Emergency aircraft location service launches in Co Clare
AIREON Alert, a satellite system that tracks aircraft around the world and is operated by the Irish Aviation Authority in Co Clare, was officially launched yesterday.
It is the world's first global emergency aircraft location service, and is free of charge for airlines, search and rescue services, and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) that sign up.
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It is hoped the system will put an end to aircraft locations being unknown in the event of accidents, especially in remote areas. That may help prevent aircraft disappearances like Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which vanished over the Indian Ocean in 2014.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) owns 4.4pc of US-based Aireon - a stake valued at about $30m (€27m).
Other ANSPs, such as America's Federal Aviation Administration and NAV Canada, are also significant stakeholders, as is the UK's NATS.
In January this year, the final satellite payloads for the Aireon service were successfully placed in orbit by SpaceX.
Trials of the location service began in March, tracking flights across the North Atlantic.
The emergency tracking service is being run from Co Clare. The data available to users includes a map of the last 15 minutes of a flight, with one plot per minute, and a report including altitude, latitude, longitude and time information.
The Aireon Alert system connects with an aircraft's automatic dependent surveillance broadcast system, which is already fitted in the majority of aeroplanes around the world.
The real-time surveillance that will be provided by the service covers the globe's oceanic, polar and remote regions, and will augment ground-based systems. Previously, only 30pc of the Earth's surface was monitored.
"Our position, as a partner in Aireon and in the provision of this global service, further strengthens Ireland's role as a key player in the global aviation industry," said IAA chief executive Peter Kearney at the launch of the service yesterday.
Aireon has predicted that the new satellite system will result in increased safety, more efficient flight routes, more accurate arrival and departure predictions, faster emergency response times, reduced aircraft separation, and lower carbon dioxide emissions.