Aviation Safety and Security Project and will contribute to the national goal of reducing the fatal aviation accident rate 80 percent by year 2007. WINCOMM data links had not been implemented in the NAS as of the year 2005. NASA Glenn and the WINCOMM Project encourage government, industry, and academia to develop the knowledge base and technologies from TRL 6 to 9 and implement them in the NAS.
A. First-Generation Weather Information Communications Aviation Data Link Development
First-generation WINCOMM weather information systems developed from 1999 to 2002 contain ground-to-air weather-only data links that are commercially available today. These weather data links provide current and near-term technologies to general aviation and regional aircraft that focus on system solutions. These technologies can be implemented over private networks.
- ViGYAN Satellite Broadcast Network proved that graphical weather can be delivered to general aviation and regional aircraft over satellite.
- ARNAV and NavRadio developed the first national network that broadcast textual and graphical weather products and information to general aviation and regional aircraft.
- NASA Glenn WINCOMM and NASA Langley AWIN programs collaborated in a flight test and evaluation of a worldwide weather data link capability proving that real-time updated textual and graphical weather information using S–DARS can be delivered to general aviation and regional aircraft over satellites.
- NASA Glenn and Langley proved and demonstrated that off-the-shelf communication equipment can be used to send weather data via a GTE Airfone to laptop computers for the display of graphical weather pictures in the cockpit. This system is commonly referred to as the EFB (electronic flight bag).
Each of these systems provides more weather information to the cockpit, which increases the pilot’s situational awareness and eventually decreases aircraft accidents.
B. Second-Generation Weather Information Communications Aviation Data Link Development
Second-generation system studies were performed for commercial transport aircraft as well as general aviation and regional aircraft. These studies indicated that weather not only was an aviation safety issue, but also had a negative impact on mobility. Weather is the number one source of flight delays in the United States. WINCOMM was tasked with generating technology to enable a safer, more secure, efficient, and environmentally friendly air transportation system that would move people and goods faster and farther with fewer delays.
Existing 2003 technology was not suitable for handling the size of weather data with the desired transmittal speed. WINCOMM successfully simulated, modeled, and developed aviation communication links that addressed the more stringent design requirements needed for the communication of weather information, including connectivity (ground-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-air), signal latency (<1 min), and bandwidth (>31.5 kbps) while costing less than the currently utilized product (<$17,000).
From April to June 2005, this technology was validated with flight demonstrations and actually achieved data rates that were 20 to 100 times greater than that which was operational in the 2005 NAS. As a result, this new communication approach provided higher quality and a more timely delivery of strategic digital weather advisory information. Data on turbulence, icing, and other adverse conditions are now shared with the pilot, air traffic controllers, and dispatchers resulting in a more robust en route system with the objective to optimize mobility for general aviation, regional, and commercial transport aircraft.
III. Reports & References
- Weather Accident Prevention Project
- Weather Information Communication Technologies for Increased Safety and Mobility in the National Airspace System, Don Hilderman, NASA GRC, NASA Technical Memorandum, TM-2006-214048 (PDF, 3.6 MB)
- NASA Glenn Success Stories – New Technologies for Weather Information Communication (WINCOMM) (PDF, 705 KB)
- New Technologies for Weather Information Communication Benefiting Airspace Mobility, Capacity and Flight Safety (PDF, 1.0 MB)