Inmarsat Iris program begins implementation phase

Inmarsat Services Ltd

Friday, 15 March, 2019


Inmarsat Iris program begins implementation phase

An Inmarsat program aiming to modernise European air traffic management has just entered the implementation phase.

The company announced that the research phase of its Iris program had successfully concluded, allowing work on commercial implementation to commence.

In partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), the program is being developed to deliver powerful benefits to airlines and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) across Europe by enabling high-bandwidth, cost-effective, satellite-based datalink communications. This allows aircraft to be pinpointed in four dimensions, known as four-dimensional (4D) operations, which include latitude, longitude, altitude and time.

4D operations enable precise flight tracking and more efficient air traffic management to reduce delays and save fuel, which in turn improves the environmental impact of air travel.

During an extensive five-year research phase, the Iris system was designed and flight trials conducted to validate performance and economic viability, while also ensuring compliance with the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) masterplan and datalink requirements. Requirements for transitioning to future capabilities have also been established and commercial avionics are now being developed and certified by multiple original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to support the technology.

An agreement has been reached with a leading European airline to begin commercial flight trials in 2020. This will be followed by commercial service, which is scheduled to begin in 2021, following completion of initial operating capabilities, commercial trials and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification.

Iris is powered by Inmarsat’s award-winning SB-S digital aircraft operations platform, using its world-leading L-band satellite constellation, which has underpinned global safety services for 40 years. Inmarsat is scheduled to launch two new, advanced L-band payloads to join its fleet in 2020 and 2021, further cementing the company’s long-term commitment to the highly reliable services it offers over this spectrum.

“Progress of the Iris program to date has been outstanding. With the system design and flight tests now complete, industry-wide interest and commitment to the program has led to several important agreements with major European ANSPs, OEMs and a leading commercial European airline. These partnerships have brought us one step closer to commercial service for Iris, and enabling the SESAR objective of modernising ATM across Europe,” said John Broughton, Vice President, Operational and Safety Services at Inmarsat Aviation.

As Inmarsat progresses toward selecting the Iris Service Provider (ISP), a pan-European organisation that will provide the satellite-based datalink communications for Iris, it has entered into a non-exclusive agreement with European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) to identify potential markets and business opportunities for Iris commercial service. Inmarsat and ESSP are collaborating to define the service, the optimum structure for operations and an organisational framework for certifying the ISP.

The agreement with ESSP follows an announcement in November 2018 that Inmarsat has signed agreements with major ANSPs to help develop standards for air traffic control through Iris, including DFS (Germany), ENAIRE (Spain), ENAV (Italy), EUROCONTROL MUAC (North-West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) and NATS (UK).

“The Iris technology is ready for implementation. We and the industrial consortium led by Inmarsat have developed Iris into a vital, enabling tool for the aviation sector and our European Commission partners in SESAR. We are extremely pleased to have passed this very significant milestone on the road to safer, greener and more efficient air travel,” said Magali Vaissiere, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA.

Image courtesy of Inmarsat

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