Global Space-Based ADS-B Flight Tracking

FlightAware and Aireon have partnered to revolutionize flight tracking with the first global space-based ADS-B constellation and flight tracking system.

The First Global ADS-B Flight Tracking Constellation
Live data from Aireon’s ADS-B receivers on the Iridium NEXT constellation of 66 satellites with 100% global coverage, even over the North Pole and every ocean in the world.
No New Aircraft Equipment Required
Receives data from an aircraft’s automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transponders, which has been mandated by ICAO to be equipped on all commercial aircraft by the year 2020.
Integrated into FlightAware
Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data is always available in GlobalBeacon and can be instantly enabled and seamlessly integrated into every FlightAware service. Simply enable a subscription to space-based ADS-B and the near-realtime global positions will be fused into your FlightAware Global, Firehose, and FlightXML accounts, including mobile apps and alerts.
Exceeds ICAO Flight Tracking Requirement for Airlines
By providing at least one position every minute, anywhere on the globe, FlightAware and Aireon have the first truly global solution for airlines to comply with ICAO’s Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) requirement.

What is the FlightAware/Aireon space-based ADS-B announcement?

FlightAware and Aireon have partnered to provide global flight tracking for aircraft operators using ADS-B receivers hosted on all 72 Iridium NEXT satellites.

FlightAware and Aireon also announced their joint product, GlobalBeacon, a web-based tool that allows airlines to comply with the new 2018 flight tracking mandate.

You can read the entire press release here.

What is the significance of this new technology?

We are now the first and only flight tracking provider to achieve truly global flight tracking coverage for every aircraft.

Although FlightAware has a comprehensive network of ADS-B and radar as well as datalink connectivity for equipped aircraft, space-based ADS-B provides all aircraft—even those without expensive satellite-uplink equipment—with high-frequency flight tracking across all types of terrain, including oceans, jungles, deserts, and the poles. Space-based ADS-B provides these services immediately and globally.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how big a deal is this?

11.

When will space-based ADS-B data be available?

SpaceX began launching Iridium’s NEXT satellites, equipped with Aireon’s ADS-B receivers, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on January 14th, 2017. By August 2017, FlightAware will begin providing services fusing Aireon’s space-based ADS-B with FlightAware’s existing flight tracking systems. By mid 2018, Iridium and SpaceX will have launched all 75 satellites (66 in-service and 9 on-orbit spares) and global ADS-B coverage from FlightAware will be available 24/7.

Can I start using the space-based ADS-B data before the constellation is complete?

Yes, you can: in mid-2017, as soon as the first receivers become operational, FlightAware will begin incorporating the data on a non-global basis.

Will Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data affect FlightAware’s terrestrial ADS-B network of PiAwares and FlightFeeders?

No, FlightAware’s terrestrial ADS-B network will remain a very vital part of our flight tracking solutions, and we will continue to make both the software and data freely available. To ensure that we continue to grow the world’s largest terrestrial ADS-B network of free and low-cost access to ADS-B data, we are significantly increasing our production of FlightFeeders and our development of PiAware software.

In August 2016, FlightAware released the all-new PiAware 3.0, which includes a new mapping interface, improved receiver performance, and native WiFi support. In October 2016, FlightAware will release even more updates to the PiAware interface as well as all-new ADS-B hardware for PiAware. We will also expand and evolve our groundbreaking hardware offerings, such as the Pro Stick USB SDR ADS-B receiver.

FlightAware expects to have over 15,000 receivers deployed around the world by the end of 2017!

Will the space-based ADS-B data be available for free on FlightAware.com?

FlightAware will soon launch a new, free Aireon map portal for viewing space-based ADS-B data, and we are exploring a number of ways to distribute this data. But because this is an extremely expensive endeavor, our initial focus is on incorporating the data into commercial products to fund the project.

Throughout this process, we will continue to offer and improve our free network of PiAware and FlightFeeders that track aircraft via ground-based ADS-B receivers.

What FlightAware products/services will incorporate Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data?

All FlightAware products (e.g., Global, Firehose) and custom reports will include an option to purchase and incorporate Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data, which will begin to appear once it becomes available. Please contact your account representative to get set up today!

Who should I contact about a commercial use for this data?

Please contact FlightAware for commercial uses, data feeds, or distribution questions about Aireon’s ADS-B data or other FlightAware data products.

How can I sign up for FlightAware Global, GlobalBeacon, or another FlightAware product?

Please contact FlightAware to set up your service as soon as possible.

Are the satellites and the flight tracking data from them reliable?

Very. In fact, Aireon will be providing safety-critical surveillance for air traffic control use. Many air traffic control organizations—including NAV Canada, the Irish Aviation Authority, Naviair, ENAV, NATS UK, South Africa’s Air Traffic and Navigation Services, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and Curaçao’s DC-ANSP—have already signed contracts to receive and use this data.

Will aircraft need extra satellite equipment to be tracked by Aireon’s space-based ADS-B?

No; without any modification to the aircraft, Aireon’s ADS-B will immediately be able to track tens of thousands of airplanes around the world.

Aireon’s ADS-B receivers will receive transmissions from the aircraft’s ADS-B transponder. Most governments now require aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B, and we expect even more to follow suit in the next few years.

Are other space-based ADS-B constellations planned or in orbit?

No, Aireon is the first and only constellation for the foreseeable future. A small number of research groups have launched single prototype short-term CubeSat test satellites to conduct ADS-B-related research, but none have plans or financing to develop, field, and operate a permanent global constellation.

Couldn’t CubeSats provide global flight tracking for much less money?

CubeSats and microsats are designed for research and experiments, not for long-term or wide-scale production use. In orbit, these satellites have lifespans of weeks or months, not years or decades. Even if it were feasible to make more than 100 annual launches to replace CubeSats, a CubeSat constellation would require a communication network (like Iridium’s NEXT constellation) to downlink their data to Earth.

The occasional, short-term downlinking of data that a CubeSat constellation would provide is no match for the US$3B Iridium NEXT constellation that, in conjunction with Aireon’s receivers, can reliably provide global data through 2030.

What about existing satellite constellations that are used by aircraft operators today?

FlightAware receives traditional position reports via ACARS datalink messages, which use existing satellite constellations, and we will continue to do so. However, this technology has significant limitations: only a small percentage of the airline’s fleet is equipped with satellite datalink, and the constellations providing ACARS datalink do not work over the North Pole, a popular route for modern airliners.

Did FlightAware consider using balloons, UAVs, buoys, or other technologies?

We did, but building hardware to withstand the rigors of the ocean, creating balloons or autonomous solar-powered aircraft that can stay on station for months at a time, etc., are “moon shot” projects at the research stage only. While we don’t consider these projects to be impossible, they wouldn’t be ready for years, and each has highly problematic aspects.

The ideal solution, for instance, should provide arctic coverage during the winter, at times the sun is very low in the sky or does not rise at all (precluding the use of solar power), and be able to transmit through extreme wind and snowfall with no reliable communications backhaul capability other than Iridium. We haven’t found anything comparable to Aireon in terms of reliability or economics that would be able to do this.

What is GlobalBeacon?

GlobalBeacon is a web-based tool for compliance with the ICAO’s 2018 and 2021 flight tracking requirements, known as the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS). After signing up online, airlines will have immediate access to their aircraft’s positions anywhere in the world, displayed with relevant GADSS-compliant information.

How is GlobalBeacon different from FlightAware Global?

FlightAware Global is a powerful suite of tools for leveraging FlightAware data and systems into an airline’s operations center. FlightAware Global fuses Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data with ATC/ATM/CDM data from over 55 countries, ACARS data, and FlightAware’s network of over 8,000 Mode S ground stations across the world.

FlightAware Global provides customers with unlimited users, a self-management interface, flight alerts, mobile apps, global weather, route changes, e-mail/text/web alerts, aircraft history, schedule views, position track logs, and much more. FlightAware Global also can be seamlessly integrated with other FlightAware products like Reports, FlightAware TV, FlightXML, and Firehose.

GlobalBeacon is a simple, easy-to-use dashboard for airline operators to see their entire fleet at once and be alerted if an aircraft stops reporting its position.

How is GlobalBeacon different from Aireon ALERT?

Aireon ALERT is a free emergency service operated by Aireon and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to assist in search and rescue (SAR) operations for missing aircraft. Aircraft operators or SAR agencies can call the IAA for emergency assistance. Non-FlightAware customers can use Aireon ALERT.

FlightAware’s services provide flight tracking interfaces, maps, tools, and data feeds to aircraft operators using Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data for their operational and analytics purposes.

FlightAware provides 24/7/365 technical support to customers but recommends that customers call the IAA in the event of an aircraft emergency.

Will you charge aircraft operators in the event of an emergency?

No. Although the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is the official emergency contact for Aireon space-based ADS-B data, FlightAware provides free emergency assistance to aircraft operators and governments.

How would FlightAware and Aireon’s technology have helped in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

This technology ensures no coverage gaps or periods of uncertainty during a flight. Airlines will know within minutes—not hours—that an airplane is out of contact and government authorities can step in to provide primary radar or military assistance.

Are there any potential uses for this data beyond real-time flight tracking and alerting?

Yes: in addition to other products from FlightAware that leverage this global data, FlightAware is developing several new applications that will further revolutionize the airline industry through improvements and optimizations in logistics and operations.

I want to be involved. Can I work at FlightAware?

Yes! FlightAware is a great place to work. We are currently hiring for about 20 positions at our offices in Houston, New York, and Singapore, as well as for regional sales and sales engineering representatives in Europe and South America.

Headquartered in Houston, FlightAware is a privately held, profitable, 12-year-old company, with 60 employees in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

I’m with the press. Where can I get more information or schedule an interview?

Please contact Ashley Guinard (+1-713-456-3079).

This is fascinating. Where can I get more information about this technology?

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