I have several questions regarding plane-to-plane communications (P2P), by which I mean air-to-ground communications where instead of a satellite, planes act as the intermediate nodes between a given plane and its controller on the ground. Or in other words, peer-to-peer communication.

Would P2P be a feasible model for communicating between ground and aircraft? For example, could ATC or other operational messages be routed to an aircraft using a P2P method? Is this already possible? Does communication with aircraft require a satellite or terrestrial endpoint, or could P2P work instead? How much data and power would be required for all the messages needed for a typical transatlantic flight?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm confused. ATC and operational control messages are going to be air-to-ground communications, because the planes are usually in the air and dispatchers are on the ground. Military control situations aside, why would those messages be plane-to-plane? $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '17 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ZachLipton I wasn't assuming that ATC is P2P. If you look at my last question it says "Is plane-to-plane communications possible for ATC or AOC TODAY"? I know most of the A2G communications today is via satellite but I was curious to know if any of the communications can be done via P2P? Cause it's a cheaper and more delay-sensitive option. $\endgroup$
    – Teodorism
    Aug 24 '17 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! I reworded your question to focus on what I think is your key point, but it may still be too broad to answer here. If I've changed it too much, don't hesitate to rollback or edit again. You seem to have a lot of assumptions in your question, and I'm not sure how you can say that P2P (which is a general concept or model) is "cheaper" than the radio transmissions used today for air to ground comms. But if you can add more information and be more specific then someone may be able to answer. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 25 '17 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 25 '17 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Thank you. P2P is a possible option for A2G that's being very actively look at by research community (especially by telecom community). From my what I've read, there are two reasons why P2P is preferable to A2G thru satellite: One is the cost of hardware installation (e.g., the CBB hardware were reported to be as high as $500,000 per aircraft) and power conumption and the other is the propagation delay which is around 240 ms. $\endgroup$
    – Teodorism
    Aug 25 '17 at 4:38

Yes, this we could do this.

Actually, we already do it: If an airplane cannot be joined by ATC, ATC will ask planes in the neighbourhood to relay the message.

As for what you are actually asking, which is a P2P mesh network for data or ATC, without active pilots involvement, this could work but would be completely impractical:

Mesh networks are still an active research topic (i.e., not exactly production ready), and offer little to no advantage over a traditional communication (satellite, aircraft to ground) that nobody would bother implementing this.

Few of the downsides are:

  • What if there is no plane to relay the message ? You are back to P2G (Plane to Ground), so why not use P2G in the first place.
  • What if there is a broken/rogue airplane that blocks/modify/fake your messages ?
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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Aug 30 '17 at 2:55

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