ITU Plans 'Expert Dialogue' in Malaysia on Flight Tracking

 - May 1, 2014, 3:18 PM
The International Telecommunications Union in Geneva will convene experts in Malaysia to discuss flight tracking. (Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré, ITU).

The United Nations agency that coordinates the international use of radio frequency spectrum is joining with the government of Malaysia to hold an “expert dialogue” on the need for real-time monitoring of flight data exposed by the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The parties will conduct the invitation-only meeting in Kuala Lumpur on May 26 and 27.

In an announcement on May 1, the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said it was responding to a call from Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Malaysia’s minister for communications and multimedia, to organize the meeting. It had sent out some 70 invitations to information technology and communications providers, airlines, international organizations, satellite companies, avionics manufacturers and governments. Thus far, entities that have confirmed they will attend are Boeing, Flyht Aerospace Solutions, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Malaysia Airlines, Rolls-Royce, SES TechCom, Sita and Thales, the agency told AIN.

The impetus for the event is the investigation into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200 that departed Kuala Lumpur on March 8 bound for Beijing and disappeared. Now in its eighth week, the investigation brought attention to the potential value of onboard data transmission systems that report an aircraft’s position and other information in real time. In addition to the ITU, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), also a UN entity, will hold a special meeting on global flight tracking on May 12-13 in Montreal.

The ITU expects the Malaysia meeting will produce a “roadmap” showing a path forward to developing information and communications solutions for real-time flight tracking. The agency said that “ongoing discussions at various levels” have focused on subjects including the geographical coverage of proposed monitoring systems; the type of data to be transmitted to the ground and the required transmission rates; data security, storage and analytics; ownership of flight data; and the costs and changes associated with implementing a system globally.

“As the multi-nation search for the missing aircraft continues, we must undertake immediate steps at the international level to increase efficiency in the tracking of aircraft,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “This event will serve to accelerate ongoing efforts to achieve consensus on real-time tracking solutions for the aviation industry.”