Lido SurfaceData obstacle database: Growth, future developments and more

The Lido/SurfaceData team maintains an EASA-certified obstacle database containing predominantly manmade structures that are considered safety critical for aviation. The Airspaces and Obstacles Team in Gdańsk, Poland, codes, maintains and updates the obstacles according to publications by national authorities. Read on to find out about the growth of our database in the year 2018 and why the growth rate differs highly per region, and about future developments.

Database Growth

Our database grew by approximately 170,000 obstacles in 2018, resulting in a total of more than 1.25 million obstacles at the end of the year. This corresponds to a 15% increase over the observed timespan, which is in line with our database growth rates from previous years.

When looking at the growth per AIRAC cycle in 2018, the average rate is an increase of 1% compared to the previous cycle. A significant exception was the cycle 1803, where the database grew by 7%, corresponding to 78,000 new obstacles. The reason for this was the addition of many new, previously unpublished, obstacles in the United States of America. Cycles 1811 and 1812 also experienced an above-average growth rate of 2% each, due to new aerodrome obstacle publications in Hungary, the United Kingdom, Japan and Turkey.


Added Obstacles

New obstacles are mainly located in countries that provide electronic terrain and obstacle data (eTOD). The electronic format and smart import routines developed by Lufthansa Systems allow for the import of a large number of obstacles with just a few clicks. This vastly increases the number of obstacles in the database compared to the manual coding of obstacles when extracting them from traditional paper-based publications, such as the Aeronautical Information Publications of each country. Electronically published obstacles also reduce the risk of human errors during the data-translation phase, as a lot less user input is involved in this step. For these reasons, there is an ongoing shift from paper-based sources towards the usage of electronic publications: Almost 90% of all obstacles currently in the database originate from eTOD files. To handle these imports as efficiently as possible while maintaining our high quality standards, significant investments into the digital import routines are required.

The following map depicts hotspots of particularly large amounts of newly added obstacles in 2018 as red areas.


Future Developments

The Lido SurfaceData team actively looks for further sources to increase the completeness of our obstacle database. Multiple countries have already announced their first eTOD publications for this year. Obtaining and importing more eTOD publications is the top priority due to the numerous advantages that this publication format offers.

Another interesting development will be the decreased minimum validity of coded obstacles. Thus far, an obstacle had to be announced as being valid for at least three months to be added to the database. This minimum duration will be reduced to one month. Since this change only affects temporary obstacles, there is no major impact expected concerning the overall amount of obstacles. However, this change will make the obstacle database more up to date as it represents reality in a more precise manner.

We expected that the Lido SurfaceData obstacle database would continue to grow at a similar rate as in previous years, and therefore anticipated that we would have approximately 1.4 million obstacles in our database by the end of 2019. However, the growth rate in the beginning of 2019 was much higher than expected, so we already reached 1.4 million obstacles this month!

We are now expecting to code our 1.5 millionth obstacle by the end of October 2019.