Malaysia Airlines has become the first customer for a space-based flight tracking system developed under a partnership among Sitaonair, Aerion and FlightAware, the companies announced Tuesday. Under the agreement, all Malaysia Airlines aircraft will gain access to minute-by-minute global flight tracking data delivered by Sitaonair’s Aircom FlightTracker. The deal comes some three years after the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, pieces of which have washed ashore at various points on or near Africa’s east coast. However, search teams have failed to find the hull at its assumed resting place at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
The system enhances the Aircom FlightTracker by Aireon’s space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data to the existing data from FlightAware’s global sources, complementing active Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) Future Air Navigation System (FANS) activity data.
By incorporating the data, Malaysia Airlines’ aircraft operations center will receive real-time position updates of its airborne fleet globally. Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data will also resolve any existing data feed coverage gaps that remain, particularly over oceanic and remote airspace, where no surveillance currently exists.
The service requires no new avionics or aircraft modifications.
“With the addition of the Aireon data, via FlightAware, to Sitaonair’s Aircom FlightTracker, combined with our active monitoring and automated alerting capabilities, Malaysia Airlines will be at the cutting edge of real-time flight-tracking technology,” said Sitaonair’s Aircom portfolio director, Paul Gibson. “With access to up-to-the-minute reporting, Malaysia Airlines will know the location, heading, speed and altitude of all aircraft in its fleet, at all times, and be alerted to any exceptions.”
Aireon, FlightAware and Sitaonair announced a new partnership to deliver Aireon data via FlightAware last November. FlightAware provides a combination of global air traffic control data, aircraft datalink information and terrestrial ADS-B data through a secure streaming data feed. Once the Aireon system goes into operation, expected in 2018, airlines already using the Aircom FlightTracker will automatically begin seeing the new Aireon data appear in their systems, without the need for modifications.
Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system will work for all ADS-B OUT equipped aircraft anywhere around the world.
Aireon expects its service to go into operation next year, shortly after the completion of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation. On Jan. 14, 2017, the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites carrying the Aireon ADS-B hosted payload launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. In total, the constellation will consist of 66 operational low-earth-orbit satellites providing global coverage. The service will also provide air navigation service providers with global aircraft surveillance capability and enable more efficient flight paths.