The world’s first ever global aircraft location and emergency response tracking service has been launched here.
The Aireon ALERT technology will be operated by the Irish Aviation Authority from its North Atlantic Communications Centre in Ballygirreen, Co. Clare, and will be able to identify the last known position of any aircraft globally, provided the aircraft is equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS).
While previously some 30% of the Earth’s surface was monitored through conventional ground radar surveillance, this new technology will give users access to exact location information for aircraft in distress on-demand, which proponents say will dramatically benefit global emergency response efforts.
This data includes a map of the last 15 minutes of flight, with one plot per minute and a 4-dimensional report including altitude, latitude, longitude and time information. Based on the situation, additional tracking information may also be provided.
Sean Patrick, general manager of Oceanic Services at the Irish Aviation Authority, said the development is “a revolutionary game changer in terms of safety and innovation”.
“Previously flights were monitored using radar systems and position reporting, before the advent of Aireon the globe was covered by surveillance services, what we have now with this new innovative product is the ability to monitor aircraft from satellites that are orbiting the earth so we now have 100% full global coverage for any aircraft that is operating in the air space anywhere around the world,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
There would have been a reporting position coming back from the aircraft approximately every 15 minutes, that was when the aircraft were over hostile terrain or more commonly over the oceans, what we now have with this unique capability is to get an eight-second update from every aircraft from a global perspective.
“We ask for any users to pre-register so there would normally be commercial airline operators, regulated search and rescue organisations, they can then contact us and we will instantaneously give them the last known position of that aircraft, the time and the altitude of the aircraft.
"Shortly after that, we will send them an email with the last 15 minutes of flight for that aircraft. What it enables them then to do is to make an informed decision in relation to how the flight is operating, if it's operating within the criteria that they expect, and if it's not to allow them to utilise the search and rescue services or report it to a rescue coordination centre which would allow a recovery operation to commence."
“The key to this is we are proving data that is accurate down to metres. Before there would potentially have been a large search volume, now we've got this down to literally metres in terms of where we're sending the assets to help aid an aircraft in distress. We can locate to below 100 feet. It allows us to have a speedy launch for search and rescue. We've put safety first,” Mr Patrick said.
He added that it will be providing the service free of charge to ensure that the aviation community would benefit.
“Service is funded from ourselves, obviously we're in a commercial venture with Aireon and there are other commercial opportunities associated with that in terms of providing data to data service providers the standard air traffic control procedures, but what we were always insistent upon when we came up with the concept was once we had this data when there was an issue when aircraft were in distress or were in an alerting phase, we would offer this service free of charge and the service will remain free of charge,” he said.