A new satellite tracking system could help eliminate airplane disappearances

Investigators carry a piece of wreckage belonging to MH370 found on Reunion Island. Photo credit: Turner Media Group

In the aftermath of a number of high-profile airplane disappearances, including Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and EgyptAir flight MS804, two US companies have begun work on a new tracking system which would allow flights to be tracked regardless of their flight path from nearly any position in the world.

The system, which was developed by flight tracking software company FlightAware, utilizes a series of low-orbiting satellites as receivers for tracking signals emitted by a flight's electronics. This system is designed to complement and eventually overtake the existing system of ground-based receivers, which is limited in tracking airplanes over oceans and remote continental areas.

FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker says his company is working with global air traffic surveillance company Aireon to develop the tracking system, which they've named "GlobalBeacon".

"It doesn't matter if they're flying over the ocean, desert, or North Pole, we'll know where the plane is," Baker said.

Though Baker is confident the system is ready for full-scale delivery, FlightAware could only secure one airliner for its tracking system given the current timeline of development.

"We only reached out to a few of our dozens of airline customers to discuss this opportunity and although all are interested in using our space-based ADS-B data, only one could hit the tight timeline for our announcement."

Baker says the system will be unveiled to coincide with new International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations which would require a standard 15 minute ping time for all airplane tracking systems.

Source: Reuters

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