Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) offers real-time air traffic surveillance, enabling shared situational awareness and advanced applications for pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC). Although aviation stakeholders have been using ADS-B technology for over two decades, the only way to get these broadcasts from aircraft was through ground receiver towers. Since less than 30 percent of the Earth is covered by ground-based air traffic surveillance systems, this capability has been severely limited.
With the Iridium satellite network offering truly global coverage, there was a unique opportunity to fill the gap in air traffic surveillance and dramatically enhance this critical service. Enter Aireon, an innovative use of the hosted payload capability on Iridium’s upgraded constellation. Following the success of the Iridium NEXT campaign, the Aireon service makes air travel more efficient by extending ADS-B across oceans, remote regions and to every part of the Earth.
Aireon empowers air traffic controllers to help aircraft fly more efficient routes, altitudes, and speeds, saving time and fuel and eliminating emissions. The benefits are also passed along to passengers in ways such as a more smooth and comfortable flight, with pilots having more flexibility to avoid turbulence while also ensuring optimal airspeed. In this manner, Iridium technology in the cockpit goes hand-in-hand with ATC surveillance capabilities. When a desired deviation in movement is requested, the pilot can communicate with ATC over Iridium services while Aireon enables a real-time picture of the airspace allowing for the safe implementation of the pilot’s requests.
The most important of all of the capabilities made possible by Aireon, are those regarding safety. Aireon has already helped save lives and is an invaluable source of information to accident investigation efforts, having already supplied data to over 45 investigations,1 including those related to the Boeing 737 Max.
Aireon’s space-based ADS-B is available to the aviation industry to continuously track aircraft anywhere they fly, increasing the safety and efficiency of air travel. By assuring travelers are flying the safest and most efficient routes, Iridium and Aireon are redefining safety and connectivity for the aviation industry.