Aireon has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne (DSNA), France’s Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP).
DSNA will now start evaluating the technical and operational concepts of deploying space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) in its airspace. This will include assessing the increased safety, efficiency and reduced environmental impact benefits. As a core member of the Central European Functional Airspace Block (FABEC), DSNA manages one of the busiest airspaces in Europe, controlling more than three million flights throughout its airspace in 2016, including five continental Air Traffic Control Centers. DSNA is also in charge of managing airspaces which include French Polynesia Oceanic airspace, New Caledonia airspace, Antilles-French Guiana, a portion of the Indian Ocean and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, some of them including vast amounts of oceanic airspaces that currently have limited surveillance. The MOU will allow DSNA to evaluate the impact of Aireon’s real-time, accurate aircraft surveillance on the safety and efficiency in this airspace.
Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system will be operational in 2018 upon completion of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation. This past January, the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites and their Aireon hosted-payloads were launched into LEO from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Seven additional SpaceX launches are scheduled to take place over the next 12 to 15 months, six carrying 10 Iridium NEXT satellites and one carrying five. In total, the operational constellation will consist of 66 satellites, while the remaining nine launched will serve as on-orbit spares. The service will provide ANSPs with global aircraft surveillance capability, and is expected to help reduce fuel costs, increase safety, and enable more efficient flight paths.
Philippe Barnola, director of strategy and investments, DSNA, reported that Aireon’s real-time surveillance capability could offer intriguing possibilities in-terms of overall cost-benefits, predominantly in areas of safety and efficiency; there is also the potential for terrestrial infrastructure redundancy and new surveillance provided throughout less than hospitable terrain.
Cyriel Kronenburg, vice president of aviation services, Aireon, noted that France has unique airspace responsibilities that span every hemisphere through their regional centers. Aireon is exclusively able to provide one system that can support all their global-operational airspace, either as a primary solution for oceanic and remote airspace surveillance, or as a secondary-contingency solution to existing terrestrial-based surveillance systems.