The European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) has been chosen by ViaSat to manage the commercialisation of its Iris project, which will provide more fuel-efficient routes for airlines when it launches in 2024. 

Viasat’s recently acquired Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) have developed a tool to use digital satellite communication to assist congested VHF channels currently used. 

According to Inmarsat/Viasat, the new tool “enhances collaboration between pilots and air traffic controllers to maximise airspace use and reduce the impact of disruptions for passengers, while also reducing emissions through the use of 4D Trajectory-Based Operations.” 

High bandwidth continuous communications between air traffic control and pilots allow flights to cruise at optimum altitudes and use continuous climb and descent paths, saving fuel and minimising environmental impact. 

ESSP CEO Charlotte Neyret said: “ESSP is proud to contribute as a service provider to the expansion of Iris technology, which will bring a wide range of benefits to the aerospace industry, as Iris will allow the development of new environmentally friendly routes, which will improve ATC management, reduce fuel costs and finally lead to the deployment of more efficient air operations, to name just a few of the programme’s strengths.”

EUROCONTROL, a “pan-European, civil-military organisation dedicated to supporting European aviation” said approximately 10% of a plane’s CO₂ output could be cut by improving air traffic management. 

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ESSP is the first Pan-European company certified for satellite-based communication service by the European Aviation Safety Agency and will manage the relationship between Irish and European Air Navigation Service Providers. 

Javier Benedicto, acting director of connectivity and secure communications at ESA, said: “We are proud to support the space-enabled digitalisation of Europe’s skies, which will help to make aviation greener.

“ESA developed the Iris system in partnership with Inmarsat and we look forward to seeing it certified so that European citizens can benefit from shorter journey times and greener travel. Iris is a great example of how ESA is accelerating the use of space for a green future.”

Iris is expected to roll out in 2024, with easyJet and ITA Airways already signed up. 

Joel Klooster, senior vice-president of airline operations and safety for Viasat’s recently acquired Inmarsat business added: “This is an important milestone, not only for Iris but the aviation industry as a whole.

“While it can seem overwhelming and difficult as individuals or organisations to make a difference to climate change, when we come together working across the ecosystem, as partners with a shared goal, we can make a big difference.”