The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will investigate the feasibility of reducing aviation’s reliance on bandwidth reserved for air traffic control radar without adversely impacting safety.
The UK government is planning to release a proportion of public sector spectrum by 2020 for commercial use, such as for mobile broadband, and has tasked the CAA with assessing the feasibility of releasing 100MHz of the 2.7GHz–2.9GHz band currently being used for civil and military primary surveillance radars.
The research is being funded by the Department for Transport, and will analyze ways of improving the efficiency with which radars currently use the 2.7-2.9GHz band and whether emerging surveillance technologies could reduce aviation’s reliance on this spectrum in the future.
CAA Safety and Airspace Regulation Group director Mark Swan said: “This program provides us with an opportunity to evaluate new surveillance technology and identify whether wider benefits, in terms of reduced costs and improved performance of surveillance capabilities, could be delivered while meeting the government's spectrum release aspirations.”
If the project confirms that use of the 2.7-2.9GHz band by aviation radars can be reduced, the CAA will then need to assess the potential impact of introducing commercial communications services into the band. This assessment will address compatibility issues with radars operated by civil air traffic control providers, military aviation and naval forces, civil maritime stakeholders and, potentially in the future, the Met Office.
The CAA said some early packages of feasibility validation work with industry have now begun. Industry and operational consultation groups will be established to facilitate the exchange of information on progress with stakeholders.