How aviation software is evolving to enable the 5G rollout

Eventually, amid concerns that 5G signals could disrupt aircraft landing systems, developments in aviation software could enable the rollout of 5G.

As aircraft technology advances, so does the rollout of the 5G standard, leading to much debate on how the two technologies can safely coexist. Since 2020, when the FCC auctioned off 5G spectrum, aviation specialists have raised concerns about the potential impact of 5G signals on the airline industry. In particular, there are concerns that 5G signals could interfere with aircraft landing systems.

Despite technical risks, the aviation industry also seems to recognize that the introduction of 5G is inevitable. Airmen are puzzled as to how to adapt to the evolving 5G world without compromising key safety measures on their planes.

With the latest 5G rollout in the United States imminent, we need to focus on where aircraft software development is headed and how we can ensure the technology can evolve efficiently but safely. Luckily, there are developments in aviation software that could eventually enable the rollout of 5G.

What are the effects of 5G?

The most pressing issue is once again security. The aviation industry has experienced increased FAA test has lost much of its importance in recent years, and security will very likely continue to play a defining role in future software developments. In particular, new 5G telecommunications signals around airports can do that Interfering with radar altimeter and may cause interference with semi-automatic aircraft landing, which can greatly affect the safety of the aircraft.

Aircraft altimeters essentially work by transmitting radio waves to the ground. The time it takes for radio waves to return to the aircraft helps determine altitude. Radio altimeters on US aircraft operate on a 4.2 to 4.4 GHz band. The problem is that the proposed new C-band 5G service operates at 3.98 GHz, which some observers find too close for comfort. Essentially, the thought goes that the altimeter signals could be jammed, which could have catastrophic effects on aircraft during landing, especially in poor visibility.

Until now, 90% of the planes were released to operate new 5G systems, although several Boeing planes remain a concern. Solutions have already been proposed, e.g rightreplace the altimeter with others specifically designed to withstand 5G interference. However, the FAA has not yet announced a decision.

The new altimeters, aviators hope, will alleviate safety concerns about landing planes. However, it also means costly retrofitting in thousands of aircraft, which may not be the most effective solution.

Could artificial intelligence help?

Aviation is a multi-billion dollar industry that has the resources to attract the best specialists and the latest technology. In short, we’re seeing some promising developments as aviators come together and find a solution. One way to address the problem would be AI, which could help aircraft systems adapt independently of 5G disruptions.

But first some context. Called the security specification DO-178C, also known as Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification, is something all pilots are familiar with. The DO-178C states that safety-critical aircraft systems must be deterministic; in other words, software used on airplanes must always give the same result.

This might initially suggest that there is no real place for AI in aerospace, as AI is typically considered “non-deterministic” as it can produce different outcomes based on inputs and machine learning.

Despite these initial concerns, specialists are now developing artificial intelligence that could enable a seamless rollout of 5G in aviation while still meeting DO-178C criteria. In fact, many commercial airlines have started to adopt AI technology because it can help streamline operations, improve employee and passenger experiences, and reduce emissions.

It is precisely this kind of bold, innovative use of technology that can provide answers to the pressing problems facing telecoms and aviators.

How can aviation benefit from 5G?

It’s possible that 5G could bring long-term benefits to aviation beyond the short-term inconveniences. For example, we hear a lot about how 5G could help speed up developments in automated aircraft. Should this become a reality, the impact on the entire aviation industry could be profound.

In addition, 5G promises to enable technologies that will bring greater safety and security to the aviation process. Forecasts for the 5G market in aviation are Surely looks good. A recent Future Markets Insight report predicted that the 5G market could actually surpass a $7.8 billion valuation over the next decade at a compound annual growth rate of over 26.4%.

However, unpredictable external factors are likely to play a role in the future of 5G in aviation. Just last month, the FCC recognized that the delayed launch of the SES-22 satellite could slow down 5G development. The launch has been delayed because the technology uses Ukrainian planes for transport, which has now been stymied by the war with Russia.

The bottom line is this. The rollout of 5G technology across the US – including in our airports – is inevitable. In addition, the next mid-band spectrum auction was the FCC Approved for this summer. Aviation needs to find a way to both co-exist with 5G and use it to the advantage of the industry.


Vance Hilderman is one of the world’s leading avionics experts and CEO of AFuzion, which provides knowledge, expertise and safety-critical compliance training to many of the leading aerospace and avionics companies.

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