Leonardo’s mapping software will help lost pilots flying over the UK find their way home safely

22 August 2019 12:17

  • Leonardo’s ‘auto triangulation’ software has gone into operational service at NATS, the UK’s national air traffic control service provider
  • The product locates a pilot broadcasting on a distress frequency on a map of the UK’s airspace, allowing air traffic controllers to provide directions to safety 
  • Leonardo is a world-leading supplier of advanced air traffic management systems, from software and services to complete air traffic control centres


Leonardo’s ‘auto triangulation’ software has gone live at the UK’s ‘Distress and Diversion’ cell based at NATS, the UK’s main air traffic control services provider. The Distress and Diversion cell is manned by RAF personnel 24 hours and is the world's only dedicated aeronautical emergency control centre. Its staff monitor the international aeronautical distress frequencies all day, every day and are ready to react at a moments notice. All aviation emergencies in UK airspace are controlled and overseen from this centre, covering civil, private and military aviation across the UK. 

Auto triangulation mapping is used to locate aircraft whose pilots may have become lost or disoriented. The controllers can then provide useful information back to pilots, enabling the planes to get back on track and reach their destinations safely. Leonardo has also entered a 15 year support arrangement to provide regular map updates, security assessment and obsolescence management for the product.

The software works by receiving transmissions on civil or military distress frequencies and geo-locating the signal and its bearing on a map of the UK’s airspace. Operators can then contact pilots and use the map, which provides detail down to street level, to provide directions using a common frame of reference. To ensure these maps are kept up-to-date, the software can import data from multiple sources which employ the widely-used Web Map Standard, making sure that operators can see the location of the aircraft in relation to new urban or road developments and details such as power lines, masts and other recognisable features such as solar farms.

Leonardo has 60 years of experience in the Air Traffic Management (ATM) sector and understands how urban mobility has evolved. To maintain its edge, the Company is already working towards a future which will include drone flights and virtual control towers. Leonardo is a leading supplier to the air navigation service provider sector and provides a portfolio which ranges from off-the shelf and bespoke products to turn-key services. Internationally, Leonardo has designed, manufactured and installed more than 300 air traffic management and control centres, 80 simulators for advanced air traffic control training and more than 700 primary or secondary surveillance radars.