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In January, Iridium launched the first ten of 66 satellites that will, for the first time, be able to continuously track airplanes’ position, speed, and altitude across the entire globe. Although the network won’t be operational until the end of 2018 at the earliest, two of the satellites have already been switched on, and they started to send back data a few weeks ago.
“When we activated, we started collecting targets of opportunity. These are just any aircraft flying,” says Vinny Capezzuto, CTO of Aireon, which is the company that makes the satellite-based tracking tech. Over 62 hours, one satellite collected the unique codes and positional data of 17,000 aircraft, including those over oceans and in remote locations where radar can’t reach.