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ERA Has Successfully Passed the First Round of Testing its System for WAM in Azores

5 September 2013

The ERA Company has successfully passed the Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) for the WAM (Wide Area Multilateration) system for the West Azorean Islands. ERA has already had one certified operational system deployed over the central part of this territory, an archipelago belonging to the Portuguese Republic. FAT lasts for four days in the middle of July and all the tested items were unconditionally accepted by the customer NAV Portugal, the Portuguese ANSP. FAT took place at the ERA premises in Pardubice; two representatives of the client, Mr Antonio Pinto Aires and Mr Marcos Rodrigues Alves were present as part of the process. 

ERA has been chosen by the client as a reliable supplier of MLAT technology and has been cooperating closely with Westica Communications Limited, a wireless technology company from Glasgow UK who have designed and planned the microwave link connections for the project. As Mr António Pinto Aires, leader of this project, officially stated: “NAV Portugal believes that the choice of ERA for implementing this system will contribute to ensure a robust solution for such a challenging project, considering the difficulties inherent to the location of the sites and the need of integrating this system with the one already installed on the Central Group of Azores, also implemented by ERA.” 

The ERA product MSS (Multi-sensor Surveillance System) proposed for WAM Azores is based on MLAT distributed time architecture and also decodes ADS-B messages. The proposed configuration of the Western Azores extension consists of 6 ground stations of which 2 are simple receiving stations, 3 are receiving /transmitting stations and 1 is a receiving station combined with reference and monitoring transponders. The concept is based on a highly reliable and fully redundant solution. PC Workstation with Remote Management terminal and several other parts will be placed in the ATC tower of Flores Airport. All base station sites are interconnected using Westica’s proven wireless technology which has been used in many “Mission critical” projects around the world. 

After extension the whole system for the Azores will consist of 17 ground stations and it will cover the entire area including the approach routes for a handful of small airports. The Azores WAM System covers not only the TMA of Azores, but it extends also its coverage over a considerable amount of oceanic air space belonging to the Santa Maria FIR. Main user of this System is the Santa Maria Oceanic Control Centre. On completion, the Westica microwave radiosystem will connect seven islands together, with many paths crossing the Atlantic Ocean at distances of up to 76km. 

On MLAT technology 
Multilateration (MLAT) has a number of compelling advantages. The actual sensors are compact, purely passive and have minimal requirements for power and network connectivity. The sensor is designed from the ground up to be essentially maintenance-free. Due to their resistance to adverse weather conditions and their minimal impact on the environment, the sensors can be easily mounted at most locations. The low cost for the initial investment and infrastructure, combined with the minimal on-going operating expenses, make the MLAT networks appealing when the lifetime costs of the radar cannot be justified or afforded. 

On the Azores 
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and is located approximately 1,500 km west of Lisbon. The islands form the Autonomous Region of the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. There are nine major Azorean islands: Flores, Corvo, Graciosa, Terceria, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, São Miguel, Santa Maria and the Formigas Reef. They extend for more than 600 km and lie in a northwest-southeast direction. The islands have been populated since the 15th century and have 250,000 inhabitants. 

On NAV Portugal 
NAV Portugal is a company that supplies air traffic services in Portuguese continental territory and a vast area of the north Atlantic. It has two control centres (Lisbon and Santa Maria – Azores), 9 control towers in national airports, a training centre and numerous systems and equipment to support air navigation. It currently has a staff of 995 highly-trained workers. 

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