Wednesday, December 3, 2014

ESA, Inmarsat partnership to develop satellite overlay aviation data link for Europe

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with mobile satellite communications services provider Inmarsat for development of a space-based aviation data link for European airspace.

This will involve upgrading Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband voice and high-speed data service as part of the Iris Precursor project to provide a satellite overlay to terrestrial VHF networks. It will need to meet the standards set for ground-based VHF data links and is the next step in developing SwiftBroadband Safety, which has recently begun flight trials for oceanic operational approvals.

While the initial focus will be on Europe, the capabilities developed will open opportunities for deployment in North America, Asia Pacific and other regions where air traffic growth is straining ground-based VHF networks.

Iris Precursor is a project within the framework of ESA’s Iris Program, launched in 2008 to provide a satellite system as part of a wider initiative driven by the European Commission for air traffic management (ATM) modernization.

It will also provide the capacity and performance needed by future applications planned through the Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) program, including the ability to update flight plans en-route and improve the sequencing of aircraft into busy airports—providing benefits in terms of airspace efficiency, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The Iris program has been divided into two phases, with Iris Precursor addressing the short to medium term and eventually evolving into the full Iris service. Iris Precursor pre-operational flight trials are scheduled to begin in 2016.

The Iris Precursor partnership resulted from a major funding commitment approved at ESA’s 2012 Ministerial Council, with the UK as the main contributor, followed by Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal. The partnership consists of an Industrial team with 16 companies from eight ESA member states.

Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said: “The Iris Precursor project is a key initiative that paves the way for our SwiftBroadband service to meet the European regulations and standards for data link communications and play an integral role in the future of European air traffic services infrastructure.”

(Anne Paylor - ATWOnline News)

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