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CARNAC: the concentrate of innovations from Safran Electronics & Defense for in-flight calibration


The 2022 edition of IFIS, the International Flight Inspection Symposium, takes place from June 20 to 24 in Durban, South Africa. Safran Electronics & Defense is taking part in the event, alongside aviation authorities and operators responsible for calibrating radio-navigation beacons. The company has been offering its expertise in this field for over 30 years. Here we take a closer look at its CARNAC system, which offers a range of innovations to improve aviation safety.

CARNAC: the concentrate of innovations from Safran Electronics & Defense for in-flight calibration

Three decades of expertise serving aviation safety

Precision, integrity and continuity are crucial factors to ensure navigation tools function correctly. And, in so doing, to guarantee aviation safety.

At the heart of this safety system lie radio-navigation beacons, which emit signals from the ground to an aircraft's navigation tools. In-flight calibration consists in measuring the characteristics and precision of these signals, and then making the necessary adjustments.

As an expert in electronics, Safran Electronics & Defense has made beacon calibration one of its specialties. Whether at airports, air bases, en route, or in a theater of operations, these beacons can be calibrated using our CARNAC system (Calibration of radio-navigation, landing and communications tools). Today, over 40 countries use our solutions to control their airports.

In-flight calibration: a unique operation in the air

Every member state of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) is obliged to inspect and calibrate their radio-navigation devices. In France, the DGAC Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for these checks, which are carried out every six months. Specially trained pilots are mobilized because these calibration missions involve flying vertically over the beacons, which requires many approaches, sometimes outside standard trajectories… and without air traffic being suspended. In the aircraft, a controller analyzes in real time the measurements taken by the calibration bench and communicates with the teams on the ground operating the beacon in its different modes.

CARNAC - Automatic Flight Inspection Systems
Carnac calibrates all radio-navigation beacons (VOR, ILS, VDF, Marker, DME, NDB, TACAN) and PAPI and VASI landing light systems. It can also measure coverage of V/UHF radios, secondary radars (A/C and S modes), and the ADS-B system.

Constantly innovating!

One of the key assets of the CARNAC system is its capacity to offer excellent measurement reliability. Its differential GPS enables it to give the precise position of the calibration aircraft, to within 10 centimeters in three dimensions, and in all weather conditions! But innovation in this field also involves thinking of the system as a whole and improving its overall performance. It is to this end that CARNAC now offers a range of flexible solutions to meet the needs and constraints of every operator, in the most cost-effective way possible:

  • on-board systems for all types of aircraft, including helicopters:
    • modular and mobile configuration (MS version) composed of two light and compact modules, making it easy to transport, install and remove, so the aircraft can quickly be used to operate other missions
    • complete, multi-task configuration (SR version), composed of a bay with new multi-function receivers and a console station to optimize user comfort, enabling in-depth inspection.
  • high-performance systems that can calibrate any type of beacon with enhanced precision and reliability, thereby reducing mission time 
  • a wider range of services: sales, rental, support, software maintenance, etc.


The next step? Validation of RNP (Required Navigation Performance) approaches, based primarily on satellite resources like GPS, enabling aircraft to adopt direct, optimized trajectories. This new type of approach no longer calls for a strict frequency of inspection like radio-navigation beacons that can drift over time. However, before publication and implementation of each RNP-type approach procedure, it is vital to carry out an assessment of the procedure to check, in real-life conditions, for the presence of obstacles or mountainous areas close to the theoretical trajectory, and the absence of GPS signal disturbance.  The CARNAC system is already capable of testing and validating all these new types of virtual approach.


Offering enhanced performance, fuel savings, and shorter flight times. And therefore, a lower carbon footprint!

CARNAC - Automatic Flight Inspection Systems
From in-flight navigation aids control to the validation of PBN and RNAV procedures and approaches, CARNAC ensures full flight inspection and calibration while reducing flight times.

Modular and removable, Carnac MS enables the aircraft to continue to carry out its other missions (medical evacuation, training, television, environmental monitoring, etc.).