Is it possible to track aircrafts in real time from space?
We live in a world that is in constant change, every day technology is improving finding solutions to problems we thought they were solved long time ago. It is time to take advantage of this opportunities and do something interesting with these new technologies. In the aviation world there have been a lot of improvements in security matters along the years, but the tracking of the airplanes is still based on radar and radio transmissions. The only problem with this surveillance system is the lack of knowing the exact position of the airplane in real time. In the aviation history there has been tragedies where an airplane has gone missing and there is no certainty on what happened or where is it, since the radio communication stopped.
In the last decade there have been some tragedies, like the Air France flight in 2009 that got lost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. More recently we have the Malaysia Airlines in 2014, in both cases is not yet known with certainty what occurred. In the second case there are still doubts about the precise location of the disaster that took the life of 239 people.
Aistechspace is developing a new technology able to detect one aircraft in any place in the world. This means that we can cover places where the current radar signals cannot. Currently only 30% of the earth can be covered with the radar, since its limited scope. The crew in the aircraft through the radio can keep in touch and receive information and instructions from ashore or on ships monitoring stations. These problem can be solved with a new system, ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcasting), which will be mandatory in all aircraft from 2017 in Europe (2020 US). With this system the aircrafts send constantly their parameters (position, velocity, ID…) so other nearby aircrafts can know that there is another aircraft around. These data is also received by ground control stations. The problem is that there are also non-coverage areas (sea) where ADS-B cannot transmit the data to ground control station, so only nearby aircrafts know these positions. With this situation the air traffic controllers do not know where exactly are the aircrafts.
According to FAA definition, Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) is a precise satellite-based surveillance system. ADS-B Out uses GPS technology to determine an aircraft’s location, airspeed and other data, and broadcasts that information to a network of ground stations, which relays the data to air traffic control displays and to nearby aircraft equipped to receive the data via ADS-B In. Operators of aircraft equipped with ADS-B In can receive weather and traffic position information delivered directly to the cockpit.
With the use of Nanosats orbiting Earth every 90 minutes, the information of aircraft’s ADS-B can be received. Once the Satellite has received the data it will be retransmitted to ground stations located worldwide, once in the central servers, the information is sorted out and sent to central databases so the air traffic controllers can locate any aircraft without coverage. In this way with a satellite constellation it is possible to track worldwide aircrafts in real time, reaching any part of the Earth’s surface even flying above South or North pole, Sahara Desert or Pacific Ocean.
According to several aviation experts in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) sponsored by the United Nations, has agreed on it as necessary. This signal can be captured from space with a small nanosatellite and brought back to earth in real time. The use of ADS-B in the aircraft it is adding resources, certainly not replacing the use of radar and radio. In this way the contribution that the satellite technology can make our world becomes reachable making flying experience even safer than today.