Aireon’s ADS-B covers the North Atlantic—MORE?

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Private Company creates Navigational Satellite Coverage of ADS-B systems

Not subject to political or military Influences

Should Aireon become THE Civil Aviation positional system

This is impressive news! Aireon, a private company, has implemented a space-based navigation system that covers 100% of the North Atlantic. Does this warrant consideration of using this system for all aviation everywhere?

Aireon space-based ADS-B goes live over North Atlantic

Published on 8th April 2019

Aireon ADS-B is fully operational and in trial use over the North Atlantic.

Aireon’s space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) system provides real-time air traffic surveillance and tracking to 100 per cent of ADS-B equipped aircraft on the planet.

Prior to Aireon’s system coming on-line, traditional ground-based surveillance covered just 30 per cent of the globe, meaning civil aviation authorities, commercial carriers and related industry stakeholders relied upon position updates from aircraft every 10-14 minutes to track aircraft outside of radar coverage, not the real-time updates that the Aireon service provides.

“For the first time in history, we can survey all ADS-B-equipped aircraft anywhere on earth,” said Don Thoma, Aireon CEO.



The Aireon system is expected to reduce overall flight safety risks by approximately 76 per cent in the North Atlantic according to a joint analysis by NAV CANADA and NATS – the first Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to use the service.

Improved visibility and control over previously un-surveyed airspace—especially across oceanic regions—will allow airlines to fly routes at optimal speeds and levels, delivering expected cost savings of up to US$300 per transatlantic flight, plus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by two tonnes per flight, based on an analysis conducted by NATS and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Use of the Aireon system over the Atlantic allows for air traffic controllers to trial the reduction of aircraft in-trail separation distances from 40 nautical miles (nm) to just as little as 14nm, making the airspace more flexible, predictable and able to accommodate the immense growth predicted in the coming years.

 “The Aireon system provides an immediate boost to aviation safety and airlines will benefit from more fuel-efficient routings and flight levels. Over 95 per cent of the North Atlantic traffic is already ADS-B equipped so the fuel savings, along with the reduced carbon dioxide emissions will be attained very quickly.”

Martin Rolfe, NATS CEO, said, “The trial in the North Atlantic, the busiest oceanic airspace in the world, with over 500,000 flights every year and a forecasted 800,000 flights per year by 2030, will demonstrate to the entire aviation industry, that global, space-based ADS-B can revolutionize the service that we provide to our customers and the travelling public by transforming the way we perform air traffic management over remote regions.”

Eight years in the making, Aireon’s ADS-B payloads are hosted on the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation—the final deployment of which took place January 11, 2019.

“The opportunities for comprehensive and continuous benefits for the whole aviation community are at our fingertips. We would not be able to achieve this without our dedicated investors, NAV CANADA, Iridium Communications, NATS, Enav, The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and Naviair, and our partners and launch customers. This is a great day for us all,” Thoma concluded.”





The list of partners includes 4 Air Navigation Services Providers (all but Iridium), but not the FAA. Aireon has a US Advisory Board with incredible firepower, but the American government has yet to become a party to Aireon.














On Thursday, March 30, 2017, utilizing the FAA’s specially equipped “flying laboratory” Bombardier jet with three Aireonsm payloads available to receive data.  The flight test was highly choreographed and precisely located and timed within the Washington and New York Flight Information Regions (FIRs) to help provide validation of the capabilities of the Aireon system. The test was deemed a success.

{it should also be noted tangentially that Aireon’s coverage captured critical data about the Ethiopian Airlines crash.}

The FAA has announced intent to expand the scope of such assessments to include the Miami Oceanic and the Pacific airspace. These future reviews may lead to greater utilization of the Aireon ADS-B capabilities.

The company’s performance suggests that a private sector initiative could occupy this sector effectively. “Sector” needs to be carefully defined: the Aireon system only works with ADS-B equipment. It will not interact with your car navigation system or other applications which depend upon the more robust GPS and other full service satellite positioning systems.

The Global Navigation Satellite System is over occupied by the five duplicative governmental GNSS’s (US, EU, India, Russia, Peoples Republic of China). These systems offer more services to more navigational clients. Each GNSS includes a substantial military interest/influence. For example, the US’s GPS is subject to occasional signal alteration and AOPA has expressed concerns about these interferences.






Graphic showing the airports located within the 50 feet AGL interference contour.

Graphic generated with TARGETS software courtesy of MITRE.

[Aireon provides emergency services when needed]

Massive amounts of public sector dollars have been spent and are still being invested in these GNSSs. In some ways a private, aviation (ADS-B) focused system without any military involvement seems to be a preferred option. Yes, Aireon is a pay-as-you-go venture, but recent experiences have shown that politics (the partial government shutdown) can impact critical safety systems.









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