Disappearance of airplanes while flying over vast oceans has baffled experts and investigators time and again. In order to be better equipped to track aircraft beyond landmass, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is adopting a new technology which will aid in more efficient surveillance of airplanes over Indian ocean, officials told CNBC-TV18.
The state-run airport operator is partnering with Aireon LLC for implementing Space-Based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS–B) data services, which will provide real-time surveillance of airplanes over oceans falling in Indian airspace.
The technology will provide complete coverage of the oceanic space of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata Flight Information Regions. The AAI is planning to commence trial operations of these services from January 2020 onwards. The estimated cost towards provisioning of these services has been pegged at Rs 114 crore annually.
"There are limitations in tracking aircraft flying beyond landmass, far from land-based RADAR. Oceanic airspace remains uncovered from the eyes of RADAR making it difficult for air traffic controllers to know the exact position of aircraft. Currently, the ground- based infrastructure covers only terrestrial airspace and has limited coverage over oceanic regions," officials in the know said.
The new technology will be implemented through a constellation of satellites with 64 Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites with inter-satellite links.
Aircraft equipped with ADS-B system will beam their exact position in real-time to satellites. At any given point of time, a single aircraft will be tracked by three to four satellites. These LEO satellites will receive the signals transmitted from aircraft and downlink the data to ground-based infrastructure. Then, the ground-based infrastructure will deliver the ADS-B data compatible with AAI’s systems installed at Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.
AAI is aiming for more efficient planning and a wider array of traffic control and management tools through the partnership.
"The new technology will support the capacity enhancement of airspace which will result in more number of aircraft flying over a designated route. This will support the increased frequency of flights departing from a particular airport," an official said, adding that savings in fuel and reduction in carbon emission are also expected to be achieved.
The move is likely to result in uninterrupted surveillance and thereby help in back-up during natural calamities such as flood, cyclones and earthquake and also result in the timely detection of various emergency and distress situations, supporting search and rescue operations."Global aviation community is mulling over adopting technologies that can help track the planes flying over the oceanic regions in real-time thereby making air travel safer and secure... India will now be the pioneer in the Asia Pacific region to adopt the latest technology of surveillance of aircraft over oceans through satellites," another official added.