UK air traffic management company NATS has acquired a 10% stake in space-based air traffic surveillance service provider Aireon, in a deal valued at approximately $69m.
Aireon will use a network of 66 low Earth-orbiting Iridium NEXT satellites to monitor the location of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipped aeroplanes flying across the globe.
The service will provide global air traffic surveillance of aircraft in real time across oceans and remote regions such as the poles, deserts and mountainous areas, for the first time.
Meanwhile, NATS also confirmed that it is currently consulting with its customers about launching the satellite technology for use over the North Atlantic starting with operational trials from 2019.
The new technology is expected to provide the capacity and safety benefits which the airspace requires to keep pace with demand.
NATS CEO Martin Rolfe said: “This is a transformational technology that will deliver the world’s first truly global air traffic control infrastructure, making flying even safer and more efficient.
“Investing in Aireon is the best way for us to shape the future of the service in a way that benefits our customers in the UK and elsewhere, and to demonstrate NATS’ commitment to playing a leading role in the development of the next generation of global air traffic technology.
“We’re currently consulting with our airline customers about how to best deploy this technology.”
UK Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said that the agreement between NATS and Aireon will enhance safety by enabling the monitoring of aircraft anywhere in the world.
An analysis that was jointly undertaken by NATS and NAV CANADA, supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), estimates an approximate 76% decrease in safety risk from using the Aireon service.