The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar, ASECNA, the Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd, NIGCOMSAT and Thales Alenia Space, joint venture between Thales (67 %) and Leonardo (33 %) joint efforts to accelerate Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) development for aviation in Africa.
Following the broadcast of a SBAS signal over Africa & Indian Ocean (AFI) region since September 2020, providing the first SBAS open service in this part of the world via NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite, the three partners have successfully conducted on 27 January 2021 a series of 5 flight demos at Lomé International Airport.
The goal was to show in real configuration the efficiency of the technology developed in the frame of the early open service as part of the ‘SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean’ programme, which pursues the autonomous provision over the continent of SBAS services, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.
These tests were carried out by means of the ASECNA calibration aircraft (ATR42-300), which has been equipped for the occasion by Pildo Labs with specific sensors and embarked VIPs and pilots in 5 rotations over Lome airport.
The aim of the experiment was to demonstrate the ability of the system to allow landings on the two ends of the runway without deployment of local ground infrastructure and with a performance level close to the use of Instrument Landing Systems (ILS). It demonstrates the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024, in terms of flight safety, efficiency and of environmental protection.
The outcomes of the demonstrations, as a crucial step forward the provision and use of satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region, were debriefed on 28 and 29 January during an international outreach event on SBAS in aviation in Africa, gathering airlines, aircraft manufacturers and other aviation stakeholders from all over the world.
Commenting on the joint initiative, NIGCOMSAT CEO, Dr. Abimbola Alale, said: “We are proud to support the SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean open service and to have contributed to the success of these in-flight demos using our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload.
“The SBAS demonstration flight feat is in line with policy direction of the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of Federal Republic of Nigeria; Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) FNCS, FBCS, FIIM for value addition and propensity not only in the Telecommunications Sector but Aviation, Maritime, Rail Transport, Precision Agriculture, Survey, Oil & Gas and Mass-Market Applications for sustainable development beyond Nigerian shores.
In his remarks, the Vice President Navigation business at Thales Alenia Space, Benoit Broudy, enthused: “Our longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS  SBAS in Europe and KASS SBAS in Korea combined with our new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies makes Thales Alenia Space the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently. We hope these series of demos will help to accelerate SBAS adoption in aviation in Africa.”
Similarly, Director General of ASECNA, Mohamed Moussa, said he was delighted “to have demonstrated the utility and efficiency of the SBAS services in the continent. This event will bolster the deployment of the “SBAS for Africa & Indian Ocean” system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa, which will enhance air navigation safety and efficiency for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”