Vanished: Virginia-based Aireon to launch global plane-tracking system


Within the next few days, new plane-tracking technology will go live, in an attempt to help minimize the risk of commercial planes disappearing.

Aireon, based in McLean, Virginia, is in the final days of testing the first worldwide, real-time airplane monitoring and tracking system.

Currently, radar is still used to track planes, but since the 1930s-era technology requires line-of-sight, it doesn’t work everywhere.

“There is 70 percent of the world’s airspace that has no surveillance coverage,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma. “That includes the oceans and mountainous regions.”

Thoma said air traffic controllers around the world have developed protocols to make sure planes are kept separate, but they are not precise.

“Let’s say you’re flying over the ocean, looking at the map on the seat back in front you,” Thoma said. “You know where you are, the pilot knows where you are because the plane has GPS, but the reality is air traffic control organizations know approximately where you are.”

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