Satellite Firm Offers Free Airline Tracking

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Satellite-communications company Inmarsat has offered to provide airlines with free global tracking service over its network, the company announced on Monday. "This service is being offered to all 11,000 commercial passenger aircraft, which are already equipped with an Inmarsat satellite connection, virtually 100 percent of the world's long-haul commercial fleet," the company said. The offer aims to prevent another massive search like the one still ongoing for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The company made the announcement as the International Civil Aviation Organization opened a meeting in Montreal to examine the state of global airline-flight tracking.

Inmarsat said in addition to the free tracking service, it will also offer premium services, including an enhanced position-reporting facility to support reduced in-flight aircraft separation, and a "black box in the cloud" service that could transmit information from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. Providing the free tracking would cost Inmarsat about $3 million per year, according to the BBC, but the premium services could recoup those costs. The company already relays all distress calls from ships at sea, free of charge. Search teams are continuing to work in the Indian Ocean, but it's expected to take up to a year to search the suspected crash area for the missing Malaysian airplane.