Soon we will know exactly where the missing aircraft

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2017-03-21 16:00:13

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Soon we will know exactly where the missing aircraft Source:

This month marks three years since then, as mysteriously disappeared flight 370 of Malaysian airlines. March 8 during a flight from Malaysia to China, the aircraft deviated from the planned route and went beyond the reach of radar over the Andaman sea. MH370 and its 239 passengers probably crashed somewhere in the Indian ocean, but even after a long search for the black box was never found. The tragedy remains forever shrouded in mystery.

The Scary truth is that the aircraft beyond the coverage of the radar quite often. When you fly in an airplane and the screen in front of you shows your position over the ocean or poles, it is likely that you, the passenger, you know more about the location of your aircraft than air traffic control. But this must change.

"the First time we get aircraft traffic from all over the world, including the oceans," he said at the conference Daniel Colussy, former CEO of the company of satellite communication Iridium. "The first plane is generally observed over the poles".

In January, Iridium launched the first ten of the 66 satellites that will be able to continuously track the position, speed and altitude of aircraft around the globe. Although the network it will work until the end of 2018, two satellites already on and started to send data a few weeks ago.

"When we stepped up, we started to collect targets. It's just a flying aircraft," says Winnie Capezzuto, technical Director of Aireon, a company that creates satellite tracking technology. 62 hours one satellite has gathered a unique codes and data on the situation of 17 000 aircraft, including those over the oceans and in remote areas, where radar can't reach.

How it works?

Pilots use GPS for tracking their aircraft, but this does not mean that air traffic controller is always able to find them.

The Radar measures the aircraft's location, sending out pings of radio waves and measuring how much time is required to ensure that signals reflected from the aircraft. But this only works if the plane is in line-of-sight radar tower, without mountains or other solid objects on the way. Radar does not work at large distances, so the oceans are a big blind spot.

About 15 years ago air traffic control began with the use of ground stations to ADS-b ADS-B, which means "automatic dependent surveillance-broadcasting", monitors the position of the plane via GPS, and automatically passes this information to air traffic control and other aircraft.

Receivers ADS-B "size with mini-fridge," says Capezzuto, and since they are much easier to install in tight spaces, they significantly improve the tracking of aircraft. The Federal aviation administration likes them so much demands that all planes that fly through controlled airspace, have been equipped with these broadcasters to January 2020.

Nevertheless, ground-based ADS-B receivers many of the same problems with direct visibility of radar, and with the clear conditions the range is about 250 nautical miles at a height of 28 000 ft (8500 m).

"In fact, the options for tracking in the ocean just yet," says Capezzuto. "At the moment, the flight controllers are projecting, where should be the aircraft based on the flight plan or the pilot, not on reality. Deviations from the flight plan occur all the time."

The premise of the ADS-B receivers on satellites eliminates problems with line of sight, providing a view of the aircraft flying worldwide, with a height of bird flight. Receiving location data of the aircraft, Aireon 66 satellites will transmit information to ground stations. The entire transmission takes about two seconds.

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Key benefits

Satellite ADS-B could not save flight MH370 — and it's GPS transponders were disabled in mid-flight, and to prevent the accident would have required technologies of a different kind. But tracking technology can certainly make the flight safer. And when disaster will really happen in remote corners of the globe, the airline will quickly find the wreckage and understand what went wrong and, possibly, will be faster to arrive help.

There are other benefits.

"Air routes are designed where we could deploy a radar and other equipment on the land for navigational purposes," says Capezzuto. But with satellite surveillance planes could take more direct routes from point A to point B.

In addition, the increased accuracy and reliability will allow aircraft to safely fly closer to each other. Over the ocean, as a rule, the airplanes are kept at a minimum distance of 80 nautical miles together. But if all aircraft were equipped with ADS-B, this distance could be reduced to 15 nautical miles, which would also help to put more planes on the most efficient route. This means reduced flight time, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.

Karen Marais, engineer, aerospace at Purdue University, believes that by 2025, the space tracking ADS-B can reduce the amount of fuel which passenger aircraft crossing the North Atlantic, burn very much.

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water Sampling

Despite the fact that satellite network Aireon is not ready to "go live", the company starts to test their equipment to track along with clients, including the air traffic controllers in Iceland, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and other countries.

These groups will have the opportunity to verify the data with two active satellites. Testing also gives companies the opportunity to get acquainted with the system that they could tailor their personnel, procedures, and rules to fit new technology, says Capezzuto.

In a recent test of Nav Canada (the organization that coordinates air traffic of Canada) held the plane over the remote parts of the country. From Ottawa, its CRJ-200 aircraft flew to the isolated city of Iqaluit, then West to Yellowknife and Whitehorse. Part of the journey passed through the airspace where usually no control over air traffic, says Ron singer of Nav Canada.

When the satellite was flying over the aircraft — once every 100 minutes — Aireon could observe the position of the aircraft with extreme precision. And when the rest of the satellites will be in orbit, the tracking will be continuous.

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What next?

Iridium is planning to launch the next batch of satellites in June. The company hopes that the fleet of 66 satellites to observe air traffic at the end of 2018 — but it is worth to specify that space projects usually love to hold.

Initially, the first batch of satellites was supposed to launch in 2015 and be fully operational by 2017. The explosions of several rockets SpaceX prevented this schedule.

But after the launch of Aireon thinks that her satellite ADS-B receivers will fundamentally change the principles of air traffic control.

"We saw the plane in the polar regions, where one never sees any air traffic, says Capezzuto. We saw them in the oceanic regions. We see traces from Europe to North Africa. When all 66 satellites, we will see this pattern constantly, every second. Air traffic controllers will be able to see the whole world."

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