Beginning in 2017 any aircraft, GA included, with ADS-B Out transmitting at 1090 MHz will be automatically tracked and the precise location of its last transmission anywhere on earth recorded. At last week’s ICAO High Level Safety Conference, Aireon LLC, which is launching the first space-based global air surveillance system, announced that the headquarters for its Aircraft Locating and Emergency Response Tracking (Aireon Alert) will be at the Irish Aviation Authority’s North Atlantic operations center in Ballygirreen on the west coast of Ireland. Once the Iridium constellation of satellites carrying the ADS-B receivers is complete, any airline, search and rescue organization or any other group needing “last known” information on a flight can get it for free from Aireon. VP of marketing Cyriel Kronenburg told AVweb it will work for all aircraft equipped with 1090 MHz ADS-B, and that the mystery of Malaysian MH370, a Boeing 777 which hasn’t been found since it disappeared a year ago, prompted the ALERT service. It wasn’t however, the reason Aireon was created.
The initiative was taken by Nav Canada, which has responsibility for air traffic control over vast areas with no radar coverage in the polar region and North Atlantic, and satellite company Iridium. Traffic in those areas now operates without surveillance and must be kept far apart for safety. The space-based ADS-B system will allow Nav Canada to space aircraft much closer in those areas, saving fuel and making the system a lot safer. Kronenburg said Aireon, which will eventually be 51 percent owned by Nav Canada, will sell its surveillance services to airlines and ATC authorities that want to take advantage of the big leap in efficiency. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore signed a deal at the conference to look at how space-based surveillance could be implemented over the areas of airspace it monitors that don’t have radar coverage. Other authorities have also expressed interest.
An earlier version of this story contained inaccuracies about Nav Canada’s role and the memorandum of understanding with Singapore.