A cluster of satellites set to launch in the coming days could move the aviation industry closer to overhauling the way air-traffic controllers track planes around the world.
For decades, controllers have used ground-based radar to direct planes over land. More recently, they have been finding aircraft locations via global positioning satellites, or GPS, but they can do so only over land or near the shore. They have had no real-time ability to track planes in flight over oceans, which cover 71% of the planet, or over remote polar regions.
A new satellite-based joint-venture called Aireon LLC would give controllers full visibility by next year, if all goes according to plan, providing real-time flight information from planes over both water and land.