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Teaser, summary, work performed and final results

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PALADIN (Plasma Antenna for secure LAnDIng and Navigation)


Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have several mission critical applications, and they are the backbone of the global air traffic system. Most of air traffic now relies upon navigation systems on board aircraft during cruise with support from Ground Based Augmentation...


Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have several mission critical applications, and they are the backbone of the global air traffic system. Most of air traffic now relies upon navigation systems on board aircraft during cruise with support from Ground Based Augmentation Systems (GBAS) during the landing phases, whereas civilian and military drones rely entirely upon GNSS signals for guidance and navigation. These systems, also referred to as GLS (GBAS Landing Systems) are currently replacing the previous Instrument Landing System (ILS) in airports worldwide.
Since the navigation signals comes from satellites at very high altitude, GNSS relies on very weak signals that are extremely vulnerable, not only due to natural interference. They are also vulnerable to spoofing and jamming attacks which are defined as the deliberate or accidental transmission of radio signals that interfere with regular communications.
In fact, vulnerability to radio interference and multipath is a well-known drawback of satellite-based navigation systems. This is widely accepted as a critical issue for safety critical applications such as precision approach operations in aviation. Interference and multipath signals initially enter the navigation receiver through the antenna which, in order to minimize such signals, can be used as a spatial- and frequency-domain filter provided that selected critical antenna parameters are controlled.
PALADIN addresses the above threats by proposing an innovative gaseous Smart Plasma Antenna (SPA) for GNSS-based location estimation which is jamming and spoofing resistant. The SPA uses directional multi-lobes to simultaneously, track up to 4 satellites (potentially extendible to 12). The SPA will also provide wide-angle scanning and be electronically reconfigurable. The SPA is to be mounted on board aircraft or UAV wings, as well as at the airport site replacing GBAS reference antennas on ground. These features provide for secure GNSS aircraft navigation in all phases of flight: en-route, terminal/initial-approach and surface navigation operations.

The SME Instrument phase 1 PALADIN project has the following high-level objectives:
1) Assessment of technology feasibility and the preliminary design of the PALADIN plasma antenna;
2) Analysis of main issues related to the industrialization process;
3) Economic feasibility analysis.

Work performed

The work performed in the frame of the SME Instrument phase 1 is summarized below:

A. A technical feasibility analysis has been carried out on the following points:
• Definition and assessment of the electromagnetic properties of a single plasma element including laboratory test;
• Tuning of the existing simulation code (ADAMANT software developed under FP7 GA 218862) to analyze the electromagnetic properties derived from the combination of more plasma elements and execution of simulation runs with different parameters;
• The above results have been used to simulate a phase array antenna of 4x9 plasma elements and assess its performance with specific regard to resilience against jamming and other interference.
B. Analysis of the industrialization process has been carried out by focusing on:
• Initial design of the plasma antenna and trade-off of different manufacturing technologies;
• Analysis of alternative technologies and their current status and perspective addressing the same technology area;
• Analysis of technical and legal limitations derived by the avionic environment and need for equipment certification;
• Definition of the main technical aspect to address in phase 2 in order to define a suitable product for the avionics market.
C. Finally the economic feasibility has been carried out focusing on the initially identified target markets of civil and military aviation covering both aircraft, including UAVs and airports. In detail the activities have been focused on:
• Market analysis segments: GBAS, global aviation market and Military & UAV markets.
• Identification of potential customers, stakeholders and competitors and analysis of major forces acting on the selected target markets;
• Analysis of the potential for accessing the target market represented by means of SWOT diagram;
• Preliminary analysis on product costs and envisaged pricing policy;
• Definition of the market approach based on licensing;
• Production of an initial forecast for sales and revenues;
• Definition of a plan for phase 2 and phase 3 approach.

The PALADIN main achievements so far can be summarized in the following:
 The PALADIN concept has been technically assessed and considered viable although some technical problems related to the industrialization need further investigation. The concept has been verified in laboratory for a single element and simulated for the whole antenna with very encouraging results.
 A preliminary economic viability study shows the market is significant and forecast numbers sustain and justify the selected business model based on a licensing approach. The financial viability is also explored with regard the benefits of improved security and safety of the civil aviation providing improved performance and unique characteristic of resilience against interference.
 The analysis carried out in phase 1 shows that the continuation of the project for phase 2 and 3 is linked to the need of acquiring an experienced partner already positioned in the reference market. This is due to the need of the certification and level of investment required by the highly regulated, aviation market. As part of the activities carried out in phase 1 several contacts have been made to involve suitable partners for phase 2 activities.
 The PALADIN project overall schedule has been included in the report highlighting the roadmap to be completed in order to get PALADIN into service and for the business to achieve sustainable revenues. Specialist legal support and coaching is required to negotiate the license agreements in phase 2 to bring an aviation system integrator / delivery partner on board.

Final results

The technology proposed by PALADIN is new and creates significant progress with regard to the current state of the art in this specific sector. It also shows the potential for very high impact by providing civil and military aviation an unprecedented improvement in safety and security not provided by any of the other technologies currently under development.
Once the industrialisation issues have been solved the technology proposed by PALADIN may be exported into other markets including telecommunications and defence.
The potential market demand is for several thousands of units sold for aircraft fit (civilian, military and UAV) and also airport ground systems with a projected gross sales after Year 3 of 83 M€ for the consortium composed by one or more manufacturer(s) and the team owner of the licences.
Moreover we forecast a surplus income of 7 M€ in Year 3, as result of the licensing approach only. The improvement in terms of new jobs can be estimated in 415 new FTE (Full Time Equivalent) staff positions (mainly in the manufacturer’s business and for the team who develop the IPR and own of the licenses) assuming a 30% average labour cost impact and an average salary of 60K€ per person per year.
This forecast has been assembled using a conservative approach. For the first 3 years a modest market take-up period has been assumed but the predicted forecast for the following 3 years shows an increase to double figures in terms of units sold once the benefits of the PALADIN systems is well known in the market.

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