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Above image: Example of an integrated terrestrial and satellite automatic dependant surveillance - broadcast system/ Credit: ITU (From Report ITU-R M.2413-0)

Above image: Example of an integrated terrestrial and satellite automatic dependant surveillance - broadcast system/ Credit: ITU (From Report ITU-R M.2413-0)

ITU adopts technical principles for enhanced global aircraft flight tracking through ‘Automatic dependent surveillance’

The United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies – the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced the adoption of the main technical principles of enhanced aircraft automatic dependent surveillance via satellite, to track in-flight aircraft worldwide.

ITU is responsible for establishing worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. The Study Groups of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) assemble experts from around the world to develop international standards known asITU-T Recommendations which act as defining elements in the global infrastructure of information and communication technologies (ICTs). 

According to the press release, there are approximately 59,000 aircraft in flight worldwide, at any given time. The ability to effectively track, monitor and report these aircraft is critical for ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, as well as that of communities on the ground.

Since the disappearance of flight MH370 in 2014 over the South China Sea, ITU has undertaken activities to improve the tracking of in-flight aircraft using advanced information and communication technologies.

Different aircraft automatic dependent surveillance systems have been standardised within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), such as terrestrial automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) and automatic dependent surveillance-contract (ADS-C). 

Aircraft automatic dependent surveillance is a technique in which aircraft automatically provide, via a data link, data from the on-board navigation and position-fixing systems, including aircraft identification, four-dimensional position (e.g. latitude, longitude, altitude and time) and additional data, as appropriate.

The technique is termed “automatic” because there is no intervention from the pilot or interrogation from terrestrial stations, and “dependent” because the data is dependent upon on-board systems such as global positioning system and altimeter. The system relays the information to the relevant airline operators and air traffic control centres who then track the aircraft identifying any anomalies in its flight profile and initiate emergency procedures where necessary, enhancing safety in the sky.

The technical principles are published in the new technical report: Reception of automatic dependent surveillance broadcast via satellite and compatibility studies with incumbent systems in the frequency band 1 087.7-1 092.3 (REPORT ITU-R M.2413-0). 

The report provides a description of the current operation of the ICAO standardised ADS-B and study of the implementation of reception of ADS-B via satellite.

This would enhance coverage for aircraft suitably equipped, particularly in areas where terrestrial receivers cannot practically be deployed, such as oceanic, trans-polar and remote regions, and be a major step in the implementation of the ICAO global aeronautical distress and safety system.

This report was published and adopted by ITU-R Study Group 5, which focuses on systems and networks for fixed, mobile, radiodetermination, amateur and amateur-satellite services. The ITU-R Study Groups develop the global standards (Recommendations), Reports and Handbooks on radiocommunication matters. 

“The adoption of the technical principles in ITU’s report is a major step towards improving international global flight traffic safety, through the cooperation between ITU and ICAO,” said François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. “It also advances implementation of World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 decisions on internationally recognized spectrum for aircraft automatic dependent surveillance via satellite.”  

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