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STM Taps into the Enormous Opportunity in Civil Aviation
Issue 2 - 2019
In this interview Ömer Korkut – STM Chief Technology Officer discusses how STM has evolved to meet the needs of Civil Aviation along with the defense industry. By partnering airline companies and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, digital services for the direct digitization and automation of civil aviation, including indigenous cybersecurity solutions will ensure the security of these services.
Aviation Turkey: Mr. Ömer Korkut, first of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview. In general, STM is one of the leading companies that carry out projects in the defense sector; however, you also have a growing and developing structure in the field of civil aviation. Could you briefly inform us about your activities and projects in the field of civil aviation? Ömer Korkut: As a defense industry company, we have been conducting various projects and providing engineering and consultancy services since 1991 when we were established under the leadership of the SSB. STM`s adventure in product and service development related to military aviation begins, especially in the early 2000s. Afterward, we entered both the public and private sectors by shifting our capabilities that were developed on the military side to the Civil Aviation side, which has enormous potential. At similar times, products and services related to the development of Turkish Civil Aviation had already begun to emerge. As you know, STM is committed to developing innovative technologies. Therefore, STM tries to identify the areas where there is a gap and instead of offering similar solutions, develop products and services with the needs directly coming from Civil Aviation and provide these to the sector. In the field of Civil Aviation, we work with both Turkish Airlines and Atlasglobal, but this is not limited to developing a technological product and service in the classical sense, but also includes the security aspects of civil aviation such as safety and security. With its investments in cybersecurity for the last five years, STM has evolved to meet the needs of Civil Aviation along with our defense industry. Therefore, together with our airline companies and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, we develop digital services for the direct digitization and automation of civil aviation, including unique cybersecurity solutions that will ensure the security of these services. Aviation Turkey: According to the data from the last two years, 90-95% of STM`s total annual turnover consists of defense sales. Do you have a new restructuring plan in your future projection that will increase your investments in the field of civil aviation and get more shares from turnover in this area? Can you inform us about your short and medium-term goals? Ömer Korkut: Since STM is primarily a defense industry company, it gains a significant portion of its turnover from defense products. This should be seen natural, and as you already know, defense is a substantial value-added sector both in our country and in the world. Because, while the other sectors are more commercial, the commercial side of the Defense Sector can sometimes come as secondary. Thus, from a business point of view, our priority is to meet the needs of the Defense Sector, and we are continuing our work in this direction. What is essential in Civil Aviation, on the other hand, is that you must introduce your products and services to the right market at the right time. The scope of Civil Aviation in Turkey is determined, and we are working with some of the great players here with certain principles. With our experience in this sector, we develop our products and services not only for the domestic market but for foreign markets as well. We believe that the real added value, namely the increase in turnover, will be possible by marketing and positioning these products abroad. We will continue to expand our human resources in Civil Aviation in the case of need, but our main structure in the coming period will be about introducing our civil aviation products to foreign markets rather than developing talent. Moreover, our initiatives to take part in common platforms, including the TOBB Civil Aviation Assembly are continuing, in order to learn about the needs of the civil aviation sector and to meet these with our technologies. Aviation Turkey: As a company that increases its awareness and effectiveness in the field of Civil Aviation, you signed a multifaceted cooperation protocol with the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in January last year covering many areas of civil aviation. In particular, this protocol draws attention to “cybersecurity cooperation”, “aviation security cooperation”, and “airworthiness”. In short, what would you like to tell us about the scope of the protocol of this cooperation, the activities carried out to date, and your capabilities in these areas? Ömer Korkut: Of course, as you said before, when we talk about Civil Aviation, the security of civil aviation has become a big issue besides the products and services developed for the activation of aviation services. This year, for example, British Airways was fined. Why? Because of a data leak, personal information of millions of its passengers leaked to the internet. When such events occur, airlines suffer both financial and moral damage. In this example, both British Airways` reputation was damaged, and the Company was fined by Information Commisioner’s Office in the UK. In Turkey, there are several aspects of cybersecurity issues in civil aviation. Similarly, the Personal Data Protection Board conducts audits within the scope of the Law on the Protection of Personal Data (KVKK) in our country and imposes fines when it detects negligence/violations. Besides the data leak issue, there may be problems with the safety and security of Civil Aviation on the other side, not only with airlines but also with airports. Therefore, a significant part of our cooperation with the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also covers these fields. We planned various trainings on this subject and provided these trainings. We conducted some exercises with the DGCA. Our cybersecurity teams, which we call the "Red Team," conducted penetration tests with and without notice in certain places. We share the results of these tests with them within the scope of the agreement we have made with the DGCA. We consider that these results will be an essential reference for the DGCA to decide on specific regulations, especially regarding Civil Aviation Security. Another capability of STM is the certification services it has provided since its establishment in the scope of consultancy, which is given to it as a mission. We are indeed a qualified company with the approval of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) DOA (Design Organization Approval), so some of the activities with the DGCA are related to certification, and these activities also include training activities. We also continue to work with the DGCA to introduce our existing products to the aviation industry. We are working effectively and harmoniously, and I hope that we will get the results not only on behalf of STM but also for the whole Turkish Civil Aviation Sector. Aviation Turkey: Returning to the projects you carry out in the field of civil aviation, you have developed and deployed indigenous systems such as Electronic Flight Bag Capabilities (AeroTab™) and Paperless Cockpit-Cabin-Operation Center Integration (AeroSuite™) solutions as well as OpsMet™ web-based meteorological analysis application and OpsEye™ real-time Apron Area Air & Ground Surveillance Systems. What can you say about the advantages and the capabilities of these systems bring to the operators and users in terms of cost, logistics, and ease of use? Can you inform us about the current domestic and international users, as well as the potential customers of these systems? Ömer Korkut: Whether you are in the defense sector or the civil sector, you need to receive feedback from the field and establish an active user-developer relationship to develop accurate and effective products, or the emerging products cannot meet expectations. In the first place, we created this environment with our institutions and organizations so that we can work toward meeting their needs with our technologies. In this regard, the AeroTab™ Electronic Flight Bag, which is our first introduction to civil aviation and developed with R&D support, started to be used by Atlasglobal in 2014 after obtaining Airworthiness Certification. Atlasglobal provided significant input and support in the development of this product. In fact, in both the civil sector and the military sector, it is absolutely necessary to have user support and user feedback to develop such products so that they can be used effectively in the field. If this happens, the resulting products can be used very effectively and efficiently. We are talking about an exemplary project in which the user and industry come together to provide an effective solution, and this collaboration has become a successful product. It is currently operated by Atlasglobal, as well as Atlasjet Ukraine, in a number of aircraft. We also signed a contract with Iraqi Airways. We hope to ensure its operational use in Iraqi Airways in the near future. Therefore, this product, which we call Electronic Flight Bag, is used not only in our country but also abroad. Of course, we intend to increase the number of airlines and the aircraft that use this product in the future. So, how did this product help the user? 5-6 years ago, pilots used to come to the cockpit with a separate bag filled with all the flight plans and maps, and that bag would be quite heavy depending on the flight status. Because the bag was filled with papers, the cockpits were called paper cockpits back then. We reduced it into a tablet, and it is also integrated with the aircraft`s systems, so it is not a "remote" tablet. Therefore, we are talking about a tablet that can receive real-time information from the plane. This has two benefits; first, it increases flight efficiency by ensuring that pilots have rapid access to the right information at the right time, and second it achieves significant fuel savings by eliminating the weight of printed documents. When we put all of these together, we can say that AeroTab™ Electronic Flight Bag is an essential value-added service for Civil Aviation industry. Our other solution, OpsEye™, is actually a software product and is currently being used in the Turkish Airlines Integrated Flight Operations Control Center. The development story of this product started in 2015. All commercial aircrafts transmit an ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) signal. The ADS-B signal is not encrypted, and it is transmitted automatically from the moment the doors are closed before take-off and until the doors are opened after landing. In fact, the first starting point of this project was to optimize the taxi times at Istanbul Atatürk Airport in 2015. However, as we receive signals not only from the runway but also from the aircrafts in the air with the antennas we put into the airport, our product has become a kind of flight tracking application. The target platforms were not only the airplanes but also the push vehicles at the airports, which we call "push-back" vehicles. Therefore, both ground traffic and all air traffic within the airport-centered airspace with a radius of approximately 200 kilometers could be effectively monitored. After implementing the OpsEye project at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, we have been able to track all the airplanes flying over Istanbul, including the ones from Turkish Airlines, as all aircrafts transmit this signal. This was a highly rapid positioning for us. It was a service that we provided by bringing together Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products and developing our own receiver applications. As you may remember, there was heavy snowfall in Istanbul in January 2017, and the system proved itself under those harsh conditions. Thanks to OpsEye™, Turkish Airlines managed both flight and ground operations smoothly even under these adverse conditions. After proving the effectiveness of this system in the field, we have expanded this system to a total of 12 airports, including the Istanbul Airport in Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Nicosia airport. The Turkish Airlines Operation Control Center can actually see almost all air traffic in Turkish Airspace through OpsEye™. We also integrated the system to Istanbul Airport before it was opened. Currently, the most important airports in our country, where Turkish Airlines operates, are equipped with this system. As I have already emphasized, we provide real time information about flight and runway traffic at the airports covering all the Turkish Airspace. For OpsMet™, we can say that it is the first of its kind. OpsMet™ was also developed upon the demand of Turkish Airlines. As you know, Turkish Airlines has the highest number of destinations in the world and therefore needs meteorological knowledge. When you fly to that many destinations, you are in serious need of meteorological information about the airports that you are flying to and from. Turkish Airlines requires analysis such as which day and at what time of day it would be more appropriate to fly to airports where it does not operate every day or what time of day it will get a suitable slot. When we consider the concept of big data, this information actually exists somewhere. When it was first requested, we collected this data from open sources starting from 1999. We created the historical meteorological data of all the airports Turkish Airlines flies. This study formed the basis of our Big Data. We added this into our big data analytics platform called OVERA, analyzed it, and based on the historical data we have; we developed an application that will provide Turkish Airlines with the required information for the best time to land and take off at these airports. Using this data, for example, Turkish Airlines send a more experienced team to an airport even if it was difficult to get a slot when the weather was seasonally bad. Therefore, when planning its operations, Turkish Airlines takes the necessary measures to turn unfavorable conditions into benefits and is satisfied with this product. Until now, we have analyzed this data and presented this product to Turkish Airlines, and now we have received a second project from Turkish Airlines. To date, we have been evaluating and reporting from the METAR (Meteorological Aerodrome Report) data. Now using the TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts) data, we are advancing to the second phase of OpsMet™. In other words, our pilots will no longer make estimations with only the historical information of airports. They will receive real-time information about their destination and take action according to forecasts for up to 24 hours. The project has grown considerably since the beginning of the project. What they requested from us at the time was the 270 airports, which were part of the Turkish Airlines` program. Today, this number has reached 775 airports with the addition of reserve airports. Thanks to this project, we are now able to provide the meteorological data of the existing airports where Turkish Airlines land, including the other alternate airports. Furthermore, we offer OpsMet™ as Software as a Service. In this context, this service can be positioned very quickly and turned into a benefit. We take great pride in this project. As one of the world`s leading airlines, Turkish Airlines states that there aren`t any similar systems to OpsMet™ in the world. Therefore, we need to position OpsMet™ not only in the domestic market but also in the foreign market. We continue our studies on this matter. Aviation Turkey: You mentioned that you could see almost all of Turkey`s airspace, and this system has been put into use in 12 airports, including Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There are over 50 airports in Turkey. Is there any work planned to expand the OpsEye™ system to cover all airspace? Ömer Korkut: The airports where this system is installed are highly busy airports. Installing such a system at an airport with two or three flights per day may not be very cost-effective. There are not any additional orders for now. But if there is a demand, it may come not only from Turkish Airlines but also from the public sector, especially from the State Airports Authority (DHMI). As STM, we have always developed our products first for military use and then transferred these products to the civilian side. OpsEye™, on the other hand, is a product that we have developed for the civilian side and then a capability that we could adapt to the military side. We are in contact with the relevant units of the Turkish Armed Forces. If there is a need, we will continue our efforts to install similar systems there. Aviation Turkey: Especially for OpsMet™, there is a need for a certain amount of time to prepare for operations at airports, and you provide the user with an optimum output as a result of the analysis of big data obtained from the past to the present. Can you elaborate on that a little more? Ömer Korkut: Extremely critical algorithms run behind this application. There are models on the back, and these models do not occur by chance. We build these models; we`re talking about 20 years of data here. The whole story started with a specific "case" that Turkish Airlines had experienced. They gave us a date from the past and asked how the weather was at a particular airport at a specific time. We gave them the answer using this app. After this example study, Turkish Airlines decided to start this project. What I mean is; when you have the data with specific models after processing 20 years of big data, you also acquire the chance to confirm the results of your models. For example, how was the weather in Ankara on October 25, 2006? Was there fog in the morning at 6 o`clock? When you draw a conclusion with the model you have installed, you can go and look at the data at that date and prove the accuracy of that model. We have something like this, and you can both increase and confirm the accuracy of your predictions. Now, especially with the addition of TAF to OpsMet™ (because the TAF is continuously being updated), even this option will be possible. Let`s say there is a change in the weather forecast from 6 hours ago, and the storm has changed direction. The weather forecast will be updated immediately with new estimates, and this application will provide decision support and flexibility to the pilot to change the course of the plane while still in the air. Aviation Turkey: You have pointed out that OpsMet™ is a service provided through STM servers. Do you also provide a risk map interface to the user? Ömer Korkut: There is not much of a retrospective risk map, but when the OpsMet™ is renewed with the TAF, these demands will, of course, be met. Because, when planning a flight, it will be possible to conduct this risk planning as weather events that could be experienced during that flight could change and that will also be seen as well. Aviation Turkey: In Civil Aviation, it is highly essential to provide fast and efficient services to users, especially in logistics, repair, and maintenance. What kind of service do you offer to customers regarding the services and products you provide? Ömer Korkut: To achieve this, it is necessary to install systems that can operate on their own and do not require much intervention, but of course, this is not enough. The aviation operation continues 24/7, and it needs to be uninterrupted. Likewise, the services that support it must be non-stop again. Therefore, we have positioned ourselves to provide 24/7 technical support in case of need for Turkish Airlines for the services we provide, mission-critical services such as OpsEye™ and OpsMet™, which in my opinion, can become mission-critical with TAF integration. We use specific hardware, even if it is an off-the-shelf commercial product. We continuously update our software, considering both the needs of Turkish Airlines and developing technologies. Since these are near real-time services, as technology advances, these systems need to be updated with new technologies both for ease of use and to maintain this real-time capability. In this regard, our Civil Aviation Group closely monitors technology and takes the necessary measures by continuously monitoring the needs of Turkish Airlines. We currently have an engineer at the OCC. We have a colleague who works as a System Engineer within the Operational Control Center of Turkish Airlines, and we are in constant contact with him. Otherwise, it is not possible to deliver continuous satisfaction in such a critical task. Aviation Turkey: In particular, we see that the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and connectivity topics have attracted a great deal of attention in commercial aviation in recent years. In light of recent developments in the world, what would you like to say about your approach and the studies conducted or planned regarding these issues? Ömer Korkut: There are many areas where you can use the devices with the Internet of Things (IoT) in Civil Aviation. For example, you can use it for baggage tracking. When we think about aviation or security operations when we talk about IoT in the security of airports, tiny chips come to mind first, but IoT actually refers to even the security cameras. So, we shouldn`t just look at the cameras as security equipment in the airport management. It is also possible to measure the effectiveness of operational services through cameras using advanced computer vision technologies. This is how it`s done in metropolitan hospitals. Accordingly, we have some solutions in this regard. We share these solutions both with the airline companies and the public institutions regulating them. We strive to develop solutions and provide services in this regard. The OVERA System, which we have installed and operated since 2015, is already a data analytics platform compatible with IoT. Therefore, to provide such solutions to the field in a very short time, both our technological infrastructure and personnel resources are already ready, and they are working on them. Aviation Turkey: STM has significant experience in Cyber threats and Cybersecurity. In this context, you periodically publish a Cybersecurity report every three months to raise awareness. Additionally, you provide cybersecurity training to institutions and organizations at STM Academy. Furthermore, you provide services to defense and security companies on Cybersecurity in your Cyber Fusion Center. We see that cyber threats against Civil Aviation are increasing every day. Considering the recent global practices in this field, what would you like to say about the current level of awareness in Turkey regarding all the institutions and partners? Ömer Korkut: There is a concept called Cyber Hygiene in Cyber Security. Cyber Hygiene comes with several other concepts. One of them is the attack surface. First of all, we need to narrow the attack surface. So, what is the attack surface, you may ask? You need to think of Civil Aviation from end to end. As STM, our understanding of Cyber Security is as follows; firstly, it should be integrated. If there is a system, all the parts of this system should work in the same center, within a Cyber Security concept with defined principles. The second one is depth. Cyber Security starts with the passenger. Civil Aviation is regulated by very strict rules; there is even a phrase for that "The rules of Civil Aviation are written in blood." Despite this, we work with people in numerous places, and there is a possibility that these people make mistakes. As you know, planes have embedded systems. However, although they have been examined in detail, there are also potential vulnerabilities in the embedded systems of aircraft. We can`t ignore that. Platforms are another factor when we talk about cybersecurity, and there are also additional systems integrated into this platform, which do not have their own built-in embedded system. Certain problems may also occur because of these systems. Of course, the flight operation is not limited to the platform. Within the flight operation, there are various parameters, including the airports and personnel working there. In other words, the operation is carried out with a combination of several parts. Therefore, a holistic perspective is needed to ensure the safety of the flight, the airports, and the airport operators. Thus, within our capabilities, we share our findings and assessments regarding this need by providing a kind of consultancy service on what can be done from this perspective, especially in our work with the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Of course, we gain ideas about what to do with the data we receive in the field, and we are continually working to improve our capabilities and reflexes here. Aviation Turkey: Is there any plan to conduct a pilot study with the participation of all partners? Ömer Korkut: We are currently working on this with the DGCA. We conducted a pilot study and presented the reports to them. Moreover, we intend to conduct similar studies in the future by changing and improving its scope in ways the DGCA will deem appropriate. Of course, as I said, there will probably be measures that the DGCA will take considering certain processes. I believe the DGCA will evaluate this in the best way possible. Aviation Turkey: The Cyber Fusion Center has a vital mission on this matter to eliminate this threat before it emerges, on the other hand, STM Academy closes a critical gap in terms of eliminating the insufficiencies in education on cybersecurity. What can you say about the place of these issues within the holistic approach you have mentioned earlier? Ömer Korkut: Cyber Security starts with awareness. In other words, if you do not establish a security awareness in the airline business, it is not possible to solve everything with technology. As we have always talked about, there are three pillars of effective cybersecurity, one of which is technology, and perhaps the most straightforward part is technology; the second is human, and the third is the process. All the on-line persons inside a network, from the most authorized to the least authorized, should be aware of Cyber Security within a specific framework. Because Cyber Security is not just network security, Cyber Security starts with physical security. If an unauthorized person can physically access a network that should not be physically accessible, that means there is no physical security there. Physical security is actually a precondition for Cyber Security in this case. We are talking about a broad userbase here. Thus, specialized training must be provided to create this awareness. With the cybersecurity training we provide at STM Academy, we actually aim to accomplish this. Here, we provide not only awareness trainings but also a broad spectrum of trainings, including practical trainings for the technical personnel. As for the Cyber Fusion Center, we define three different functions here. One of them is Cyber Threat Intelligence, which means predicting events before they happen. In fact, the physical environment and cyber environment are very similar. When we encounter any security incidents in the physical environment, we always ask, have we not heard of this before? It is also possible to predict and detect certain events beforehand in the cyber environment. That`s what we do at the Cyber Threat Intelligence Center. We conduct both customer-oriented and sector-oriented Cyber Threat Intelligence by collecting global data from open sources and combining them with services from commercially available sources. Of course, it is not possible to detect all threats. That`s when the Cyber Operations Center comes in. This is where we monitor our customers` networks. Here we evaluate the abnormalities in the system and decide whether they are a cyber event or not. If we encounter a cyber incident, we also provide services in the form of prevention and blocking. Our third functional area is our Malware Laboratory. After the incident, this is where the malicious software is examined, analyzed, and the problems it may cause are revealed; moreover, the measures regarding their elimination are recommended to our customers, and reports are written on this subject. We aim to position the Cyber Fusion Center on this triple structure and provide services to every sector. Cyber Security is a horizontal sector. Not only the defense or civil aviation sectors but also the health, transport, energy, and any other industry where information technologies are used, need cybersecurity. We are trying to provide this service together with our Civil Aviation solutions and services. Aviation Turkey: The technology in the field of Civil Aviation is improving every day. What would you like to say about your investments in R&D in the field of civil aviation and your upcoming products and new technologies? Ömer Korkut: STM invests heavily in R&D, and sometimes R&D investments trigger each other. There are also cybersecurity applications in the field of civil aviation security that use artificial intelligence and big data. In other words, we are constantly working to develop new products by using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics technologies and use them in the civil aviation industry. We aim to implement innovative technologies and turn our solutions into service. This is our current strategy. Aviation Turkey: STM participates not only in defense fairs but also in civil aviation organizations as well. Furthermore, you represent our country by participating in various organizations in Turkey and abroad. In this context, what would you like to say about the activities you attended in 2019 and your plans for 2020? Ömer Korkut: We participated in Teknofest in 2019. As it was planned and named, Teknofest was a spectacular event in which we displayed our aviation products in a festive atmosphere. Apart from that, we participated in international fairs both as visitors and exhibitors and introduced our products and capabilities. On the international level, we`re going to Aircraft Interiors Expo; however, this event is mainly about platform interiors. Each year, we participate in the EFB Users Forums, where a wide range of EFB user, provider and integrator community can discuss and share current topics of interest. We consider that participating in fairs and events such as The Aviation Show MEASA 2019 in Dubai, which we have recently visited as a participant, will be more beneficial for the promotion of our products. Therefore, we plan our participations in 2020 in line with this consideration. Aviation Turkey: Mr. Korkut, do you have anything else you would like to add or have a message for our readers? Ömer Korkut: My message will be about Aviation Turkey Magazine. In our country, civil aviation is open to development, and serious investments are made in this field. We say that Turkish Airlines is the youngest fleet in the world. We say that Turkish Airlines flies to most destinations in the world. We say that we have built one of the largest airports in the world. Therefore, I believe that Civil Aviation has enormous potential and deserves more attention due to the geographical location of our country. In this respect, I think that Aviation Turkey magazine will fill a significant gap, even if it has just started publishing. Consequently, I would like to thank you for taking such an initiative. Similarly, I would like to state that we are ready to contribute both to the sector and to Aviation Turkey not just as an industrial organization or as a defense industry company but in every possible way. Aviation Turkey: Mr. Ömer Korkut, thank you again for your kind words and for taking the time for us…