Determination of meteorological information using Mode S transponder data

Problem definition

The collection of meteorological data such as wind speed, wind direction, temperature and turbulence requires dedicated measurement stations. Usually measurements are conducted using stationary ground- or sea-based stations, or weather balloons, typically launched four times a day. The spatial and temporal resolution of such measurements is limited outside of the air layer near Earth’s surface, i.e. the lower part of the atmospheric boundary layer. As a result, meteorological data often lacks currentness and accuracy for a significant part of the troposphere. This section of the atmosphere determines most weather phenomena and thus a substantial part of controlled airspace.


Thousands of aircraft every day fly through German airspace, transmitting data relevant to air traffic control using a Mode S transponder. This data is received and decoded not only by dedicated target devices but also by independent receivers. Using our technology it is possible to determine meteorological information from the position of an aircraft such as wind speed and direction, ambient air temperature and occurrences of turbulence.

Our technologies can be implemented in dedicated devices as well as embedded in air traffic control systems. Due to these technologies, aircraft can be used as measurement station without requiring modification of on-board devices or technical cooperation from air- or ground-based radio stations. Through this, airborne aircraft provide a tight network of measurement stations monitoring the current state of the atmosphere.


Besides the general enhancement of weather observations, models and forecasts, the availability of measured weather information within airspace creates new opportunities. Knowledge of more exact current atmospheric conditions could contribute decisively to safety and efficiency in aviation. Furthermore, offering availability of current, spatially dense weather measurement contributes to safety-relevant research. Examples are the behaviour of wake vortices and the forecast of windshear.

As well as enhancements in aviation safety, air navigation service providers benefit from the improvement in flight efficiency considering the current weather-dependent airspace capacity. On top of this, airline operators are able to conduct more accurate planning of fuel requirements. This allows significant reduction both in fuel consumption and emissions levels while bringing down costs. Prediction and analysis of emissions, such as pollutants or noise, are further fields of research and applications enabled by this project.


Air navigation service providers in Europe work closely to develop more efficient flight procedures. This includes time-based separation as well as reduced wake turbulence separation. Both require exact knowledge of current wind conditions.  Meteorological data provided by our system will provide an important and substantial contribution to this. Expressions of interest from members of the aviation industry have already been stated.