HxGN RadioPodcast

Geospatial Technologies for Aviation

Learn about challenges the aviation industry is facing today and what solutions are being used to overcome these, as well as what’s trending.

BK: Welcome to HxGN RADIO. My name is Brian. Thanks for joining us today! I have Darrell Perala, manager aeronautical information management product assembly, Nav Canada, with us to discuss trends in the aviation industry. Darrel, thanks for joining us.

DP: Thanks for having me.

BK: I appreciate it. I’m excited about this. Talk about aviation and some of the great things. Now I’m going to have you explain more details but just a quick overview Nav Canada privately run, not for profit corporation that owns and operates Canada’s Civil Air Navigation System. So, tell us a little bit more about it; what your role is, all that involvement in the aviation industry.

DP: Yes, so absolutely correct. Nav Canada is the only fully private A.N.S.P. Air Navigation Service Provider in the world. My role within there … I’m the manager of the AIM product assembly group so my group, or about 20 people, are responsible for putting out the aeronautical publications on a 56-day cycle, one-, two- and five-year cycles, and a 28-day cycle. So, we have a lot of different products that we produce and that we manage on a cyclic basis and it’s a lot of fun.

BK: It sounds like it, actually! What are some of the challenges the aviation industry is facing?

DP: It’s really in a state of transition. We’re really transforming from a product base type of organisation to a data-based organisation. There’s a lot of interoperability of systems that we have now in terms of sharing data among different systems that we never had before.

BK: Yeah.

DP: So, there’s a lot of challenges around making sure that the data that you are producing and managing in one area is able to be used in an operational fashion in real time by another part of the organisation. So, the interoperability of systems is front and center, and again for us specifically AIM as well. We’ve recently gone through a transition. We used to be known as aeronautical information services, and now we are aeronautical information management, so it’s really that that shift from a product centric focus serving the customer to providing high quality data that can be adjusted by many different systems whether it be on the aircraft, in the airport, in the towers, in the air traffic control environment, or in some of our engineering systems. So it really is complex but it’s really an exciting time.

BK: Now is there more data coming through today than there was you know, say 10, 20, 30 years ago?

DP: Absolutely. Yeah yeah. From the AIM side specifically, we have ways to get in and out of airports that we never had before; new technology on the on the aircraft. This is providing a requirement for different types of data than we’ve captured before, and as well there were things that we just didn’t have the capability or didn’t have the technology to do that we can do now. So, it’s really opening us up to the way we do our current jobs differently, but a whole other area of information that we could be collecting and managing going forward.

BK: Sure, and obviously essential to be having this information collected and disseminated correctly or else it’s just it’s well, it’s going to cause problems.

DP: It’s crucial you know, with NAV Canada the information that we collect and manage in AIM is used in real time by some of our operational units in the tower. So, you can imagine a controller looking down at a screen and not seeing the information that he or she needs. It’s a very critical part of NAV Canada’s business.

BK: You mentioned that real time is obviously a crucial piece as well, but what other things are you doing to overcome these challenges?

DP: There are a number of things that Nav Canada is doing – maybe I’ll touch on that after – specifically within my world within AIM is where we’re really going through again a transformation of how we do our business. A lot of that hinges on new technologies that weren’t available to us in the past. We’re really looking at a streamlined approach of how we receive data; whether it be from the customer such as an airport or from an airline, to Data Governance activities around managing that business within the database for example. And then, a rules-based approach to putting that data into charts or something that’s consumable from the operational side or from our customer side; whether it be again the cockpit of an airline or in the air traffic control tower, is really providing good quality information from ingestion all the way to publication or dissemination.

BK: Okay.

DP: Yeah, and that’s and that’s all based on technology that wasn’t available in the past.

BK: Yeah.

DP: And then from a NAV CANADA point of view, there there’s something that we’re really proud of. A number of years ago, we partnered with a company called Aireon, and they were in conjunction with this company called Iridium, deploying satellites. I believe the constellation is approximately 70 satellites up into up into orbit, and happy to say that as of today I think we’re almost there in terms of the deployment. But what’s really exciting about this, and also one of the challenges, is that this is going to provide global support. So, there will never be a plane anywhere in the world that cannot be tracked in real time because of that technology. We’ve partnered with a number of ANSPs around the world – specifically ones with large oceanic areas where traditionally we’ve had no coverage from a tracking point of view that will be completely available 24 hours a day in real time.

BK: That’s incredible.

DP: That is incredible. That’s really a huge, huge feat – a revolutionary approach to air traffic management – not just from Canada’s context, although there are there are benefits even from Canada’s point of view. But you’re talking about the whole world. An example is that MH 370, that plane went down a number of years ago that they’ve been looking for to this day. That would not happen going forward.

BK: Well so you’d know that it went down, but then you have emergency crews on it before, hopefully before anything serious happened. Like it could sink or something like that.

DP: That’s right, and knowing where it is sure helps you a lot in terms of if something does go wrong, getting there faster, or providing that level of safety to airlines right? Which is pretty incredible.

BK: Yeah it really is, that’s fantastic. I mean that’s the kind of stuff people dreamed of years ago you know. That’s really neat.

DP: It really is. Absolutely, and then again that opens us up to a whole other area of data management and things that again we never even considered five years ago. It really is awesome.

BK: Yeah, well I love flying, but now I feel safer.

DP: Absolutely.

BK: I really do.

DP: That’s the cornerstone of our business at NAV CANADA – safety for sure.

BK: That’s fantastic. And you mentioned having all the satellites even, which is really cool too. Well there is an increasing number of aircraft of course in the skies, more information, tons of stuff going on; so congested airspace becomes an issue. How is the move to better information management like AIM, for example, going to help support this increased congestion?

DP: Yes. Again, it really is about visibility of what you’re dealing with from an air traffic management point of view. I think the way air traffic control used to work is you’d have a controller and you’d have a plane. The controller would be talking to the plane and telling the plane to go here and go there based on what he or she had seen. But now it’s very much a managed approach to air traffic control. Seeing what you have within a certain airspace, knowing where people are and where they need to go, and managing it holistically, as opposed to a plane by plane basis. And this is all because of the technology that’s available to us now, but it really highlights the requirement to have good clean data available to the person when they’re in that decision-making process.

BK: Good, good. Now, autonomous aircraft, so UAVs, does this include drones by chance? Or is this mostly …

DP: Yep.

BK: It does, okay. So, you know is this creating additional problems? Because we’re seeing a lot of that happening, and a lot of the congestion of the UAVs, and the drones, and other autonomous aircraft. Is this creating additional problems for the service providers and regulators?

DP: Again, this is something that is relatively new to the aviation community. NAV Canada has been sort of front-and-center and out in front of this working with the regulator – and the regulator in Canada is Transport Canada – so really taking a collaborative approach to decision-making with the regulator to come up with something that works not only for airports in terms of ensuring safety, but just really a well-managed approach to UAVs and some of the opportunities that arise because of them … as well as addressing some of the challenges that are inevitable when you have these things.

BK: Of course, okay. Excellent. So, it sounds like a very exciting thing! Obviously, there are a lot of benefits to not only the passenger side of things, but also those that are pilots and crew, and pretty much anyone involved. It sounds like a really neat, exciting time right now to keep things organised and moving forward, and safety. I mean, we could go on for a long time about this, but …

DP: Absolutely, it’s an exciting time.

BK: Well thank you very much. I really appreciate your time and thanks for sharing all this information. By the way, if you want to learn more information on this, visit All the information’s on there, so you can check out what they’re all doing. Thanks again, appreciate it.

DP: OK thanks, Brian.

BK: All right, so for more information, and of course to listen to additional episodes, visit Thank you so much for listening. Have a great day!