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Air Traffic Safety







JOE MCNALLY, STR-SPEECHTECH CEO: Innovating Aviation Information Broadcasting Solutions




               In today’s air navigation services realm, timely, clear and concise information and data are a sine qua non for ensuring the continuing safety, security and efficiency of air traffic management in particular and the provision of air navigation cum air transport services in general. This singular fact makes the roles of industry stakeholders whose missions and visions revolve around the provision of cutting-edge aviation information broadcasting solutions highly sacrosanct. And there are not many of these critical stakeholders out there. However, one of the few leading industry players is STR-SpeechTech Limited.

The Victoria BC Canada-based private corporation – founded in 1989 – is clearly a leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of state-of-the-art text-to-speech systems for air traffic control (ATC) towers or flight service stations around the world. With over 300 deployments of the widely acknowledged STR StarCaster systems across more than 30 countries, the company stands out as a trailblazer in today’s aviation information broadcasting solutions arena.

Joe McNally is the Chief Executive Officer of STR-SpeechTech. In a recent interview with Air Traffic Safety Electronics International Managing Editor, Adeyinka Olumuyiwa Osunwusi, McNally shared his insights regarding STR and the global aviation information broadcasting solutions market.



What are some of the changes you are seeing among the needs of today’s text-to-speech systems customers?


We are noticing an increase in the variety of requirements from our international customers that extend beyond text-to-speech (TTS) technology. While a clear, natural voice remains important, customers are advocating for integrated solutions that seamlessly align with their Air Traffic Management (ATM) networks or tower ecosystems. Whether they opt for standalone systems or hosted/centralized deployments, there is a consistent demand for seamless data integration capable of being networked into their existing infrastructure.


And how is STR-SpeechTech providing solutions to meet these needs?


Our aviation broadcast solutions must be capable of scaling and adapting to the diverse requirements of our international customers. To meet this challenge, we are constantly enhancing our technology to offer more integrated systems that seamlessly align with our customers’ aviation broadcasting needs. Additionally, we work closely with both new and existing customers to provide unique and customized solutions tailored to their specific requirements. Importantly, our aviation broadcast solution is built upon our proven speech technology, ensuring delivery of a clear and natural voice.


What specific text-to-speech applications does STR offer to the aviation market?


STR offers a suite of StarCaster aviation broadcast solutions designed for ease of use by Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) and flight service station managers. These solutions automate the creation and broadcast of D-ATIS (Digital Automatic Terminal Information Service) and D-VOLMET (Digital VOLMET) over voice, as well as generate textual messages for DATALINK transmission to ACARS-equipped aircraft.

The most prevalent solution is our StarCaster D-ATIS, a service-oriented broadcasting solution for air traffic controllers and managers. It can be deployed in both manned and remote tower scenarios.

Recently, we have also collaborated with our partners to develop the StarCaster RWAS (Remote Advisory Weather Service). This service can be deployed and integrated with a micro-weather unit to provide autonomous weather advisory broadcasts over VHF in remote and/or uncontrolled airstrips or helipads, either over VHF or via text over the internet. The idea behind the RWAS is simple: weather anywhere, anytime. Pilots flying into remote airfields can rely on having access to weather and winds via a VHF broadcast.


How many deployments of the StarCaster systems has STR made so far? And where is the African continent standing today in terms of these deployments?




To date, STR has deployed over 300 international installations of the StarCaster systems, which include civil and military deployments around the world. In Africa specifically, we have a supportive customer base and a strong track record. Some of our systems have been operational for over a decade. Currently, STR is further expanding its presence in Africa by deploying an additional 6 D-ATIS systems across six different countries. This ongoing activity is proof of the importance and potential growth opportunity in Africa.


How would you describe the aviation information broadcasting solutions market today? And what do you see as the major challenges and prospects?


Many vendors in the market offer low-cost broadcasting solutions as add-ons to their tower or weather systems. While this may provide a cost-effective option, they often prioritize convenience and simplicity by bundling broadcasting capabilities with other systems. However, we prioritize providing solutions that adhere to aviation standards and meet the specific requirements of our customers. Our challenge is to offer an affordable yet customized aviation broadcasting solution.


STR has been in business since 1989, having metamorphosed from a research outfit at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Speech Technology Research. What specifically does STR stand for today in terms of visions, corporate and sales philosophy, customer service, after-sales support and training?


Understanding our purpose and vision is essential for guiding us in the right direction. In our ongoing commitment to the aviation industry, we offer Air Traffic Controllers a reliable method for generating aviation broadcasts that pilots can easily understand over both voice and datalink communications. Our StarCaster aviation broadcast solution is built around our high-quality speech technology and our goal remains to this day to provide elegant solutions to our customers that prioritize aviation safety.

At STR, our customers always come first. We engage our customers from the start to define their requirements during the initial phases of solution development. Taking the time to listen to our customers allows us to understand their unique requirements and collaborate closely to tailor solutions to their specific hardware, software, deployment, and support needs.

Our commitment to customer satisfaction extends beyond the initial implementation phase. Should any issues arise, we have a support team ready to assist. We stand by our product and work with our customers ensuring their needs are met and their operations remain uninterrupted. Customers can rest assured that their investment is protected, as we also offer ongoing support and maintenance to ensure their system remains up-to-date for the lifespan of the system.


And what would you say about adherence to relevant standards and recommendations?


Adherence to relevant standards and recommendations is critical to the aviation industry, especially if your system provides a vital service for ATC. ATC and flight service personnel rely on our system to automatically decode, process and broadcast information in flight that pilots rely on to safely fly in and out of controlled airspace. How we broadcast that information is crucial to limit any potential for errors. We are constantly reviewing international aviation and weather standards such as ICAO and WMO to ensure our system remains relevant and most importantly up to date. I like to think about it as speaking a common language and also have a common benchmark should our customer want to deviate from standards.



There is much buzz in the international aviation community today regarding the interoperability and the operational homogeneity of air navigation systems in particular and the aviation ecosystem in general. Where does STR stand today especially in the light of the increasing digitalization, automation and virtualization of air traffic management operations?


As alluded to in my response earlier, we are seeing an increase in aviation broadcast solutions that seamlessly integrate into customer’s towers and flight service centers. Working with our customers, we are currently implementing P3/AMHS and SWIM capability into our StarCaster broadcasting solution to be able to consume and contribute data within ATM networks. By doing so, our broadcasting solution is becoming more data centric in a sort of way.

There is also the benefit of having more flexible ways to deploy our system into our customer tower operations. We have had several projects now where we have deployed our system into a customer’s existing data center making use of virtualization. Over the last 5 years our focus has also been to increase our networking and IT experience, allowing us to guide our customers along the way.


Cybersecurity is also an important subject-matter in today’s aviation. What is STR doing to ensure the provision of cyber resilient aviation information broadcasting solutions?


We certainly see the increased focus on cybersecurity, especially when systems are connected to an outside network. For the most part, our broadcasting system is generally deployed in a closed environment. However, for centralized systems providing ATIS broadcast service for multiple towers, cybersecurity is something that we are addressing in our software development, with our vendors and customers. It is important to remain up-to-date and focus on following the most current security best practices. For most of our customers, we provide regular software updates and patches to ensure our software and operating systems (and other applications) remain update with the latest security patches. Although rare, in some cases, we have started to see a trend for vulnerability testing prior to deployment of our software.


In August 2022, you succeeded Craig Dickson – now the Executive Chair – as STR’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). How would you describe your experience so far?


I joined the STR team back in 2019 as the Director of Business Development. Having been a part of the aviation industry since 2008, it has been a remarkable experience working directly alongside the founder and learning the ins and outs of STR and how to lead a business. Coming from a background in business development with experience in aeronautical information data management and communication systems, Craig continues to guide me in the art of leadership, strategy, decision-making, and effective communication.

The transition to CEO in 2022 has definitely had its challenges, but it’s reassuring to have someone in my corner. Although Craig guides me along the way, I appreciate his confidence in stepping aside to let me lead STR. Leading STR continues to be rewarding yet challenging. I am lucky to lead and be a part of such a great team here in Victoria on Vancouver Island.


And what would be your guiding principles as you continue in your role as STR’s CEO?


For me, it’s all about ensuring that people are engaged and excited about what we’re doing here at STR. We have a wonderful group of long-term employees at STR, and it’s important to me that it remains that way. As we continue to drive innovation through our research and development and develop StarCaster features that our customers want, I want to foster a workplace of curiosity and commitment to delivering the high-quality products and services that we have been known for.


Overall, what would you say about the future of the aviation information broadcasting solutions market?


The market is undeniably trending towards a data-centric broadcasting solution. I envision StarCaster evolving into more of a digital data broadcast solution that can be deployed either independently or within an ATM ecosystem. I see STR expanding our StarCaster capability to include much more than just voice, transforming it into a data-centric system capable of broadcasting various relevant data to systems and to our consumers over data networks.

I’m also excited about innovating in the area of AI, applying more tools to our StarCaster broadcasting solution, and potentially providing voice services as an add-on to other vendors in the aviation space, providing vendors and customers with a customer voice built for them. While I’m certainly enthusiastic about the future innovation of our product, I recognize the importance of never losing sight of our commitment to providing the very best Aviation Broadcast Solution to the aviation market. ◙