Airports Authority of India (AAI), which controls the third-largest airspace area in the world, is the first in South Asia to successfully deploy Aireon’s satellite-based ADS-B air traffic surveillance system. During trials completed in the past 18 months, the government-backed group successfully tested Aireon’s ADS-B Out service across the Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata oceanic airspace.
Before the deployment of the Aireon system, controllers typically kept aircraft at inefficient flight levels because of the high traffic volumes and lack of radar coverage. This resulted in more fuel burned and thus higher costs for operators.
Aireon’s ADS-B is an air traffic surveillance technology that relies on aircraft broadcasting their identity, position, and other information derived from onboard systems to receivers on satellites instead of ground-based receivers. Iridium is hosting the Aireon ADS-B payload on each of its 66 satellites (and nine spares) in low-earth orbit.
“Terrain does not impact the quality of the data, unlike ground stations,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma. He claimed that space-based ADS-B can provide air traffic surveillance to all properly equipped users anywhere in the world.
AAI has faced surveillance challenges across the vast nine million square kilometers of airspace that it covers, including six million square kilometers of oceanic area. “It's an extremely busy, dense region,” Thoma said. “Space-based ADS-B will give AAI real-time position reports so they are able to manage flow, enhance safety, and accommodate the growth expected over the next few years.”
With surveillance available over AAI’s entire airspace, Aireon’s service can reduce infrastructure costs by eliminating the need to build new radars or ADS-B ground stations. Pilots will receive preferred routing, speeds, and altitudes from controllers, who can help their aircraft avoid bad weather and turbulence. Preferred routing also adds environmental benefits by allowing flights at more efficient altitudes, saving time and fuel. An added benefit is the Aireon information can help pinpoint location to facilitate search-and-rescue, Thoma added.
“As traffic grows, we need infrastructure capable of handling it with efficiency,” said Vineet Gulati, air navigation services board member at AAI. Eurocontrol has agreed to incorporate India’s air traffic information. “This will help plan effectively for time slots and better management between demand and capacity in the busy airspace,” he added. “This is the new technology game-changer that will enable us to handle the increasing traffic that India has been seeing pre-Covid.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is already operating with Aireon ADS-B, while Hong Kong plans to deploy it and Papua New Guinea goes live in the next few months.