NATS, the U.K.’s privately operated air traffic services has taken a 10 percent stake in Aireon, the space-based air traffic surveillance system being developed by Nav Canada. NATS was already an Aireon customer and CEO Martin Rolfe said the obvious deployment of the system on transatlantic routes is the prize for his company. Aireon will be able to monitor aircraft by the second over the ocean meaning separation can be tightened up and capacity increased dramatically. “The North Atlantic is the busiest area of oceanic airspace in the world and the gateway to Europe, but its routes have now reached their limit of capacity with existing technology, so we are delighted to now have a way to safely fulfil the ever growing demand from our customers,” said Rolfe. “What is additionally exciting is that this same technology will also deliver fuel savings and CO2 reductions that will directly benefit airlines and their customers.”
The location of the announcement at the National Press Association headquarters in Washington was significant in that the FAA is noticeably absent from the list of air services providers that have signed on or expressed interest in Aireon. The FAA has participated in some testing of the system, which will use ADS-B transponders to send moment-by-moment position and flight condition reports through a constellation of 66 polar orbit Iridium satellites. More than half of those satellites have been launched and are operating well. But the FAA is continuing its deployment of NextGen, a combination of GPS and ground-based stations to monitor traffic via ADS-B.