RealTime IT News

Oracle Pilots the Friendly Skies

Planes flying over North America run on high-octane fuel and Oracle .

The company has expanded its relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the company said Tuesday. Using its 10g products, Oracle will help the government agency create and automate electronic maps of the skies.

The project is part of Oracle's current sub-$10 million contract with the FAA and its Aviation System Standards department, which produces more than 10 million individual national airspace charting products per year for use by military, commercial and private aviators.

As part of its $12 billion annual budget and its $2 billion earmarked for IT spending, the FAA is moving away from manual processes that result in new paper charts for distribution. The automation is necessary since the Aviation System Standards publishes new flight procedures every 56 days and issues change notices every 28 days.

While not a new contract with the FAA, Oracle said the government is beginning to implement its Database 10g and 10g Spatial products to support the scheduled automation of the airspace navigation system. The system includes keeping a database of on-ramps, off-ramps and so-called "highways in the sky." Continuous maintenance is required to keep flight procedures current with new obstructions to airspace such as cell-phone towers and high-rise buildings.

Tom Fulcher, a spokesman for the FAA's Oracle Enterprise License Agreement, told internetnews.com that Oracle's role with the U.S. Department of Transportation will soon be up for grabs. In May 2005, Oracle is expected to wrap up its five-year, department-wide enterprise procurement contract with the FAA.

"We have a tremendous install base of Oracle for our air traffic control systems... upwards of 80 percent," Fulcher said. "In many of the development systems, we found people were using Oracle, plus they have documented savings over what we were spending before. So it made sense to look across the install base and make it cost effective instead of having individual projects go out to bid."

Oracle said the FAA will now use its Oracle Database 10g's spatial functionality, including GeoRaster and vector data capabilities, to consolidate aeronautical information into a virtual data store. Oracle Application Server 10g and Oracle MapViewer will be used to let the FAA quickly identify which flight routes are affected by a new structure.

The company said data integration, process tracking and spatial referencing will help Aviation System Standards simplify production and maintenance of flight procedures. This automation will remove potential for manual errors and reduce time to chart delivery.

The government also selected the Web services capabilities of Oracle Application Server 10g to manage the numerous data sources, improve data accuracy and avoid redundancy. In addition, Web services will allow Aviation System Standards to share data with other applications and organizations that require spatial information.

"Data integrity in our business is directly related to safety. Our approach with these systems is to maintain zero tolerance for inaccuracy and provide automation for updates to the National Airspace System," Tom Accardi, FAA director of Aviation System Standards, said. "We are extremely proud of our development team's work and our recent ISO-certified flight procedures processes."

The FAA's information will also be accessible by other federal agencies. For example, supporting programs with similar processes could layer specific geographic and non-geographic information they manage to give agencies like the Department of Homeland Security the ability to draft more accurate intelligence views and track anomalous patterns.