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Space-Based ADS-B: No longer a concept, but an operational reality

After 130 Billion ADS-B position reports tested and validated, eight Iridium NEXT rocket launches successfully completed and over 225 internal daily operations briefings held, Aireon is LIVE!

Since its inception, aviation has drawn together people who celebrate rapid improvement, constant innovation and aggressive boundary-pushing. It is a community in which visionaries work to manifest some of humanity’s most astonishing achievements. In this fearless spirit, we challenged ourselves to find a way to make air travel and air traffic management (ATM) safer, more efficient and less expensive. Over eight years of hard work and invaluable collaboration (and hitching a few rides into space on massive reusable rockets) later, we are poised to forever transform aviation for the better.

The Aireon system is now live. It is hard to overstate the significance of this achievement and the possibilities is creates—including those we can’t yet imagine. For our employees, partners and investors, this is a day to celebrate our accomplishments and begin the next chapter of our story. For the entire aviation community, our service represents one of the most important advancements in aviation history. Here are a few reasons why:

Eyes everywhere

Until now, approximately 70% of global airspace was unseen by air traffic controllers (ATC). Dependent upon ground-based surveillance systems with limited reach, aircraft flying over oceans or remote terrain could not be monitored in real time. With the Aireon system operational, 100% of ADS-B equipped aircraft are now surveilled.

Safety first

Aireon is first and foremost a safety-of-life service. The ability to monitor an aircraft in real time anywhere on earth is projected to reduce known safety risks by approximately 76%, according to a joint analysis from Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) NATS and NAV CANADA. These findings have been endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). And in the event of an emergency, Aireon’s system will help first responders and search and rescue teams locate and reach a downed aircraft more quickly.

Increased freedom

With limited visibility, ATC restricted aircraft—particularly those flying transoceanic routes—to “highways in the sky,” where planes were kept as many as 100 miles apart at exact speeds and altitudes. Global, space-based surveillance removes the need for a rigid “highway” system and opens up more direct routes and on-the-fly adjustments. Today, between 50 and 60% of requested routes are authorized. That percentage is now expected to jump to between 80 and 90%–saving travel time and associated costs.

Fuel savings

If it’s expensive to fill up your car, imagine the cost to fill up a wide-body jet. Being able to safely fly more direct oceanic routes at optimal speeds and altitudes will save airlines more than $300 in fuel costs per flight—according to an analysis by NATS and ICAO.

Environmentally friendly

In addition to fuel savings, more efficient flying is expected to reduce per-flight CO2 emissions by two tonnes, again according to a NATS and ICAO analysis.


For aviation analysts and researchers, economists, transportation scholars and big-data experts, Aireon’s data represent the first opportunity in history to critically examine global air traffic with absolute precision. These data may open the door to untold numbers of innovations, inventions and improvements in aviation and beyond.

We are thrilled to be a part of aviation’s long tradition of continuous improvement, and we are proud to be a resource to air navigators, carriers, pilots, safety crews and researchers. But perhaps we are most proud of what we’re providing to those who rely on air travel: peace of mind. To participate in the complex choreography that safely delivers you from one corner of the world to the other is a responsibility and privilege we take very seriously, and serves as our unifying goal both now and for decades to come.