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NAFC Aircraft Tracking and Event Logging - "AFAMS"

BACKGROUND

Update June 2011   Draft Event Logging Specification available - see downloads below.

Update October 2010 : The national aircraft tracking and event logging system will now be known as "AFAMS" (Australian Fire Aircraft Monitoring System)

NAFC and its Members (Australian states and territories) have decided to adopt a national standard approach to the provision of tracking and event logging services for aircraft involved in firefighting and related operations.  It is planned that this will extend to messaging systems in the future.  The adoption of a national approach follows extensive investigation and consultation with agencies and operators throughout Australia.  A number of operational trials have also been undertaken.

The model adopted is a "Integrator" model which will allow aircraft operators to continue to select their own provider of tracking services and to select and install tracking and event logging equipment appropriate to their aircraft and operation. The aircraft operator's tracking provider must arrange to forward the tracking data (to the required standard) to a central Integrator.  In turn, the Integrator stores and forwards the data to the various user agencies and organisations.

This model is also designed to integrate with and to complement systems that are already in place in some States and Territories.  It provides flexibility to participate at a number of different levels, according to the particular needs of individual agencies.

TracPlus Global Ltd (www.tracplus.com) is  the currently appointed Integrator.   NAFC has entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with TracPlus. The SLA ensures a guaranteed standard of service and also sets pricing.

Implementation is in three stages.  The first stage will concentrate on the national standard approach to aircraft tracking. The second stage will cover event logging, while the third stage will implement messaging.

Key features of the system include:

 All aircraft engaged in fire operations will ultimately be required to participate in the system, although there will be a phase-in period. There will also be a requirement for some vehicles provided by aircraft operators (eg fuel tenders) to participate.

Aircraft operators will continue to make their own arrangements for tracking services including selection of their preferred tracking provider, but will also make arrangements directly with TracPlus to deliver the tracking data (and later, event logging and messaging data) into the national “fire aircraft” system. This may require the establishment of a “gateway” to the TracPlus integration system for a particular tracking provider.

Authorised fire agencies and organisations wishing to view or use the data will also make arrangements directly with TracPlus. There will be a number of different ways of accessing the data, according to the needs of the user.

 

FAQs

Why have tracking at all?

A.  Experience with existing tracking systems over nearly a decade in some States has reinforced the value of real-time resource tracking. The technology is currently used to:

·         support “manual” flight following (regular position reporting) for search and rescue (SAR) and resource management purposes, reducing aircrew and ground crew workload and reducing radio traffic;

·         support SAR missions by providing last known positions;

·         aid dispatching and resource allocation and to support resource management;

·         improve situational awareness for aircrew, fire managers and supervisors;

·         aid verification of operating times and work performed to support invoicing and accounting processes;

·         undertake basic mapping;

·         automatically provide other relevant data e.g. wind speed and direction, amount of water delivered, type of suppressant;

·         automatically integrate aircraft or vehicle data with other electronic systems;

·         support effective monitoring of performance of assets e.g. amount of fire control line built in a period of time; and

·         provide data for research and evaluation of fire control techniques.

In addition, the communications layer that transfers data from aircraft often provides extra functionality such as messaging and voice communications.

Aircraft operators have also rapidly been adopting tracking services for their own fleet management and safety purposes.

 

Who pays?

A.  The general principle is that the aircraft operator pays to put the data into the system, and the fire agencies and other data users will pay to get the data out of the system.

The amount that an operator would pay to put data into the system will depend on a number of factors. If you already have suitable tracking equipment in an aircraft and an arrangement with a suitable provider you will normally only pay a small additional surcharge to feed the data in (plus an account establishment fee).

 

Who makes the arrangements?

A.  The aircraft operator makes the arrangements to acquire and install appropriate in-aircraft terminal equipment and makes the arrangements with a tracking service.  The aircraft operator’s tracking provider makes an arrangement directly with TracPlus  to pass the data into the national system via TracPlus

Agencies (and aircraft operators) who wish to view or use the data also make their own arrangements directly with TracPlus. There is a range of options depending on the degree of access required.

Even though arrangements are made by aircraft operators and agencies directly with TracPlus, all arrangements are covered by an over-arching agreement between NAFC and TracPlus that, amongst many other things, sets out minimum service levels and defines standard pricing for anybody participating in the national “fire aircraft” system.

 

Who owns the data?

A.  Whoever paid for it to be collected.  Normally this will be the aircraft operator, but as a condition of engagement on fire operations the aircraft operator grants NAFC and other participating agencies a licence to use the data.

 

Why an “integration approach” … why not just appoint one tracking provider?

A.  For a whole range of reasons, but mainly to give aircraft operators a much better range of options for participation and hopefully to take advantage of systems and equipment that is already in place. 

Also, the agencies viewing and using the data need to get it in a range of different ways, as they all have different information systems. This is really the only practical way of achieving that.

Note that TracPlus does also offer a full tracking solution as well as the integration service.

 

Why not the same approach as Automated Flight Following (AFF) in the U.S.?

(where a data standard is specified, and the data is fed by tracking providers directly into a “government” system.)

 A.  In effect this is what we are actually doing. You could regard TracPlus as our outsourced provider of the Australian equivalent of AFF.  Taking this outsourced approach will however provide greater flexibility, especially given the number of parties who will receive and use the data in different ways.  It will also ultimately provide greater functionality for more advanced tracking and mapping features and for when we get to event logging and two-way messaging.  Additionally it allows aircraft operators to take advantage, if they wish, of other value-added services offered by TracPlus.

The Australian system has been designed, as far as practicable, to be compatible with AFF.  Aircraft fitted with AFF equipment and complying with the AFF standard will mostly be able to fit straight into the Australian system.

 

What about event logging?

A.   We still need to do a little bit more work on that – including some decisions about what event data can remain stored on board the aircraft and what data needs to be transmitted in near-real-time alongside the tracking data and into the integrated system.   Some aspects are currently being trialled.   Realistically this stage will not be fully implemented until 2011-12. See also the answer under “What in-aircraft terminal equipment should I choose?”  below, and see draft data specification in the downloads area below.

 

What about messaging?

A.  Again, we still need to do a little bit more work on standards.  Stay tuned   See also the answer under “What in-aircraft terminal equipment should an aircraft operator choose?”  below.

 

What about voice?

A.  Our operational trials have confirmed that for a range of reasons it is best to treat voice communications capability separately. This gives much greater flexibility in selection and ongoing maintenance of aircraft equipment.

 

What in-aircraft terminal equipment should an aircraft operator choose?

A.  Essentially it depends on what is the best fit for the aircraft and the business, provided it is capable of providing the tracking data to the required standard.  We do recommend that terminal equipment be capable of accommodating future event logging and messaging requirements.  (Many terminals on the market have the required interfaces).  TracPlus can provide advice on this.

 

Is there a data specification?

A.  For tracking - we are producing a revised version and will make it available as soon as possible.  At a minimum, if data conforms with the AFF specifications in the United States [see https://www.aff.gov/ ] then there should be no problem.

For event logging - a draft specification is available - see downloads below

 

More information?

See downloads, below, or ......

For general information and specifications contact NAFC at:  info@nafc.org.au

For other information regarding the system, terminal equipment and for technical and sales queries contact Tracplus at:

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Event logging – see Downloads area below 

Tracking – under development, come back soon. (Use AFF specs in the meantime)

 


Downloads

 TitleAreaLast Updated
AFAMS Registration Form for Excel 2003  9/3/2010
AFAMS Registration Form for Excel 2007+  9/3/2010
Tracking System - Schematic Diagram  1/19/2010
AFAMS Registration Info Pack Updated November 2010  11/11/2010
Criteria for Gateways  1/20/2010
Draft event logging specification  6/10/2011