OGC in Action - Aviation Domain

Did you know that OGC standards are incorporated in various elements of the information management workflow in the aviation domain? Indeed, EVERYTHING in the aviation domain is related to location: airport maps, weather forecasts, flight paths, airspace extents, obstacles, and - more recently - drones! 

Not only is the location aspect of all these elements represented using OGC standards or best practices, but some of our standards have been profiled/extended to accommodate for the unique aviation domain requirements. 

Read on to find out more about how OGC standards are used in the aviation domain (including being incorporated into procurement language at ANSPs and international guidance), and more importantly how to get engaged in that evolving work. 

This blog post is based on a presentation by Nadine Alameh at the Sep 2019 Air Traffic Information Exchange Conference in DC.

From Innovation to Operations

The OGC Innovation Program has been a hub for many of the prototyping and proof of concept work done by our members to support their Aviation business. A mix of testbeds and pilots sponsored primarily by FAA and Eurocontrol have been designed over the last 10 years to deal specifically with SWIM requirements. 

For those of you not familiar with SWIM, it is a global Air Traffic Management initiative to harmonize the exchange of Aeronautical, Weather and Flight Information for all airspace users and stakeholders. It is an integral part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP).

In fact, if you look closely at the ICAO Global Interoperability Framework, you’ll see many of the OGC standards listed there as candidate standards, models or implementations :)  

And if you look closely at the FAA and Eurocontrol SWIM pages, you’ll find similar references to OGC standards (Hint: also check out the FAA Advisory Circular AC 00-63A which states: 

“Global Information Sharing. To facilitate global information sharing and interoperability, data exchange models are being developed based on Open Geospatial Consortium standards. The FAA and Eurocontrol are jointly developing the Weather Information Exchange Model (WXXM) and the Aeronautical Information Exchange Model (AIXM). WXXM will be utilized in the worldwide ground exchange of METI data and products. AIXM will be utilized in the worldwide ground exchange of AI. FIS data link systems will use more efficient (compressed) data formats for transmitting METI and AI data to aircraft.”

Which standards and where are they used?

In order to keep this short, let’s stick to the basics:

GML Profile for Aviation

The aviation community uses GML extensively in representing aeronautical, weather and flight information. GML, as you probably know, is a very complex standard and contains an extensive list of geometries, geometric properties and operations - many of which are not necessary for aeronautical information applications. 

Because of that, the OGC Aviation Domain Working Group collaborated on creating a profile to restrict GML 3.2.1 - a profile that provides guidance on the use of of GML for encoding specific AIXM data (such as WGS-84, arcs of circle, references to State borders, water courses, shapes of obstacles, etc).

Check out OGC’s “Use of Geography Markup Language (GML) for Aviation Data” Discussion paper [OGC 12-028r1] for more info.

Web Feature Service - Temporality Extension

If you take a close look at Aeronautical features (in the AIXM model), you’ll quickly realize that every feature (airport, runway, taxiway, airspace) actually contains its history AND its future (e.g. airspace closures in the future, temporary runway closure, etc). So when trying to use the Web Feature Service with AIXM features in aviation applications, the WFS queries ended up returning complete features -  which proved to be a waste of network traffic and proved inconvenient for client applications. 

Because of that, the OGC membership created the Temporality Extension for WFS, an extension that deals with dynamic features. Check out the “OGC Web Feature Service (WFS) Temporality Extension” Discussion paper [OGC 12-027r3] for more info.

This extension, once finalized in 2020 (including having 3 commercial implementations) is expected to be incorporated into the brand new ICAO requirements for AIS. Now that’s a big deal! 

Web Coverage Service - MetOcean Profile

Did you know that weather is the biggest (and most expensive) disruptor to aviation? Towards that, the MetOcean profile for the OGC Web Coverage Service standard (used to retrieve and subset weather data) incorporates a new operation Get Corridor which targets the aviation use case of "Give me the weather along a certain flight."


Aviation is a prime example for needing asynchronous messaging (ping me when the airport is closed, ping me when the weather is bad, ping me when the airspace is restricted, ping me when my flight is delayed, and so on). A lot of work has been going on in this area at OGC, exploring different delivery methods such as Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP), Java Messaging Service (JMS), and OASIS Web Services Notification (WSN).

OGC members are also now looking at OASIS Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) Extension (used interestingly by OGC SensorThings API); as well as AsyncAPI for defining asynchronous/event driven interfaces aligned with REST APIs. 

For more info check out the “OGC Publish/Subscribe Interface Standard 1.0 - Core” [OGC 13-131r1] and “Testbed-12 Asynchronous Messaging for Aviation” Engineering Report [OGC 16-017]

Other relevant and ongoing work

Of course, the work in aviation information management doesn’t stop at descriptions of and access to the data. Plenty of work has been done over the last ten years on: 

What about Unstaffed Aerial Systems (UAS) and Drones?

UASs (aka UAVs) and drones have injected a whole new set of requirements (and possibilities!) into our world. Ensuring that the location of drones is consistent, accurate, and secure regardless of provider, operator, or manufacturer is extremely important in keeping our skies (at so many levels) safe!

OGC members formed the UxS Domain Working Group to address those requirements (alongside requirements for any unmanned systems - such as self-driving cars). 

As part of its commitment to working closely through technology and domain partners, OGC has been actively working with organizations like RTCA (with a recently announced MoU between the organizations), ANSI, and ISO (specifically, TC 20/SC16 - Unmanned aircraft systems) to make sure that the Unmanned community does not reinvent the wheel with respect to location information, but rather build on the mature work of the geospatial industry. 

Our latest work includes a collaborative effort in the industry to put together and update a standardization roadmap for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Within that effort, OGC championed a focus on data processing and handling, contributed the OGC Web Services and Sensor standards framework, and supported assessment of key standards gaps around weather/microweather and geofencing. 

The roadmap is currently being updated for re-release in June 2020. 

How can I learn more? How do I get engaged?

With the pace of technology (and business models) changing rapidly around us, OGC provides a hub for thought leadership and innovation in the areas of information management, access, and discovery of location-related information. 

  • The best way to stay plugged in to our innovative and diverse community is to become an OGC member! Our members include the likes of FAA, NASA, NOAA, Eurocontrol, UK Met Office, Meteo France, Boeing, Airbus, L3/Harris, Hexagon/Luciad, Frequentis, Apple, and Google, to name just a few. 
  • Keep an eye on our Innovation Program activities - specifically the upcoming Testbed-16, which will include aviation requirements on LinkedData.
  • Follow the work on the OGC APIs - the latest in the modernization of our standards.
  • Join our Aviation Domain Working Group (chaired by Eurocontrol and NASA) and/or our UxS Domain Working Group (chaired by NASA).
  • Email me anytime nalameh [at] ogc.org