A new data service offered by Inmarsat and Dutch earth station operator Station 12 could soon be certificated to allow any aircraft to transmit position and status reports via satellite.

Tim Larcombe, Station 12 business development manager, says that the service offers the opportunity for "innovative aircraft operators" to set up relatively low cost satellite datalinks, offering operational safety benefits as well as being less expensive than Inmarsat's mainstream services.

Larcombe says that the unit could be reduced to the size of a matchbox, particularly using the spotbeam capability, allowing use in the smallest aircraft.

Three European organisations are working with Station 12 to develop the airborne Aero D+ system, which would need to be approved by Inmarsat and certificated by the relevant regulatory authority.

The first company to succeed in achieving airborne approval is likely to be France's SERPE-IESM, believes Larcombe, while the German air force is also working with Station 12 on a D+ capability, and a Belgian truck operator is pursuing certification of a unit for airborne use. Philip Winum, SERPE-IESM avionics development manager, says that the company hopes to receive certification "by the end of this year" for application to "special-mission" aircraft such as French fishery patrol Cessna 406s, to relay global positioning system data and other information from aircraft "far away over water".

The US military uses Aero C in a similar way,but that is a "store and forward" service with no guarantee on retrieval delay, while D+ offers almost immediate message retrieval from a digital mailbox.

Source: Flight International