Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Electrical Engineering


College of Engineering and Computing

First Advisor

David Matolak


The use of aeronautical vehicles and systems is continuously growing, and this means current aeronautical communication systems, particularly those operating in the very high frequency (VHF) aviation band, will suffer from severe congestion in some regions of the world. For example, it is estimated that air-to-ground (AG) communication traffic density will at least double by 2035 over that in 2012, based on the most-likely growth scenario for Europe. This traffic growth (worldwide) has led civil aviation authorities such as the FAA in the USA, and EuroControl in Europe, to jointly explore development of future communication infrastructures (FCI). According to international aviation systems policies, both current and future AG communication systems will be deployed in L-band (960-1164 MHz), and possibly in C-band (5030-5091 GHz) because of the favorable AG radio propagation characteristics in these bands. During the same time period as the FCI studies, the use of multicarrier communication technologies has become very mature for terrestrial communication systems, but for AG systems it is still being studied and tested.

Aiming toward future demands, EuroControl and FAA sponsored work to define several new candidate AG radio systems with high data rate and high reliability. Dominant among these is now an L-Band Digital Aeronautical Communication Systems (L-DACS): L-DACS1. L-DACS1 is a multicarrier communication system based on the popular orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) modulation technique. For airport surface area communication systems used in C-band, EuroControl and FAA also proposed another OFDM communication system based on the IEEE 802.16e standard, termed aeronautical mobile airport communication system (AeroMACS). This system has been proposed to provide the growing need of communication traffic in airport environments.

In this dissertation, first we review existing and proposed aviation communication systems in VHF-band, L-band and C-band. We then focus our study on the use of multicarrier techniques in these aviation bands. We compare the popular and dominant multicarrier technique OFDM (which is used in cellular networks such long-term evolution (LTE) and wireless local area networks such as Wi-Fi) with the filterbank multicarrier (FBMC) technique. As far as we are aware, we are the first to propose and evaluate FBMC for aviation communication systems.

We show, using analysis and computer simulations, along with measurement based (NASA) air-ground and airport surface channel models, that FBMC offers advantages in performance over the OFDM schemes. Via use of sharp filters in the frequency domain, FBMC reduces out of band interference. Specifically, it is more robust to high-power distance measurement equipment (DME) interference, and via replacement of guard bands with data-bearing subcarriers, FBMC can offer higher throughput than the contending L-DACS1 scheme, by up to 23%. Similar advantages over AeroMACS pertain in the airport surface channel. Our FBMC bit error ratio performance is comparable to that of the OFDM schemes, and is even better for our “spectrally-shaped” version of FBMC. For these improvements, FBMC requires a modest complexity increase.

Our final contribution in this dissertation is the presentation of spectrally shaped FBMC (SS-FBMC). This idea allocates unequal power to subcarriers to contend with non-white noise or non-white interference. Our adaptive algorithm selects a minimum number of guard subcarriers and then allocates power accordingly to remaining subcarriers based on a “water-filling-like” approach. We are the first to propose such a cognitive radio technique with FBMC for aviation applications. Results show that SSFBMC improves over FBMC in both performance and throughput.