Flying Object: European Air Navigation System Gets Overhaul

Flying Object: European Air Navigation System Gets Overhaul

As air traffic increases in Europe, navigation and safety are becoming critical issues. As a result, the European Community is revamping its air-traffic safety systems.

Eurocontrol is an independent European organization overseeing air navigation safety. It consists of 16 member states that have joined forces to develop new systems and to gradually upgrade existing air- traffic navigation systems throughout Europe. There are five Eurocontrol centers in Europe, each one responsible for different activities for the project.

At the Eurocontrol Experimental Center south of Paris, developers are working on collision-avoidance software and a mathematical simulator using object-oriented technology, the Booch method, Rational Rose, and Ada.

One of these projects, RAMS (Re-organized ATC Mathematical Simulator), is a simulator developed and used in-house by the Eurocontrol Experimental Center. RAMS is also used by external groups, such as national aviation organizations. The RAMS program simulates different air patterns, enabling researchers to study a new section of air space and new monitoring procedures.

The RAMS project consists of about 100,000 lines of code and required 15 man-years of development work.

The second project, called Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS), is a safety-system simulator that consists of more than 40,000 lines of Ada code, required six man-years of development work, and was completed two months ahead of schedule.

A methodological approach

For each of these projects, the development teams adopted an iterative approach and the Ada programming language. For the design phase, Eurocontrol used the Booch method and Rational Rose. By using an object-oriented design approach, developers were able to take full advantage of many of the features and benefits of the Ada language, including abstraction and information hiding.

"Once we had decided to take an iterative, object-oriented approach to the project, we needed to select an effective methodology," explains Michael Lott, head of the software-engineering unit at Eurocontrol. "We needed a method that was well defined by a recognized expert. This method also had to be supported by several tools. We selected the Booch method and Rational Rose based on these criteria."

The primary reasons for selecting an iterative, object-oriented approach were maintainability, flexibility, and reusability of the software over its lifetime, which Eurocontrol estimates to be from 12 to 15 years.

"Many of our projects are maintained over long periods of time and are modified regularly," says Lott. "For example, our real-time simulator needs to be modified for most specific simulations, and the software must be adaptable. With object-oriented technology, we are able to simplify this process."

(reprinted by permission from Rational Watch, Summer 1994)