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Aireon to Begin Development of Space-Based VHF Communications Services to Augment its Industry-Leading Surveillance System

Coalition to define technical standards, operational concepts, business case for space-based CNS services

Aireon, the leader in space-based air traffic management data products and services, is setting the stage to lead the next big evolution in safety and efficiency with the formation of the Aireon Space-Based VHF Coalition, a group of organizations that will develop the concept of operations for space-based VHF voice and data communications for aviation.

Iridium, NAV CANADA, NATS, AirNav Ireland, ENAV, and Naviair will join Aireon as part of the Aireon Space-Based VHF Coalition, and discussions are underway with additional Aireon partners who are expected to join in the near future.

The addition of space-based ADS-B surveillance to remote and oceanic airspace operations 5 years ago has improved the safety and efficiency of more than 50% of the world’s airspace. The concept of space-based VHF holds similar promise for the aviation industry, particularly for areas with limited connectivity or without ground infrastructure like remote regions and oceanic routes. Like space-based ADS-B, space-based VHF has the potential to improve airspace safety, efficiency, and sustainability by reducing aircraft separation and more efficient routing. In December, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) approved the allocation of new radio frequencies for aeronautical use, which is paving the regulatory way for space-based VHF communications.

In support of the frequency allocation, Aireon will file for a license to operate a space-based VHF system in the newly allocated spectrum band. In addition, with the coalition partners, Aireon will support the work being done at ICAO, where the important work around technical and operational requirements and coordination will be addressed.

“Aireon operates the only global space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system, so we have a deep understanding of the importance of enhancing communication, navigation and surveillance capabilities for aviation, particularly in oceanic and remote airspace,” said Don Thoma, Aireon CEO. “This coalition, composed of innovators and pioneers of space-based technology, will strive to overcome the challenges of space-based VHF to position Aireon to be the first air traffic control-grade provider of space-based VHF.”

Aireon set the gold-standard in aviation data, spending more than 12 years deploying and operating the only certified space-based surveillance system. Currently, Aireon data is used by about 50 percent of the world’s airspace to safely and efficiently navigate aircraft; Aireon counts more than 40 countries, represented by more than 20 ANSPs, as its customers.

“At Aireon, we understand the complexities and challenges of operating space-based safety of life services. We’ve been doing it for years. And as we embark on this new initiative, we will apply the same rigorous process to deploy and operate space-based VHF services as we did when we launched space-based ADS-B,” Thoma said. “We are confident that this coalition is best suited to address the high-standard of quality that space-based VHF technology requires and is best suited to deploy another game changing service to the aviation community.”