Europe backs space ADS-B spectrum band

The European Parliament has – as expected – adopted a resolution supporting the assignment of primary radio spectrum allocation for satellite-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

European Parliament’s transport commissioner Violeta Bulc last week called on all EU member states to welcome the move which ensures the issue of global flight tracking is supported in current negotiations at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC).

Representatives of more than 160 countries are taking part in the month-long conference (WRC-15), which is hosted by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union every four years. High on the agenda is the bid to determine the technical requirements for creating a flight tracking system that can ensure complete surveillance of the global airspace and avoid incidents like the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation has voiced support for a near-term proposal that would make it obligatory for airlines to track their aircraft at 15-minute intervals.

Space-based ADS-B will allow for real-time air traffic monitoring, and provide performance-based enhancements in safety and efficiency, consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) objectives.

“We are very pleased that the resolution was adopted with overwhelming support from the plenary. It now stands as an official position of the European Parliament and demonstrates broad support for this action,” said Roberta Neri, chief executive officer of Italian air navigation service provider ENAV.

“A primary spectrum allocation will ensure that the world’s aviation community has access to the next-generation air traffic surveillance capability of space-based ADS-B to improve global safety and efficiency. It is imperative that we make safety a priority and it is encouraging that Parliament has made this critical issue a key objective during the WRC.”

ENAV has invested $61 million to acquire a 12.5 per cent of Aireon, the US-based business – part of the Iridium Group – that, by 2018, will create the first global satellite surveillance system for air traffic management.

ENAV acquired that stake in partnership with NAV CANADA, its Canadian counterpart which holds a 51 per cent stake. Ireland’s IAA and Denmark’s NAVIAIR also each hold a six per cent stake, while the remaining 24.5 per cent will be retained by Iridium.

“The Aireon partners are pleased with the support and commitment from the European Parliament to improve air traffic safety, as stated in the resolution. We see this as a strong endorsement of the need to improve global flight safety and efficiency using investments that are already being made by the airlines,” said Eamonn Brennan, IAA chief executive officer.

Members of the European Parliament across the political spectrum were universally supportive of the resolution, including the chairman of the transport committee Michael Cramer (Green Party, Germany), Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE, Romania) and Lucy Anderson (S&D, UK) who detailed the importance of a having a global solution that overcomes the limitations of existing flight tracking systems.

“The European Parliament has set the standard in supporting this action and as the air navigation service provider in Canada, we fully support this initiative from the other side of the Atlantic,” said John Crichton, president and chief executive officer, NAV CANADA. “Primary spectrum allocation for space-based global flight tracking is putting safety first. It is our primary goal and main objective in maintaining our airspace.”

Read: Europe backs dedicated spectrum for tracking

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