The European Space Agency (ESA) have outlined the Iris program this week in a collaboration with the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) program, with a view to increasing the efficiency of global aircraft tracking through a satellite-based communications system.
Making improvements to future Air Traffic Management techniques is a key part of the initiative and Iris will potentially leverage a satellite-based system with current VHF ground-based communications systems that may bear the weight of overcrowded airwaves in the near future. It is planned that data link channels and ATM operations will become accessible and give new opportunities for aircraft tracking in a four-dimensional capacity – latitude, longitude, altitude and time. The system is known as 4-D trajectory management and it is hoped that it will be fully accessible by 2018.
In spite of various delays with upgrades to aircraft, the Iris program is designed to dramatically improve communications and bring the increased efficiency to operational productivity that has been sought by airlines, ATM and operators for more than 20 years.
Aircraft tracking via satellite communications will work in real time and use aircraft positioning reports, in addition to the complement of voice communications. Both continental and oceanic airspaces will be reliably covered to give truly global, uninterrupted coverage.
Business aviation enjoys the reliability of real-time aircraft tracking with providers delivering a satellite communications service over a robust system architecture, such as the Rockwell Collins’ ARINCDirect service, which provides seamless coverage via Inmarsat SwiftBroadband and Swift64 in conjunction with Iridium satellite communications. Real-time flight tracking is a sought-after service that is growing in demand, particularly since the disappearance of flight MH370 earlier this year.
As air traffic grows, demand upon the airways increases and the latest technological developments are needed to ensure utmost safety and reliability for all aircraft, both commercial and private.