Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) has signed a data services agreement with Aireon, developer of the world’s first space-based global air traffic surveillance system.

Through the agreement, ATNS will have 100% air traffic surveillance of the Johannesburg flight information region (FIR) and the Cape Town FIR, which cover approximately 10% of the world’s airspace. This will be done through Aireon’s satellite-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) service, scheduled to be operational in 2018.

Today, over 70% of the world’s airspace is outside of any real-time air traffic surveillance, limiting it to mainly terrestrial and densely populated areas. This leaves the vast majority of remote, oceanic, and mountainous regions without any real-time aircraft monitoring.

ATNS has decided to implement space-based ADS-B to enable real-time visibility throughout their airspace. Increased visibility, coupled with real-time air traffic surveillance, improves both the safety and efficiency of air travel, and gives air traffic control the ability to optimise airspace with more accurate, predicable data.

ATNS CEO Thabani Mthiyane said: "Aireon is providing the global air transport industry with a vital piece of technology that will greatly enhance air traffic management.

"Much of Africa is currently without any air traffic surveillance. Aireon’s service will give us visibility into many regions, allowing us to facilitate seamless transitions between air traffic control providers. This will be achieved without any additional ground infrastructure, and utilising currently mandated on-board avionics."

"Once Aireon’s service is operational in 2018, our increased area of surveillance will allow us to work with our African neighbors to improve safety and air traffic efficiency across this region of the world."

Aireon CEO Don Thoma said: "ATNS demonstrates exceptional regional and global leadership in air traffic control. Their foresight to invest in a long-term solution to solve the issues of global air traffic surveillance will be welcomed across the African continent. We welcome ATNS as a launch customer and look forward to collaborating on the deployment of space-based ADS-B in the African region."

ATNS signs their data services agreement on the heels of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) adopting a resolution for primary spectrum allocation of the 1090 MHz frequency band, for use by satellite-based ADS-B.

ATNS also joins additional AireonSM launch customers NAV CANADA, Italy’s ENAV, Ireland’s IAA, Denmark’s NAVIAIR, the UK’s NATS, and Curacao’s DC-ANSP.