DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung has signed an agreement with Spider Tracks to distribute, sell and market spidertracks, the satellite-based tracking system, in Europe.

The associated application allows authorised persons to view flight tracks anywhere in the world in real-time on the Internet. Aircraft that encounter trouble can be found quickly and helped by search and rescue, if necessary. Special functions, such as two-way communication between the cockpit and the ground are an additional aid to fleet management for commercial operators.

Spidertracks will be presented at the DFS stand at ATC Global in Amsterdam from 6-8 March and at AERO in Friedrichshafen from 18-21 April.

To use spidertracks, the pilot mounts a tracking device, called a spider, in the cockpit. This device automatically transmits GPS location information, altitude, speed and heading via the Iridium satellite network to a server. The Iridium satellite network covers every spot on the earth’s surface, ensuring seamless data transmission. On the spidertracks websites, the flight tracks can be followed in real-time on a map. Access to one’s flight information can be given to other people – making it easy for family, friends, employees and customers to always know where the aircraft is. The spider will automatically send the location of the aircraft as soon as it has power.

Additionally, the pilot can transmit an alert by pressing an SOS button. The current or latest recorded position of the aircraft is then sent as a text message and e-mail to a list of predetermined contact people. If the pilot selects the ‘watch’ function, an SOS will automatically be sent if the server does not receive a position report for a 15 minute period. Spidertracks sends alerts to the first tier of support people preselected by the pilot. After another 15 minutes without a position report, an alert is sent to a second preselected tier of support people. This could include search and rescue (SAR) services for example.

"Spidertracks is an invaluable support to SAR," explains captain Stefan Hollands from the Rescue Coordination Centre in Münster, Germany.

"All SOS messages from test flights reached the coordination centre within a short space of time. As the message gives us the exact position of the aircraft, we can send out our emergency service personnel without delay and with precise coordinates. The time saved can save lives," said Hollands.

"Spidertracks creates totally new opportunities for communication between the cockpit and the outside world, whether business or general aviation; the link to SAR is just the beginning," explains Jan-Eric Putze, who is in charge of sales of aeronautical publications and products at DFS.

The spider can be mounted in various positions in the cockpit and can be powered via a conventional cigarette lighter, for example. The portable device has an integrated antenna and can be used straight out of the box.

DFS offers two different versions of spidertracks. Using the spider S3 model, not only can pilots send SOS messages and use the ‘watch’ function, their support people can also automatically be informed when they take off and land. In addition, with the press of a button, the pilot can send up to four preset messages. Spider S4 is designed with commercial aircraft in mind. All flights of one fleet can be followed at once on the computer screen. An additional feature, called Spidertxt, allows the pilot and the ground station to exchange text messages. The only requirement for this is a connection between the spider and a Blackberry or Android smartphone. A company can therefore react quickly and more flexibly to changes, directing their fleet during flight to a new destination for instance.

The spider S3 costs €949 and Spider S4 €1,690. Costs for the transmitted data are calculated on the basis of a data contract. Spidertracks can be ordered online from the start of the AERO in April via the DFS website.