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Ensuring a Collision-free Flight

Ensuring a Collision-free Flight

The Client

The client is a US-based tier-one supplier providing services to the commercial airline industry, with 19,000 employees, and a global service and support network that spans across 27 countries.

Running into Bad Weather...

The number of air transport movements at airports worldwide has been increasing at a constant rate. Moreover, a move away from ‘hub and spoke’ operations to ‘point to point’ services is prompting more operators (and their smaller franchise partners) to increasingly seek direct routing. This has resulted in increasing numbers of public transport flights being flown either partly or wholly outside controlled airspace. Although public transport flights in uncontrolled airspace are not a new phenomenon, the probability of such flights experiencing a mid-air collision will rise as the number of operations outside controlled airspace increases, unless further measures are taken to mitigate the risk.

One of the mission critical systems that the client is seeking help on is the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) or Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS). The client wants to develop the TCAS for one of its major aircrafts using an entirely new architecture which would make the system easily maintainable and more efficient.

The TCAS is a computerized avionics device designed to reduce the danger of mid-air collisions between aircraft. It monitors the airspace around an aircraft, independent of air traffic control, and warns pilots of an aircraft’s presence which may pose as a threat of mid-air collision. Implementation of the TCAS is mandated by International Civil Aviation Organization to be fitted to all aircraft over 5700 kg or to aircraft that are authorized to carry more than 19 passengers.

Ensuring a Smooth Glide...

Considering the complexity of the logic involved in the TCAS, HCL started looking at the client’s system to get hands-on experience with the problems like usage of Integrity RTOS, multi-partition management, and development of the TCAS using the objectbased approach in C++. Other challenges include:

  • Complete automation of testing of the CAS system
  • Complex calculations of the aircraft movements
  • Development of an advanced Graphical User Interface

The engagement started off with re-engineering and testing the logic that was used to run the TCAS. A simulation study was done simultaneously to test the system for different scenarios that may occur in real time. The TCAS was fitted with a user interface to keep the pilot updated on the status of other aircrafts that would be in the vicinity and that might turn into potential threats if not noticed. As soon as the system found an aircraft which was a potential threat, it would start giving the pilot advice using visual or oral alerts.

Stability Returns...

The CAS logic and the CAS simulator that were developed simultaneously helped in avoiding the repetitive and cyclical software development arising due to technical risks involved. HCL provided the record and replay facility including a client-server based model facilitating Ethernet connectivity to users. It also executed multiple tests at the same time to reduce the regression time drastically. The quality of the delivery was top notch and also exceeded the client’s expectations by completing the six-month assignment in three months.

Looking Ahead...

The relationship, which commenced in the early 2000s with a verification and validation project, has grown substantially in size and strategic relevance since then. The TCAS is just one of the many projects that have been delivered to the client. HCL has worked with the client at various levels of criticality of DO178B/ DO254 and has executed 120 plus projects for the client.

Taking the relationship to the next level, the client in 2007 announced a strategic agreement with HCL, which would see the delivery of high-value services in software and hardware development, as well as in mechanical engineering for product lifecycle development. About 300 HCL engineers and experts would be dedicated for the client’s offshore design and development centers in Chennai and Bangalore.

The new design center will provide an additional and flexible global talent pool to develop the advance smart communications and aviation electronic solutions for its worldwide customer base. Also, a center in Asia would surely help to increase its presence, visibility and access to customers in that region of the globe.


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