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Blog Post

Changing the Game for Air Traffic Control

Posted by Norman Miglietta on 06/28/2012

Satellite Connectivity not only a Boon to Globally Connected Devices

Nearly one year ago, we used this forum to discuss new efficiencies that satellite M2M unlocks for commercial aviation, and this month marks another milestone for potential fuel savings and delay reductions to be realized with satellite connectivity.

The idea is simple. Satellite technology allows planes to fly much closer to one another because it broadcasts the plane’s moment-by-moment location with more accuracy. So accurate, in fact, that Alaska Airlines uses it to navigate Alaska’s hazardous terrain, weaving passengers through narrow valleys and mountain peaks, and landing at remote airports in some of the worst imaginable weather. The technology is no joke.

Radar, which is the current state-of-the-art for air traffic control, sweeps at best only once every six seconds. To make up for that uncertainty, controllers today keep wide buffer zones between flights. In practice, this means that airplanes must circle overhead, then pilots have to repeatedly step on the gas and coast in order to maintain their assigned altitude through a stair-step descent.

With satellite guidance, planes are able to take a more direct path to the runway and cut miles off of their approaches. For passengers, landing feels more like coming down a slide.

To put this in perspective, these efficient approaches and landings translate into significant fuel savings. Recently featured in The New York Times, the FAA has even projected that if satellite was put into effect at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, planes would fly 1.2 million fewer miles each year, saving as much as 2.9 million gallons of fuel and allowing an additional 10 planes per hour to take off. In effect, airports would increase capacity without building more runways because more planes could take off and land.  The project is called the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen for short, and the US Congress has authorized $1 billion per year to fund the program.

In additional developments for North America, KORE’s strategic partner in global satellite services, Iridium Communications, Inc., has recently announced a Canadian joint venture with Nav Canada to form Aireon, LLC to deliver a surveillance capability to Air Navigation Service Providers who provide air traffic management to over 1,200 flights per day to their commercial airline customers across Canada.  In the first 12 years of operation, the JV expects to help its Canadian commercial airline customers save between $6-$8B USD in fuel costs. That doesn’t take into account the increased safety or quality of life factors.

At the heart of it, this is another example of what Harbor Research calls “Pervasive Intelligence,” allowing businesses to make immediate decisions based on accurate, real-time data. M2M-enabled monitoring for electrical, water, oil and gas networks provides these respective industries with minute-by-minute, second-by-second awareness of resource use. In turn, management can more effectively match supply to demand, identify and fix problems more quickly, and operate with tighter safety standards.

While industrial, “always on” monitoring has its genesis in the utility and energy space, the concept is clearly broadening while the technology to do it becomes more readily available. The cost savings associated with operational efficiency and “leveling off” of peak demands are showing up in more and more unexpected ways.

As long-term promoters of fiscal and operational efficiency for ourselves, as well as our customers, we at KORE could not be more pleased to see these futuristic and quality of life enhancing developments take hold.

By Stein Soelberg, Director of Marketing
Stein leads a team whose responsibility is to own the branding, advertising, customer engagement, loyalty, partnership and public relations initiatives designed to propel KORE into the 21st century. With over 15 years of technology marketing experience in the business to business software, Internet services and telecommunications industries, Stein brings a proven track record of launching successful MVNOs and building those brands into leaders.