Iridium, NavCanada To Offer Global Flight Tracking

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A constellation of 66 new satellites that will be launched starting in 2015 will make it possible for operators to track their aircraft anywhere in the world, even across oceans and remote regions where coverage is not currently available, the project partners announced on Tuesday. Iridium Communications is providing the technology, and NavCanada is the launch customer. For routes that operate in oceanic airspace, the new Aireon satellites will provide a "quantum improvement" in efficiency, said NavCanada CEO John Crichton. For example, NavCanada said, flights across the North Atlantic should save $100 million per year thanks to more efficient routing. The satellites, which are scheduled to be online by 2017, will communicate with the ADS-B devices on airplanes.

The FAA is also working with Iridium, and is expected to be the second customer for the technology, according to Reuters. "Because the insight and control of air traffic management through space-based ADS-B is unparalleled, the FAA will be engaged with Iridium and its Aireon partners in setting the specifications and configuration of space-based ADS-B surveillance," said Chris Metts, vice president of FAA's air traffic program. The new technology "will enable commercial airline operations to be more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly," according to Iridium's news release.