Nav Canada, Iridium partner to develop satellite-based aircraft tracking system

21 June 2012 (Last Updated June 21st, 2012 04:35)

Canadian civil air navigation service provider Nav Canada and satellite communications company Iridium are planning a new joint venture (JV) to offer a solution that will allow air navigation service providers to track aircraft in real time.

Iridium

Canadian civil air navigation service provider Nav Canada and satellite communications company Iridium are planning a new joint venture (JV) to offer a solution that will allow air navigation service providers to track aircraft in real time.

The system will allow optimal routing of aircraft, enabling them to fly longer at more efficient altitudes and in better weather, while offering airlines fuel savings of about $6bn to $8bn on the North Atlantic and North and Central Pacific route alone.

Iridium CEO Matt Desch said through this partnership, Aireon will enable a quantum improvement in air traffic surveillance.

"ANSPs everywhere will be able to introduce active air traffic control to airlines wherever they fly, with all of the benefits in efficiency, safety, fuel burn and reduced emissions this will bring," Desch said.

Under the plan, Aireon will receive 81 Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) 1090 extended squitter (ES) receiver payloads from Harris, which will be hosted on Iridium NEXT satellite constellation to be launched between 2015 and 2017.

ADS-B receiver payloads will be equipped on each Iridium NEXT satellite to function independently and carry out separate air traffic surveillance functions from the spacecraft's major mission.

Harris' payload is based on the company's AppStar reconfigurable payload platform and will be used to carry out the ADS-B receiver function from the Iridium satellite constellation, comprising 66 low Earth-orbiting satellites, six on-orbit spares and nine ground spares.

According to Harris, the payload will receive the ADS-B messages containing position and other data from each airplane and deliver it to Aireon's ground segment, which will then deliver it to the ATM systems of the ANSPs to decide real-time precise aircraft location.

The received real-time ADS-B information and the satellite-based aircraft tracking reliability will allow ATCs to reduce the authorised separation between aircraft and allow aircraft flying over remote areas to go directly from one point to another.

Exelis has been selected as systems engineering provider and the initiative will be supported by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Exelis Information Systems president Mike Wilson said the company has been working with Iridium on the development of the space-based ADS-B system, which serves as the backbone of the FAA's NextGen initiative.

"With this proposed joint venture our goal is to ensure that the space-based ADS-B service offered by Aireon seamlessly integrates with, and extends, existing ground-based services, setting a foundational building block of a globally harmonised space-based air traffic management system."


Image: The global aircraft tracking capability will be delivered through ADS- B receivers built into Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, which will be launched between2015-2017. Photo: NAV CANADA.