Fewer and fewer radio beacons required to guide aircraft

The modernisation of the air navigation infrastructure in Germany is paving the way for more wind energy 

DFS, the German air navigation service provider, is currently developing satellite-based approach and departure procedures in German airspace as part of a comprehensive innovation programme. With the new navigation infrastructure in the vicinity of airports, the majority of radio beacons on the ground can be dispensed with, making room for more wind turbines. Current plans will see 10 radio beacons be decommissioned by 2025.

DFS began to switch to satellite-based area navigation for approaches and departures in 2017. For en-route flights, this option had already existed for some time. The objective of the innovation programme is the transition from primarily terrestrial to satellite navigation by 2030. For this, about 2,600 flight procedures for more than 60 German airports have to be redesigned. At Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel and Finkenwerder airports, as well as at Kiel and Lübeck, the newly created procedures have been in use since summer 2020. 

The new procedures are based on satellite signals, which can now be received by around 95 percent of all aircraft operating in Germany, which have been equipped with the appropriate on-board receivers. As this on-board equipment is not mandatory, DFS has to continue to provide ground-based navigation services for all other aircraft. As a fallback infrastructure for conventional navigation, DFS must continue to operate a minimum operational network (MON) of radio beacons.  

Of the 70 omnidirectional radio beacons in use in 2004, 13 have been dismantled to date. In the medium term, there should be a third fewer facilities by 2030 (currently: 57). Based on the plans at the moment, another 10 beacons will be dismantled by 2025, namely the beacons in Bayreuth (2021), Würzburg (2021), Nattenheim (2021), Luburg (2023), Fürstenwalde (2025), Tegel (2021), Cola (south-west of Cologne Bonn Airport, 2024), Gedern (2022), Roding (2022) and Hamm (2025). 

The dismantling of these facilities has implications for the expansion of wind energy around these locations. The potential for negative interference from the operation of wind turbines on navigation facilities no longer has to be taken into account to the same extent. The radio beacons are mostly being replaced by distance measuring equipment (DME). These have an operational radius of three kilometres, which means the protection zone against interference can be significantly smaller. 

"It is important to us that the high standards of safety in German airspace can be combined with an active contribution to more environmental and climate protection. We are pursuing both objectives in our technological innovation and upgrading projects," said Friedrich-Wilhelm Menge, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) on the DFS Executive Board. 

Media contact: 
Anja Naumann 
Phone: +49 (0)421 5372–116 
E-mail: presse@dfs.de

DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 30 June 2021. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Before 2020, around 2,200 air traffic controllers guided up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, more than 3 million movements every year. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as control towers at the 15 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK. R. Eisenschmidt GmbH is another DFS subsidiary which markets publications and products for General Aviation. Kaufbeuren ATM Training (KAT) is responsible for training military air traffic services personnel. DFS has been working on the integration of drones into air traffic since 2016 and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom.