Over the past decade, two high profile disappearances of aircraft on global flight routes have brought attention to the need for better flight-tracking technology. In 2015, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, announced the adoption of commercial aircraft tracking Standards and Recommended Practices, setting out that it is the commercial air operator’s responsibility to track its aircraft throughout its area of operations, with a minimum tracking interval of 15 minutes per report. That data would be used to determine the aircraft’s last known position for search-and-rescue operations, as well as to establish when an airline needs to report missing aircraft position information.
And new technology exists to help operators track their planes at intervals of 15 minutes and even shorter –over vast stretches of ocean. Panasonic has existing systems called FlightLink and eXConnect – satellite communications based systems that leverage GPS for keeping track of airplanes which, until recently, haven’t by and large been used for such purposes. “It’s a satellite based system, so it works everywhere around the globe, rather than a surveillance based system that requires land based stations to be able to see the aircraft in kind of what’s called a ‘line of sight’ methodology,” says Jeff Rex of Panasonic Avionics.
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