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Space-based ADS-B benefits North Atlantic flights in initial operations

04 April 2019

Space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) became fully operational for the first time on 2 April 2019, as an oceanic airspace trial began over the North Atlantic.

“Already we can see better routing and altitudes for airspace users,” Nav Canada CEO Neil Wilson said in a press briefing. “Part of this trial is to learn how to make flights more efficient.”Nav Canada CEO Neil Wilson said initial operations of the Aireon ADS-B service are already delivering "better routing and altitudes for airspace users". (Aireon)Nav Canada CEO Neil Wilson said initial operations of the Aireon ADS-B service are already delivering "better routing and altitudes for airspace users". (Aireon)

The start of operations follows eight years of careful preparation, said Aireon CEO Don Thoma. “This historic achievement will make airspace safer, more efficient, and less expensive,” he added.

Satellite-based surveillance is available globally following completion of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation carrying Aireon ADS-B payloads, paving the way for Nav Canada and NATS to begin operational trials.

Both air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are investors in the Aireon space-based ADS-B programme, along with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), ENAV of Italy, and Naviair of Denmark.

“Surveillance coverage has gone from 30% to 100%, contributing to improved safety and flight efficiency,” said Wilson. The partners expect to be able to reduce in-trial separation distances from 40 n miles today to as little as 14 n miles, making airspace more flexible and providing more capacity.

NATS CEO Martin Rolfe said position updates previously received every 14 minutes are now available every eight seconds. “Over 90% of North Atlantic flights will get their requested routes, compared with less than 60% now. Each flight is estimated to save up to two tonnes of fuel, or CAD300 per flight.”

The North Atlantic is the busiest oceanic airspace in the world with more than 500,000 flights every year and a forecast 800,000 flights a year by 2030.

Aireon has signed agreements with close to a dozen customers and it supports efforts by ANSPs to gain regulatory approval for the surveillance service. The company has also completed four European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) audits as a precursor to achieving pan-European certification from the agency.

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