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Malaysia Airlines Tracking Their Fleet with Satellites

The first airline has now signed on for space-based flight tracking via satellite.

Three years ago, Malaysia Airlines lost a wide body jet carrying 239 people. The event has become one of modern aviation history’s big mysteries, and now the airline is taking a bold step towards ensuring it’s the last big mystery associated with the company: They have become the first airline to sign an agreement for satellite-based tracking of its entire fleet of aircraft.

A press release issued by Aireon LLC, has revealed that Malaysia Airlines Bhd. reached a deal with Aireon, SITAONAIR and FlightAware LLC to monitor their flight paths anywhere in the world using a network of satellites. The network, which will be launched with Iridium Communications, Inc. will cover the whole planet, including the polar regions, and will prevent flights from simply dropping off the scopes in the future. The system is expected to be ready in 2018, but airplanes are already transmitting their location and flight data via a system known as ADS-B, which can be read from space, or via ground-based tracking.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has already begun tracking planes using a ground based ADS-B system, and some drones are even equipped with sensors so they can automatically avoid air traffic. This will be the first time the tracking is used from space however. “Real-time global aircraft tracking has long been a goal of the aviation community,” Malaysia Airlines Chief Operating Officer Izham Ismail said in the release. “We are proud to be the first airline to adopt this solution.”

Malaysia Flight 370 made the news three years ago during a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, when the plane suddenly turned around, flew back across Malaysia, and lost contact with flight tracking stations somewhere over the Indian Ocean. Debris has been found as far away as Africa, but the main wreckage was never recovered. Hopefully, with satellite tracking, though airline disasters may still happen, we will at least be able to look for survivors, or recover the dead so they can be returned to their families.

source: Bloomberg

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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