Aireon, the global air traffic surveillance system, went live this week as air traffic over the North Atlantic was coordinated between U.K. and Canadian air navigation services providers (ANSP) NATS and Nav Canada using signals generated by ADS-B OUT (1090 MHz) transmitters on board the aircraft and re-transmitted to the ANSPs via the Iridium constellation of low earth orbit communications satellites.

The current trial by NATS and Nav Canada marks the first operational use of the Aireon system in which Nav Canada holds a major stake, which it acquired after investing $150 million in the early stages of the project. Aireon is based in McLean, Virginia and was founded in 2011. Other partners are satellite operator Iridium, Italian ANSP ENAV, Danish ANSP Navair and the Irish Aviation Authority.

“To know the position, speed and altitude of every ADS-B equipped aircraft in oceanic airspace – in real-time – is a transformational change to how our controllers manage air traffic,” said Nav Canada president and CEO Neil Wilson. “The Aireon system provides an immediate boost to aviation safety and airlines will benefit from more fuel-efficient routings and flight levels. Over 95 percent of the North Atlantic traffic is already ADS-B equipped so the fuel savings, along with the reduced carbon dioxide emissions will be attained very quickly.”

Regulations mandating the use of ADS-B OUT in the year 2020 are in place in Europe and the United States, with many countries, including Canada, yet to define its ADS-B mandate.

“For the first time in history, we can surveil all ADS-B-equipped aircraft anywhere on Earth,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma. “Our air transportation system has operated with a safe but less than efficient system in the 70 percent of the world that does not have real-time surveillance.  With the launch of our space-based ADS-B service, Aireon now provides a real-time solution to that challenge—one that will radically optimize flight safety and efficiency. The aviation industry has now joined the rest of the 21st century where real-time connectivity is relied upon for doing business.”