Required Surveillance Performance


Eddie sez:

Most pilots who have flown internationally in the last decade or so are well acquainted with the concept of Required Navigation Performance (RNP), the idea that where you can fly will be determined on how accurately you can fly and how well the system alerts you when things are less than promised. While it isn't a perfect statement, you can think that the XX in your RNP-XX relates to that accuracy. The same concept holds true for communications and surveillance. In the case of communications, the number attached to your Required Surveillance Performance (RSP) is the number of seconds it takes for surveillance data from the CSP interface to arrive at the ATSU flight data processing system. You won’t find a lot about RSP because it is so closely related to Required Communications Performance (RCP). Does it matter? Yes, the lower the number the tighter the airspace you will be allowed to fly. Put another way: the higher the number, the more airspace around the world that will be denied you.

Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.


Figure: Evolution of Surveillance, from FAA RSP Presentation.

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Required Surveillance Performance


[ICAO Doc 9869, ¶1.1] The FANS concept, which came to be known as the communications, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management (CNS/ATM) systems concept, involves a complex and interrelated set of technologies, dependent largely on satellites.

[ICAO Doc 9869, ¶2.3]

  • To enable ATM functions within a performance-based airspace, it will be necessary to characterize the performance required for the applicable communication, navigation and/or surveillance elements. RCP will be used in conjunction with RNP and other performance-based measures.
  • For a particular ATM function, an increase or decrease in the required performance for any single element (i.e., C or N or S) may allow a trade off in required performance of some or all of the other elements, provided the target level of safety is maintained.
  • It is important that the States harmonize RCP type for the same or similar ATM functions to reduce training requirements and errors resulting from confusion in operations across airspace boundaries.
  • ICAO Doc 9689, Airspace Planning Methodology, provides considerations for assessing the risk of collision when determining separation minima within an acceptable target level of safety. The risk of collision is a function of navigation performance, route configuration, traffic density, surveillance, communication and air traffic control (ATC). Determination of separation minima allows for trade-offs.

If you want to know more about how RSP came to be, see Required Communications Performance (RCP). (You can’t have one without the other.)


[ICAO Doc 10037 Glossary] Performance-based surveillance (PBS). Surveillance based on performance specifications applied to the provision of air traffic services.

Note.— An RSP specification includes surveillance performance requirements that are allocated to system components in terms of the surveillance to be provided and associated data delivery time, continuity, availability, integrity, accuracy of the surveillance data, safety and functionality needed for the proposed operation in the context of a particular airspace concept.

The “PBS” term hasn’t advanced much, at least not in the pilot world. Where this impacts pilots is when tied to the idea of Required Communications Performance (RCP).

[ICAO Doc 10037 ¶] Performance-based communication and surveillance (PBCS) is a concept that applies required communication performance (RCP) and required surveillance performance (RSP) specifications to ensure appropriate performance levels for relevant ATM operations (e.g. application of a reduced separation minimum). Information on the performance-based communication and surveillance (PBCS) concept and guidance material on its implementation are contained in the Performance-based Communication and Surveillance (PBCS) Manual (Doc 9869).

The "PBCS" term is even newer and, as of early 2017, the new version of Doc 9869 is hard to come by. The bottom line is you need communications and surveillance to get into tighter and tighter airspace.


The ICAO Gold Manual speaks of RSP 180, 240, and 400 in the context of reduced separation minima, which leads you to believe an airplane with nothing but an HF for communications and no automatic surveillance has an RSP greater than that. As the technology goes up, the RSP goes down. And that will open up some airspace.


Figure: RSP 400 Example (From FAA RSP Presentation)


Figure: RSP 180 Example (From FAA RSP Presentation)

Note: “HMI” is defined in another ICAO manual (ICAO Doc 9869) to be “Human Machine Interaction.”

See Also:

FAA Introduction to Required Communication Performance (RCP) and Required Surveillance Performance (RSP), Presented to SOCM/2, By Christine Falk, 8 - 10 February 2012.

ICAO Document 9869 AN/462 (Draft), Manual on Required Communication Performance (RCP)

ICAO Document 10037 AN/509 - Global Operational Data Link (GOLD) Manual, Advance edition (unedited), First Edition, 2016