Malaysia Airlines has become the first airline to sign a deal for space-based monitoring of its aircraft’s flightpaths. It’s a coup for the carrier, which is still reeling from the loss of the missing MH370 three years ago.
The agreement, signed with three aerospace companies—Aireon, SITAONAIR, and FlightAware—will allow Malaysia Airlines to track its flights via satellite as they cross remote oceans, pass over polar regions, or travel anywhere else in the world Bloomberg reports, citing a press release from Aireon.
Malaysia Airlines Chief Operating Officer Izham Ismail said in the release: “Real-time global aircraft tracking has long been a goal of the aviation community. We are proud to be the first airline to adopt this solution.”
The location of most international-bound planes can already be monitored via a type of signal periodically broadcast from the aircraft called ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast). These signals can be received by air traffic control ground stations and by other aircraft. They can also be tracked from space. Aireon, which is launching a new satellite network with a company called Iridium Communications (IRDM), expects to complete its space-based monitoring system in 2018.
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However, it is unclear that such a network would have been able to track Malaysia Airline’s Flight 370, which disappeared with 239 people aboard on March 8, 2014. Because the plane’s location transmission system went dead, the type of signals a satellite network receives would not have been broadcast, Bloomberg reports.
Although debris from MH370 has washed up onto African beaches and islands in the Indian Ocean, the main wreckage was never found.