Brazilian Air Force Develops Unprecedented Search and Rescue Technology

Brazilian Air Force Develops Unprecedented Search and Rescue Technology

By Francisco Pereira/Diálogo
November 01, 2016

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym) is pioneering the development of a device that will enable aircraft to transmit signals autonomously whenever anything unusual is detected during a flight. “Through the development of this cutting-edge device, we have made a qualitative leap in the level of precision and time reduction for locating the aircraft's position, and this directly lowers the cost and increases the efficiency of emergency-response and rescue operations,” said Major Antonio Carlos Neves Trigueiro, chief of the Search and Rescue Subdivision of Brazil’s First Integrated Air Traffic Control and Defense Center (CINDACTA I, per its Portuguese acronym). “The faster we receive the signal and locate the search target, the better our chances are for saving lives. With the deployment of a system of Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue satellites, response times tend to be much shorter,” Maj. Trigueiro stated in reference to the benefits of the technological advances in this area. By using this system, an aircraft will be able to detect glitches and transmit an emergency signal minute by minute, giving its location while still in flight. Even if all electrical power fails, the aircraft will still maintain this capability. The proposal to build a device that was more efficient arose from a Brazilian working group that was set up within the Inter-American Civil Aviation Organization, an institution which Brazil has participated in since its founding. The idea is to have this device available for aircraft by 2021. The device must enable missing aircraft to be located within a 6-mile radius. In this project, Brazil is adapting its Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) to the specifications of the new technology that it is developing. This project is being coordinated by the Department of Airspace Control (DECEA, per its Portuguese acronym), with the participation of international companies, as Brazil will not be manufacturing the ELT. Testing will be done in FAB aircraft. Brazilian Air Search and Rescue System Brazil has an advanced Air Search and Rescue System (SISSAR, per its Portuguese acronym) that is a benchmark for many countries. As early as the 1940s, Brazil established a Search and Rescue Organizing Committee to cover this area, and that evolved into a national air search and rescue system that was implemented in 2005. SISSAR is used for locating missing aircraft, providing emergency assistance to flight crews in peril, and safely rescuing and bringing victims home, as well as aiding in similar operations carried out by the FAB. SISSAR also provides emergency response for other kinds of incidents and activities in society, such as Civil Defense operations during floods and landslides and working with other defense forces on land and at sea. The Aeronautical Accidents Investigation and Prevention Center (CENIPA, per its Portuguese acronym), is an organization responsible for investigating and preventing aerial accidents. CENIPA was established in 1971 as a centralized organization for the Aeronautical Accidents Investigation and Prevention System, and as such, CENIPA plans, coordinates, and evaluates all incidents involving aircraft in Brazil. Through CINDACTA I, DECEA is responsible for passing along all of the information from missing aircraft and locating the rescue site. CINDACTA I is under the Air Command and it controls Brazilian airspace and telecommunications control, assisting with radio navigation and flight paths for aircraft transiting the country's airspace. Despite being a military organization, CINDACTA I also assists with civil air traffic regulated by the National Civil Aviation Agency and by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Investments are being made in managing the nation's airspace, and Brazil's defense industry has joined in this development to the extent that its available resources and productive capacities have allowed it. “These technological resources aid in the monitoring of air traffic, ensuring greater safety in the air lanes and, in the event of an accident, reducing the response time for locating the rescue site,” said Cristiano Torres do Amaral, a specialist in electrical engineering and telecommunications. In his opinion, “there are now three-dimensional radars and satellite locating technologies which are important air search-and-rescue tools. However, some of these technologies are not widely distributed in the Brazilian market.” As seen in the record of air crashes over the Amazon, it is not easy to visually spot a crash in the dense forest, and this can lead to delays in locating the rescue site, resulting in a loss of life and the failure of the search-and-rescue mission. The national defense industry can make investments in this sector, as well as increase the security of airspace control by more precisely monitoring and tracking air corridors and radar communications and displays, and if needed, immediately implementing search-and-rescue protocols. Therefore, this technology is seen as an excellent opportunity to develop Brazil's national defense industry and to revitalize and modernize SISSAR in the Amazon region. Among these opportunities is the possibility of increasing investments in three-dimensional radars, satellite-based emergency beacons, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance systems. Among the nations of South America, Brazil stands out as being the best equipped to respond to the victims of air and sea accidents. All of these combined efforts have resulted in a structure that is capable of meeting the daily challenges of rescuing victims who crash in Brazilian airspace.
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