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Rockwell unveils global aircraft tracking system

One year after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, avionics company Rockwell Collins announces it has developed an system that can help airlines cost-effectively track aircraft nearly anywhere on the globe.

Key to the new system, called ARINC MultiLink, is its ability to collect position data from a patchwork of six different sources.

Those include position information from air navigation service providers and data from aircraft communications addressing and reporting systems (ACARS), automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) systems and automatic dependent surveillance-contract (ADS-C) systems, Rockwell says.

In addition, the company says MultiLink can process data from Rockwell’s air-to-ground high-frequency data link (HFDL) system. The company says it has modified HFDL, which formerly primarily transmitted non-real-time aircraft data for maintenance purposes, so that it can transmit real-time position data.

MultiLink merges the data, which can then be sent directly to airlines or incorporated into Rockwell products, says the company.

During a conference call with reporters on 9 March, Rockwell director Tim Ryan explains that different systems provide coverage over different regions of the globe.

For instance, ADS-C data can track aircraft positions across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, while ADS-B data is available primarily for aircraft travelling over North America and Europe, plus over heavily-populated regions elsewhere in the world, Ryan says.

The company’s HFDL system can provide position reports in remote regions of Asia, Ryan says.

“Our ability to merge HFDL network performance data with multiple data sources results in a more robust and truly global aircraft tracking capability,” says Ryan in a media release.

Ryan and other Rockwell executives decline to say exactly how much the system will cost carriers, but note it can be tailored based on airlines’ needs.

For instance, some carriers may want to track only aircraft flying specific routes, while others might want to track only certain aircraft types, they say. The Rockwell executives decline to say if any airline customers have signed up for the system.

The launch of Multilink follows the November 2014 statement by an IATA task force that, in order to be effective, aircraft tracking systems needed to transmit position reports at least every 15 minutes.

The need for better aircraft tracking most recently gained traction following the 8 March 2014 disappearance of MH370.

The search for that Boeing 777 continues amid speculation that it may never be found.

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