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A Day in The Life: John Dolan


Learn more about Aireon from the Aireon team themselves. This series, “A Day in The Life,” will allow the Aireon team to speak first-hand about their experiences, views, and future outlook on space-based ADS-B.  Aireon is proud of our extraordinary team of experts and aim to highlight them in this blog series. We hope you enjoying meeting the Aireon team and further understand our strong commitment to aviation.  

My name is John Dolan and I am a Senior Systems Engineer at Aireon.  I’ve been working in aviation, specifically aircraft surveillance and tracking technologies, for about 9 years.  I have a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech with a specialization in spacecraft dynamics and control theory.  My first introduction into ADS-B was when I starting working with ITT (which is now Harris) on the deployment of their ground-based ADS-B radio network.  While working there, I was introduced to AireonSM during its inception and worked on the initial concept, specifically the simulation of the envisioned system.

Aireon and space-based ADS-B will provide a global picture of air traffic when all the satellites are launched and operational.  The unique constellation of the Iridium NEXT satellites coupled with the Aireon Hosted Payloads on each satellite will provide complete coverage of the Earth.  Any aircraft equipped with an ADS-B transponder will transmit its location, which is detected by the payloads.  That information is sent back through the Iridium and Aireon networks to be processed and sent out to the end users.  By the year 2020, most aircraft in the world will be equipped with ADS-B transponders and will be visible to the Aireon system.

My role at Aireon focuses on two parts: modeling and analysis.  Even before the first satellite launch, Aireon had to predict the performance of the system to ensure it could meet our requirements.  This will continue throughout the satellite deployments with real data being used to improve our model and our predictions of the final system.  The analysis aspect of my job involves gathering recorded data from our system and pulling useful statistics and information from it.  My typical day involves analyzing our recorded data to determine system performance, working on ways to improve that performance, or developing and simulating new algorithms to improve our system.

I expect that space-based ADS-B is going to shape the future of aircraft surveillance and will significantly change how things are done in air traffic control.  This technology provides air traffic control with something they have never had before, real-time accurate surveillance over the oceans.  This is going to allow for more aircraft to travel more efficiently and safely around the world.  It also provides an alternative source of aircraft surveillance for terrestrial coverage.  Instead of building a ground system, or updating an outdated system, the surveillance data can come from Aireon, which reduces a user’s infrastructure and cost.  Overall, I think the impact on the industry is going to be huge.