Dynamics has forged a joint venture with Iridium to offer satellite-based
communication services for aircraft equipped with automatic dependent
surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) systems.
Dynamics satellite communications services product manager Michel Gelinas says
the company sees a role for Iridium in supplementing ADS-B services provided by
ground stations. ADS-B is being tested in several countries but is supported
entirely by a network of ground stations. Gelinas says Iridium could allow
operators using ADS-B to extend the coverage to areas that cannot be supported
by ground stations.
see satellite as a complement, not a replacement, to ground infrastructure,” he
told the International Advanced Aviation Technologies Conference yesterday in
is there, it is working very well and it provides global coverage.”
mountain areas that are hard to access and lack power lines are ideal for
Iridium, according to General Dynamics. For example, Iridium could support the
upcoming second phase of the US FAA Capstone program, which involves extending
ADS-B services to mountainous southeast Alaska.
USA and other countries are already considering satellites to support possible
expansion of ADS-B, with Iridium one of several potential providers. So far,
the FAA has limited its Capstone test program, which involves ADS-B and other
technologies, to Alaska. Regional FAA administrator Patrick Poe says the agency
has plans so far to install only one ADS-B ground station in the continental
USA, to support a trial planned for Arizona.
there is another option,” he adds. “Maybe we could go directly to satellites.”
also envisions ADS-B users accessing Iridium over oceans, allowing ADS-B-equipped
aircraft to stay tuned into the system worldwide. “Iridium is the gap filler to
make ADS-B ubiquitous,” he says.
is confident that General Dynamics can make Iridium affordable to aircraft
operators. The service initially was geared to business travelers and priced at
$7 per minute. But the original Iridium went bankrupt in 2000 and the
restructured company has reduced the cost of the service. The new Iridium has
tried to target the aviation industry since last year, mainly with a system to
monitor cockpit voice and flight data.
new company has a different approach,” Gelinas says. “As General Dynamics,
we’re working closely with Iridium and Boeing to be a system provider for the
says user costs are also being reduced through a new process identified by General
Dynamics engineers that will allow up to 30 aircraft so share a single Iridium
channel. Aircraft will access the channel at different times based on their
flight path, while still leaving the line open for emergencies.
can decouple the space charge several times and hence you can make if
affordable,” Gelinas says.