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Advanced aircraft tracking will come live from space

Written by  Tuesday, 25 July 2023 08:53
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Blue skies above an aircraft wing

Satellites will soon be used to keep an independent eye on airborne planes, under a deal agreed between ESA and Spire Global, a company that provides space-based data, analytics and space services.

Spire will design an advanced civilian aviation surveillance system that uses a constellation of satellites to monitor flights globally in real time, as well as building an in-orbit technology demonstrator for the system.

The system, called “Eurialo”, will determine the exact position of a plane by geolocating its radio frequency signals. This will provide an independent assessment of the plane’s location to complement today’s surveillance systems, which often rely on self-reported positions of aircraft derived from the Global Navigation Satellite System.

The project will not only provide reliable and resilient surveillance to complete the European communication, navigation and surveillance infrastructure, but also align with the European air traffic management master plan, which describes the need for resilient, space-based infrastructure to support safe, sustainable and efficient air travel.

The Eurialo system is expected to provide the most advanced and reliable system for civilian aircraft surveillance, with the ability to track a plane in real time anywhere in the world from take-off to landing.

Spire will develop the mission and preliminary system design for an operational satellite constellation, and then design, deploy and operate a demonstrator mission that proves the performance of the service and critical technologies.

The company will lead a consortium that includes the European Satellite Services Provider, which delivers communication, navigation and surveillance services for aviation.

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