Weekly Review #233 - Aireon begins space-based VHF communications work

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Posted by Vincent Lambercy
If you follow me on LinkedIn, you've likely seen my recent post about how not every piece of news is breaking, not everything is amazing, and not everything is game-changing. Don't worry, I won't continue on this subject. Rather, I want to highlight a piece of news that our Market Radar captured last week, which could indeed be game-changing. Aireon and a handful of ANSPs have started working on a concept of operations, standards, and business case for a space-based Very High Frequency (VHF) communication service
Making VHF communications available to pilots and controllers also over oceanic airspace would facilitate traffic management. It would also largely improve capacity compared to the current Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) in operation, which was already an improvement over High Frequency (HF) communications. But somehow, it remains slow and for non-urgent clearances only.
It is not clear at this stage if this will happen but some arguments in favor of success are definitely present:
  • Space based VHF would not need an equipment change onboard the aircraft, making it super cost-effective for airlines and other users. 
  • Aireon has already succeeded in implementing a space-based ANSP quality surveillance service using ADS-B receivers on satellites. Not only does it have a certification, but it also has experience in this kind of operation. 
  • Multiple ANPSs with large oceanic airspace are on board as well: NAV CANADA, NATS, AirNav Ireland, ENAV, and Naviair. 

There are also other possible use cases, like using such a system as an extra layer of redundancy or possibly instead of one of the many layers existing today. Also, for getting radio coverage in non-oceanic, remote areas like the Amazon Rainforest or in deep valleys of mountainous areas.
Given the infrastructure involved and many regulatory aspects, it will certainly take time, but this definitely is an effort we'll keep our eyes on!
The FoxATM team will be at Airspace World next week. If you'd like to meet, just reply to this email to let us know. We still have a few open slots in our agendas.

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