CGI supports commercial flight trials of Iris air traffic upgrade

01 July 2020 4 min. read
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International professional services firm CGI has been handed another new contract pertaining to space technology by client Inmarsat. Working with the European Space Agency, CGI will support the second phase of Inmarsat’s Iris air traffic modernisation programme.

Global professional services firm CGI specialises in IT and digital transformation; something which has seen it land a succession of major roles in the booming space sector. Due to its expertise when it comes to operating in the final frontier, for example, CGI was recently tasked to make up part of the UK’s new ‘national team in space’ – formed to seize development opportunities that new space technologies will offer, driving economic growth for the UK and diversification across the British space sector.

At the start of 2020, meanwhile, CGI landed a new contract with the European Space Agency(ESA), which asked the the firm work to develop a tool-kit for the organisation’s terrestrial and satellite networks. Ultimately, the work will enable telecom network operators to quickly and efficiently design and optimise 5G networks with the use of satellites. Now, CGI has won another contract with the ESA; this time to support an air traffic modernisation programme, on behalf of client Inmarsat.

CGI supports commercial flight trials of Iris air traffic upgrade

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.” 

The Iris air traffic modernisation programme is being developed to deliver powerful benefits to European aviation by enabling high bandwidth, cost-effective satellite-based data link 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. Satellite communications reduce the pressure on ground-based frequencies and Iris is also an important contributor to reducing the environmental impact of aviation and meeting CO2 emissions goals.

Antonio Garutti, Head of Telecommunication Systems Project Office at ESA, commented, “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. 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.”

CGI has been one of the main partners in the Iris Programme since its inception in 2014, and the firm 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 on Inmarsat’s satcom network. CGI will design the full operational capability, which includes developing the Iris system to support Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or drones. CGI will also support the design and system safety functions, and aid European trials, including flight tests across Europe to assess the service in a real operational environment.

Shaun Stretton, Vice President of Satcoms and Space Data Platforms at CGI, concluded, “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.”