ESA contracts Inmarsat for EU ATM data link

Inmarsat satellite coverage map.
Inmarsat satellite coverage map.

Inmarsat has announced that its SwiftBroadband Safety satellite system is to play an integral part in the future European air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure.

The announcement follows the signing of a contract between Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Iris Precursor partnership at the House of Commons in London.

The Iris Precursor partnership will upgrade SwiftBroadband to meet the standards set for ground-based VHF data links.

This will enable Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) flight management concepts, where flight plans can be continually updated during flight to maintain an optimal trajectory to destination.

These concepts allow air traffic control to offer better routings, to sequence aircraft far in advance and maximise airport and airspace capacity.

This benefits air operators by reducing flight time and airborne holding. It also supports other concepts such as continuous descent operations. The combined effect is less fuel burn, reduced delays and lower CO2 emissions.

This partnership is the next step in developing SwiftBroadband Safety, which has recently begun flight trials for oceanic operational approvals.

In the tests Cobham Satcom is to equip Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 767-300 aircraft with its AVIATOR Inmarsat SwiftBroadband (SBB) satellite communications systems.

It is being developed in coordination with a dedicated project in the frame of the SESAR programme, P15.02.05 (also named “Iris Precursor”) that will result in pre-operational flight trials during 2016.

Under the ESA Iris Precursor partnership, SwiftBroadband will be upgraded to provide a satellite overlay to terrestrial VHF networks. While the initial focus will be on Europe, the capabilities developed will open opportunities for deployment in North America, Asia Pacific and other regions, where the growth of air traffic is placing strain on ground-based VHF networks.

Inmarsat currently supports aviation safety services to nearly 10,000 aircraft, delivering Automatic Dependent Surveillance Contract (ADS-C) and Controller Pilot Data link Communications (CPDLC) FANS service on a worldwide basis.

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “Today’s announcement cements our role in providing aviation safety services. We have been committed since the launch of Future Air Navigation Systems in the 1990s to support safety communications for the world’s airlines.

“Our aim, and the purpose of this partnership, is to continue to provide airlines across the globe with improved safety services, aircraft routing, and environmental and cost efficiency benefits.”

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