Cambridge Consultants, commissioned by long-standing client Northrop Grumman, developed a new generation of the air traffic control radio system Park Air T6, which is used to manage air traffic around the globe. The new system is smaller, lighter and greener, and above all performs better.
Northrop Grumman is an American aerospace and defence technology company that was established in 1994 when Northrop Corporation (founded in 1939) purchased producer of military and civilian aircraft Grumman (founded 1929). The company provides, among others, innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems and cyber security and logistics to its clients worldwide. One of Northrop Grumman’s products is the air traffic control radio system: Park Air T6, which is used to manage the movement of aircraft in the majority of the world’s airspace.
For Northrop Grumman it continues to be important to differentiate itself from its competitors, for which the Park Air T6 system needed a complete make-over. It needed to be “half the size of its predecessor, less than half the weight, more power efficient – and still deliver significant performance improvements.” With the aim of revamping the Park Air T6, and creating a ‘wow’ effect, Northrop Grumman asked its long-term partner product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants to redevelop the system. “Make it smaller, lighter, lower power – and don’t forget the performance improvement.”
“We started by exploring the ‘art of the possible’ in air traffic radio design with the Park Air T6 engineering team,” explains Richard Davies, Professional Radio Technology Director at Cambridge Consultants, about the design phase. “With some experimentation and modelling, preferred architecture options were identified. We then planned a rapid prototype development to de-risk the design – resulting in a jointly developed ‘works-like’ prototype to show performance.”
As Northrop Grumman not only wanted a better and greener system, but also one that is smaller, the next step in the process was “fitting the technology into a small package that would be easy to manufacture and enhance the Park Air T6 reputation for high reliability and high performance,” says Davies.
Commenting on the end result, Neil Upton, Technical Director at Northrop Grumman Park Air Systems, says: “We are very proud of what the collective team has achieved – it has definitely exceeded expectations. The secret of success in our long relationship with Cambridge Consultants is the way we work together. It’s a collaboration in which we are able to gain experience and knowledge – and benefit from technology transfer from other industry sectors. That has always worked fantastically well for us.”