CONTENT PREVIEW
ATC

Mature MLAT proves its worth

25 April 2019
Multilateration technologies provide detection and surveillance where conventional radar solutions cannot, primarily due to environmental or geographical limitations such as mountainous terrain (such as Namibia, pictured here). Source: ERA

Non-radar surveillance technologies are well established for civil and military airspace users

The rollout of surveillance technologies such as multilateration (MLAT) and wide-area multilateration (WAM) continues to expand across several regions.

MLAT could provide a key composite solution between traditional secondary radar and next-generation Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), as several countries pursue ambitious programmes to harmonise military and civilian airspace.

MLAT systems have been used for several decades with an initial focus on military applications. Companies including Czech Republic-based ERA pioneered the development and deployment of MLAT-based systems, modifying military-grade technology such as its VERA passive system – which can receive and process a range of radiofrequency signals from co-operative and non-co-operative platforms – to receive signals from commercial transponders.

“Our [commercial] system is a similar solution to the VERA passive radar, but receiving signals only at 1090 MHz,” said Vojtěch Pék, Product Manager at ERA. The company is known for its NEO solution, which can be deployed to provide ground surveillance as part of an Advanced-Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS).

Over the years the use of MLAT has steadily expanded to include terminal manoeuvering areas (TMA) and now broader regional expanses as part of WAM networks. The technology overcomes several disadvantages with monopulse secondary surveillance radars (MSSR) and primary surveillance radars (PSR), including costs associated with acquisition and maintenance and degraded performance due to adverse terrain and weather.

Using multiple ground stations strategically placed around an airport or geographical area, MLAT receivers ‘listen’ for signals from Mode A, C, and S transponders, as well as military identification friend or foe (IFF) interrogators and new-generation ADS-B transponders.

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