They ran the tests, a kind of choreographed movements, that proved successful for Aireon which announced that NAV CANADA has completed a successful flight test of space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology.
The test was conducted on March 7, 2017 to collect ADS-B data used for validating Aireon’s satellite aircraft surveillance and tracking service. The NAV CANADA flight used a specially equipped Bombardier aircraft with both top and bottom mounted 125 watt ADS-B antennas. It was the first of two scheduled flight tests by the Canadian Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP). Additional flight tests were done by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Polaris Flight Systems.
During the flight test, 6,935 ADS-B messages were received and decoded by a single Aireon payload, and after rigorous analysis, were found to exhibit comparable results to that of terrestrial ADS-B stations. The flight test was a highly choreographed exercise that involved traveling through the Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton Flight Information Regions (FIRs), requiring the aircraft to position itself in the correct airspace while the appropriate Iridium NEXT satellite carrying the Aireon ADS-B receiver was overhead.
Aireon also conducted a flight test with Polaris Flight Systems, a private vendor, on March 20, 2017. The aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was outfitted with a top and bottom mounted 200 watt ADS-B antenna and flew solely through the Albuquerque FIR, where more than 1,050 ADS-B messages were received from two Aireon payloads during the flight.
An additional flight test with the FAA took place on Thursday, March 30, 2017, utilizing the FAA’s specially equipped “flying laboratory” Bombardier jet with three Aireon payloads available to receive data. A total of 2,462 ADS-B messages were received and decoded while also exhibiting comparable results to that of terrestrial ADS-B stations. The FAA flight test took place in the Washington and New York FIRs.
Vinny Capezzuto, chief technology officer and vice president, engineering at Aireon said that the flight tests coordinated with NAV CANADA, the FAA, and Polaris Flight Systems have been remarkable successes and further enable their team to thoroughly validate the capabilities of their system. Through multiple flight information regions, with various levels of aircraft traffic, these tests were able to put their system through some challenging environments, and the data they’ve received is incredibly strong.
Rudy Kellar, executive vice president, service delivery at NAV CANADA stated that NAV CANADA is excited to play such an important role in helping to bring the next-generation of air traffic surveillance and aircraft tracking to the world. Aireon will fundamentally change the way the world flies, increasing safety, efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits will find their way right down to the individual traveler who will benefit from more predictable flight times and more efficient airport ground operations.
Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system will be operational in 2018, providing ANSPs with global air traffic surveillance and airlines with real-time flight tracking. The first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites carrying the Aireon hosted-payloads were launched into low-Earth-orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on January 14, 2017. Seven additional SpaceX launches are scheduled to take place over the next 12 to 15 months, including the second launch targeted for June of 2017. In total, the operational constellation will consist of 66 satellites, with an additional nine serving as on-orbit spares.