Radio spectrum allocated for global flight tracking
Agreement has been reached at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva on the allocation of radiofrequency spectrum for global flight tracking in civil aviation.
The frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz has been allocated to the aeronautical mobile-satellite service (Earth-to-space) for reception by space stations of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emissions from aircraft transmitters.
The frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz is currently being utilised for the transmission of ADS-B signals from aircraft to terrestrial stations within line-of-sight. The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) has now allocated this frequency band in the Earth-to-space direction to enable transmissions from aircraft to satellites. This extends ADS-B signals beyond line-of-sight to facilitate reporting the position of aircraft equipped with ADS-B anywhere in the world, including oceanic, polar and other remote areas.
WRC-15 recognised that as the standards and recommended practices (SARP) for systems enabling position determination and tracking of aircraft are developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the performance criteria for satellite reception of ADS-B signals will also need to be addressed by ICAO.
This agreement follows the disappearance and tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 in March 2014 with 239 people on board, which spurred worldwide discussions on global flight tracking and the need for coordinated action by ITU and other relevant organisations.
In its special meeting on global flight tracking, which took place in Montréal, 12-13 May 2014, ICAO encouraged ITU to take urgent action to provide the necessary spectrum allocations for satellites to support emerging aviation needs. In October 2014, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference meeting in Busan, Republic of Korea, instructed WRC-15 to consider global flight tracking in its agenda.
“In reaching this agreement at WRC-15, ITU has responded in record time to the expectations of the global community on the major issue concerning global flight tracking,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “ITU will continue to make every effort to improve flight tracking for civil aviation.”
“The allocation of frequencies for reception of ADS-B signals from aircraft by space stations will enable real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world,” said François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau.
“We will continue to work with ICAO and other international organisations to enhance safety in the skies.”
Today, real-time air traffic control surveillance of flights cannot go beyond the line-of-sight of radar or ground-based ADS-B stations, leaving the vast majority of the planet without air traffic surveillance. By utilising space-based ADS-B receivers built into the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, Aireon will present air traffic controllers with real-time air traffic surveillance information allowing for significant improvements in safety and operational efficiency. Aireon's global air traffic surveillance solution will be operational in 2018. The allocation enables the global aviation community to use this ground-breaking capability to safely monitor, control and operate their ADS-B equipped aircraft.
"This primary allocation is a victory for the international aviation industry: airlines, ANSPs and the travelling public as a whole and we applaud the ITU for making air traffic safety a priority," said Don Thoma, CEO, Aireon. "Space-based ADS-B comes with numerous benefits to airlines, ANSPs and all aviation stakeholders, in addition to real-time air traffic surveillance, such as more efficient routing, increased fuel savings and the ability for pilots to make real-time flight path adjustments to avoid poor weather."
Above: Don Thoma, President and CEO, Aireon, addresses the significance of the decision taken at WRC-15 to enhance aviation safety by improving global flight tracking.
ADS-B technology is already widely used onboard aircraft and mandated by many state regulators and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), including the Federal Aviation Administration, EUROCONTROL, Airservices Australia, Hong Kong, Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS) and Indonesia. Adding satellite-based air traffic surveillance and tracking to ADS-B technology will fundamentally change the way air traffic is managed today, allowing for decreased flight separation, more efficient airport ground operations and when necessary, decreased emergency response times, worldwide. Airlines will not have to further equip, beyond what's mandated, to be able to utilise this global, real-time service.
According to Francois Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau: "ITU has worked closely with ICAO to take urgent action in the wake of recent tragedies such as MH370. We recognised a need to take all necessary steps to support improved global flight tracking and we focused many of our resources on gaining a rapid resolution. This action represents a broad collaborative effort by states and global regulators to improve safety for all aviation stakeholders and the flying public. In reaching this agreement at WRC-15, ITU has responded in record time to the expectations of the global community on global flight tracking."
"Space-based ADS-B is a game-changing development for the international aviation industry," said John Crichton, president and CEO of NAV CANADA. "The ITU decision to provide the necessary spectrum allocation enables us to move forward on this important technology. We look forward to implementing space-based ADS-B in our airspace and to the safety and efficiency benefits it will bring for our customers and global aviation."
"This is a significant accomplishment for the ITU at the WRC. The primary spectrum allocation protection shows a global commitment to the safety and efficiency of air traffic," said Roberta Neri, CEO, ENAV. "Satellite ADS-B will dramatically enhance air traffic surveillance and by having the ability to track ADS-B signals globally, it will reduce the likelihood of losing aircraft in the future. The ITU has made the issue of flight tracking a priority during its WRC; we commend their determination and support of this critical service for air traffic."
"The Irish Aviation Authority commends the ITU for their commitment to adopting primary allocation protection for satellite-based ADS-B tracking," said Eamonn Brennan, CEO, Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). "IAA and Aireon are partnering to provide Aireon ALERT, a global flight tracking public service, to be used in emergency situations, once the service is operational in 2018. By having primary allocation, satellite-based ADS-B will provide the aviation industry and search and rescue community with a global, precise and accurate tracking capability. The ITU, with the support of ICAO, has made it their mission during the WRC to enhance safety for the flying public and we applaud their successful campaign."
The ITU is the United Nations' specialised agency for information and communication technologies. It is charged with managing radio spectrum and satellite orbits with a goal of protecting and supporting everyone's fundamental right to communicate.