Safer skies Iris programme enters implementation phase

13 March 2019: The research phase of Inmarsat’s Iris air traffic management (ATM) programme has successfully concluded and work on commercial implementation has now commenced.

In partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), the programme 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, powered by our award-winning SB-S digital aircraft operations platform.

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.

Research phase

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.

Industry-wide interest

John Broughton, Vice President, Operational and Safety Services at Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Progress of the Iris programme to date has been outstanding. With the system design and flight tests now complete, industry-wide interest and commitment to the programme 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.”

As we progress toward selecting the Iris Service Provider (ISP), a pan-European organisation that will provide the satellite-based datalink communications for Iris, we have entered into a non-exclusive agreement with European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) to identify potential markets and business opportunities for Iris commercial service.

Thierry Racaud, CEO of ESSP, said: “ESSP is proud to be collaborating with Inmarsat and ESA, and to contribute to the preparatory works in view of the introduction of the Iris commercial service. ESSP’s successful experience as certified pan-European navigation service provider is an asset for the future Iris Service Provider implementation.”

Enabling tool

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).

Magali Vaissiere, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “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.” 

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