Iris has been developed by Viasat and the European Space Agency (ESA) to enable real-time collaboration between pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operation centres using cost-effective, secure and highly resilient datalink communications. TheIris service is an aeronautical mobile satellite (route) service (AMS(R)S) supporting datalink communication services for operational ATN-B1/ATS-B2 controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) and ATS-B2 aircraft-to-air navigation service providers surveillance-related information (ADS-C).

In addition to receiving digital information such as weather updates, this means aircraft can be pinpointed in four dimensions – latitude, longitude, altitude and time – using 4D trajectories to calculate the shortest available routes and optimum altitudes. This not only improves airspace usage to accommodate future growth, but also allows airlines across Europe to minimise delays, save fuel and reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

Iris complements the VHF datalink, which is nearing a capacity crunch in congested airspace by digitally connecting the ATM ecosystem.

EasyJet leads the way

ESSP, as Iris Service Provider, has been working with 19 leading ANSPs in support of the first commercial flights taking place across Europe since the start of 2024. easyJet is the first airline to participate, used in more than 1,500 flights of Airbus A320neos so far. 

More efficient use of airspace is crucial for aviation to reduce emissions, as it is currently the most achievable source of carbon reductions. This is because more direct flight paths lead to shorter flying times, using less fuel and generating fewer emissions. Achieving this will be critical to reaching the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) ambition to deliver 10% carbon emissions savings from European aviation. 

ANSPs share the results

Four ANSPs shared their experiences working with Iris. They discussed their initial impressions and shared their thoughts on the implications of this technology for improving flight performance now and in the future. 


Viktor Jagasits, air traffic controller systems monitoring & revision team co-ordinator HMI/FDPS/datalink expert

“The service works well and we’re glad to be able to finally begin to use it. With IRIS, we anticipate increased bandwidth and capacity, along with high continuity and availability. We’re looking forward to more flights and receiving more immediate feedback via datalink,” stated Viktor Jagasits.

The main impacts over time will be increased performance, increased ATCO trust and increased reliance across ANSPs of datalink. This will come as more pilots use the solution and the networks are more widely available. To achieve these goals, there will need to be increased acceptance of datalink by the ATCOs and a wider deployment of the infrastructure across airlines”


Jean-Michel Crenais, data link programme manager

“The key to developing future capacity is to deploy datalink services. The Iris solution has robust performance and is global. Connecting and subscribing to it was easy and transparent. We believe in the strategic importance of datalink, because VDL 2 will be saturated in a few years and we need a solution.”

The importance of airlines driving this implementation was also a key point in this conversation. DSNA is looking forward to more aircraft using the solution, but the airlines control the timing for this. Our industry can’t wait any longer for a solution as our capacity is running out.


Ricardo de Sousa, CNS strategy lead airspace & future operations

“It’s not easy because of investment cycles, but it provides a long-term view that Iris is needed in addition to VDL2 to support CPDLC. We need to have this long-term view. Iris will mitigate issues around VDL M2 capacity in the shorter-term which is crucial especially in more congested volumes of airspace, such as South-East UK. Iris also facilitates coverage in lower volumes of airspace, which will be challenging for VDL M2 to provide. An important benefit of Iris is the ability to capture ADS-C downlinks outside of the VDL M2 footprint in general. This will be necessary to enable the full 4D trajectory management approach.” 


Ralf Bertsch, director technical operations & infrastructure

“So far everything has gone very well. We already had some first testing experiences, with real aircraft – 37 flights – and the performance was perfect. It was extremely easy to implement these flights in our system as they use the same SITA communications path, so there were no additional needs on our side. The ATCOs haven’t seen a need to do anything different.”

DFS is part of the core airspace of Europe, taking over more traffic due to the Ukraine crisis – as high as 20% – and we need datalink in this busy airspace. It reduces miscommunication between pilot and ATCO and is more efficient. 

All future digitalisation capabilities require a reliable datalink as VDL2 will be saturated in 2029. ANSPs must start now to be ready for 2029.


Charlotte Neyret, chief executive officer of ESSP, commented: “The Iris programme is a game-changer for the aviation industry, providing the most advanced new technology to complement datalink communications and meet the challenge of digital, greener and sustainable air travel. ESSP has been working on this important programme with Viasat and ESA for several years. We will provide the full range of ESSP’s expertise in implementing and operating mission-critical services to ensure that Iris will offer the highest quality of service to all aviation stakeholders.”