How do you track a plane?
Since the 1930’s and World War II, the primary method of aircraft tracking has been done through the use of radars. In the cases of both normal flight or search and rescue, radars help position the aircraft so that flight controllers know where they are at all times possible. This is achieved through a primary and secondary radar. The primary radar tracks the approximate position through reflecting radio signals. The secondary radar, on the other hand, tracks aircraft through the use of the transponder that communicates with the radar. While this proves to be fairly functional for tracking, these systems often fail to be accurate, or track at all, when the aircraft is too far over the sea, or if the aircraft is at lower altitudes as they rely on ground stations. In this article, we will discuss the possible future of aircraft tracking that may come to replace the standard of the radar in the coming years.
After major world events like the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370, the discussion of improving how we track aircraft has never been more present. One technology that has been touted as a solution is the automatic dependent surveillance broadcast, or ADS-B. The ADS-B works by utilizing constant GPS pings every half second and then reporting the information to nearby aircraft and ground receivers. The benefits in this system is that they utilize more accurate satellite tracking and can be installed onto locations such as oil rigs to provide more coverage in the sea where radar construction is not feasible. While this technology may serve as an improvement to tracking as compared to radar, it still falls short on its own without the ability to track aircraft far over the ocean.
Aireon’s Iridium NEXT system claims to be the solutions to this problem with the use of a global communication network of 66 satellites equipped with ADS-B receivers that have been launched into space, creating a net over the earth. Through these satellites, aircraft positions are said to be captured, transmitted to nearby satellites, and then sent to the closest teleport. As compared to standard satellites and GPS tracking
, these satellites are also able to have much more accuracy at the North and South Pole. This system could possibly create a constant global tracking system of accurate aircraft positioning as more airlines adopt ADS-B technology.
Although radar tracking has served airlines and personnel for many decades, the advent of new tracking technology can greatly revolutionize how we can monitor air traffic. With the use of technologies such as ADS-B and the Iridium NEXT system, it may be very possible to have a constant global network of aircraft tracking, tremendously increasing flight safety and search and rescue operations that has never been seen.
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Posted on January 8, 2020