Aireon paving way for space-based ADS-B tracking

An artist's impression of an Iridium NEXT satellite that will carry the Aireon ADS-B receiver.
An artist’s impression of an Iridium NEXT satellite that will carry the Aireon ADS-B receiver.

Aireon is working on a space-based system to enable ADS-B surveillance and tracking in areas where it would otherwise not be available.

In 2018, Aireon says it will provide the first global air traffic surveillance system using a space-based ADS-B network that makes it possible to extend visibility across the entire planet.

Speaking at the 2016 Aircraft eEnablement Connectivity and IFE Conference, Peter Norbjerg, European Regional Director, Aireon, said that around 30 percent of the globe is covered by ADS-B surveillance.

But the tracking drops off about 300km away from the coast and 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is currently not under surveillance.


Aireon is working with Iridium to place ADS-B receivers on 66 of its Iridium NEXT satellites, with six in-orbit spares and nine ground spares.

Norbjerg said: “Aircraft flying around the world are all fitted with ADS-B transmitters, which could be picked up from space.

“All this data will be returned to earth in Virginia, USA, with a latency of less than 1.5 seconds due to the low-earth orbits of the satellites.”

Norbjerg said there was strong support from ICAO for space-based ADS-B during its 12th Air Navigation Conference. Space-based ADS-B would therefore be a Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADS) enabler.

“I see this as augmenting other systems,” Norbjerg said. “It could be the sole surveillance method in areas that currently have no coverage, or augment coverage where there are gaps in current surveillance.

“The polar areas don’t have optimum air traffic management, despite it being a high traffic area. The current air traffic management rules over the North pole can’t handle more traffic.

“But space-based ADS-B could allow for closer inter-aircraft spacing and more flexible flight tracking could save up to $550 per flight with massive CO2 savings too.

“We will have three satellites listening for an aircraft’s data at any time. The system will need to be tested by ICAO, but once we are able to demonstrate the system’s accuracy I’m confident that it could be adopted by them,” Norbjerg said.

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