North Sea Helicopter Traffic Safety Improves with Sensis Wide Area Multilateration

North Sea Helicopter Traffic Safety Improves with Sensis Wide Area Multilateration

10-Mar-2010 Source: Sensis

NATS Services is now using Sensis Corporation’s Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) system in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland for helicopter flight following. Air traffic controllers are using the WAM surveillance information as a supplement to established procedural flight rules until the WAM system completes testing and regulatory approval for flight information services later this year.

There are more than 25,000 helicopter flights carrying a half million passengers each year between Aberdeen Airport and the oil and gas operations in the North Sea. Low-level radar coverage only extends 80 miles off the shore, forcing controllers to rely on pilot’s positional radio updates provided every 10 minutes. In addition, established in-bound and out-bound flight paths are, in many cases, not the most efficient routes due to the lack of surveillance. To improve safety and efficiency, NATS Services required a solution that provided high accuracy surveillance that was compatible with future technologies such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B). NATS Services selected Sensis WAM to cover 25,000 square miles of the North Sea with multilateration sensors placed on 16 oil platforms. One of the platforms is floating, making the development of the solution more challenging.

“Flight safety in the North Sea is of the highest importance to NATS Services and, to enhance it further we needed a proven surveillance solution,” said John Mayhew, NATS Services’ General Manager at Aberdeen. “With Sensis WAM, controllers have radar-like surveillance to accurately monitor and identify helicopters, in many cases all the way to the flight deck on the oil platform.”

Sensis WAM uses multiple low-maintenance, non-rotating sensors to triangulate aircraft and helicopter locations based on transponder signals to provide air traffic controllers with precise aircraft position and identification information regardless of weather conditions. With a higher update rate and greater positional accuracy than traditional radar, Sensis multilateration provides effective surveillance for increased safety, capacity and efficiency of airspace. With its advanced processing techniques, a Sensis multilateration system uses the minimal number of sensors for a less complex, lower lifecycle cost solution. Additionally, each multilateration sensor deployed by Sensis supports ADS-B.

“Sensis WAM addresses NATS Services’ need for a highly accurate, reliable surveillance system that has the flexibility to use ADS-B, Mode S or Mode A/C signals,” said John Jarrell, vice president and general manager of Sensis Air Traffic Systems. “In addition, the robust system has the ability to process data from fixed and non-fixed sensors — which is important as one of the platforms experiences positional changes of up to 100 meters.”

Sensis is providing solutions to a number of WAM surveillance applications around the world, including precision runway monitoring (Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport, Michigan; and Sydney Airport, Australia); terminal area surveillance (Innsbruck Airport, Austria; Vancouver Harbor and Fort St. John, Canada; Sydney Airport, Australia; King Abdulaziz International Airport and King Fahad International Airport, Saudi Arabia; Juneau, Alaska, and Colorado); special use airspace (29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, California; U.S. Navy Patuxent River Naval Air Station,Maryland; and U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona); and en route surveillance (Tasmania, Australia).


Sensis Corporation provides sensors, information technology, and simulation and modeling to the world’s air navigation service providers, civil aviation authorities, airports, airlines and militaries. Sensis Corporation solutions are deployed around the world. For more information regarding Sensis Corporation, visit


NATS handled 2.2 million flights in 2009, covering the UK and eastern North Atlantic and carried more than 200 million passengers safely through some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world. NATS provides air traffic control from its centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Ayrshire. NATS Services is the commercial business of NATS and provides air traffic control services at 15 UK airports including Aberdeen, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton,Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow and provides a range of other air traffic control services, engineering, consultancy, aviation data and ATC training services to customers in the UK and overseas. In addition to the provision of ATC services to Aberdeen Airport, NATS provides specialised services to the helicopters supporting the UK oil and gas industry along the length of the east coast, from East Anglia in the south to beyond the Shetland Islands in the north. For more information, visit

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