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Transportation

Malaysia Air Is First Airline to Track Fleet With Satellites (bloomberg.com) 70

From a report: Malaysia Air, which lost a wide-body jet with 239 people aboard three years ago in one of history's most enduring aviation mysteries, has become the first airline to sign an agreement for space-based flight tracking of its aircraft. The subsidiary of Malaysian Airline System Bhd reached a deal with Aireon LLC, SITAONAIR and FlightAware LLC to enable it to monitor the flight paths of its aircraft anywhere in the world including over the polar regions and the most remote oceans, according to an emailed press release from Aireon. Aireon is launching a new satellite network with Iridium Communications Inc. that will allow it to monitor air traffic around the globe. It's projected to be completed in 2018. Most international flights are already transmitting their position with technology known as ADS-B and the signals can be tracked from the ground or space. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has already installed a ground-based tracking system for ADS-B. "Real-time global aircraft tracking has long been a goal of the aviation community," Malaysia Chief Operating Officer Izham Ismail said in the release. "We are proud to be the first airline to adopt this solution."
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Malaysia Air Is First Airline to Track Fleet With Satellites

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  • Surprised that this wasn't already being done given that a basic sat tracker costs $100 or so.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The plane knows where it is. Isn't the problem sending that info back to home base?

      • The plane knows where it is.

        And so does the MH17 missile!

      • That is indeed the problem. In itself not a huge problem except for the continuous cost.

        You need a reasonable uplink to a satellite or barring that a huge radio transmitter and global network of receivers. 100Kbps may not seem like a lot but having hundreds of planes across the world sending it to space, aggregating the streams across several continents and saving the telemetry is not simple. In emergency situations you maybe want the system to send significantly more data.

        And even then, the benefit will be

        • What would you need 100 Kb/s for? Unless it's total traffic of all the data.
          • by guruevi ( 827432 )

            You want probably the speed, bearing, current location, altitude, fuel levels, perhaps even radio status and signal strengths, autopilot status, flap and rudder positions and a number of core temperatures and pressures as far as telemetry data. 100 Kb is a package of ~10KB with a bit of error correction. It's not incredibly much. During emergencies you might want to beam back the last 5-10 minutes of audio/images from cockpits and passenger areas.

            • That's if you want total information from the airplane. I was under the impression that this was about data from fully independent beacons, which usually provide only positions. After all, total integration into jetliner's systems would only hamper mass production because that would make them too jetliner-specific (or too expensive it that functionality were to remain unused on non-jetliners). For all the other data, you have the black box. This just guides you to it.
        • And even then, the benefit will be minimal. We may end up knowing where the plane went down but that doesn't bring it back or makes it easy to find

          But not knowing where it went down makes it impossible to find!

          • by guruevi ( 827432 )

            Put yourself in the mind of an airline executive: What exactly are you hoping to find when a plane crashes or disappears? Survivors? Blame? If the plane has crashed in the ocean and it takes you 5-10 days to even get to the general area with any sizable equipment, there won't be much of a chance to find anything or anyone. So why spend millions on a system that maybe one day will let you know where an unrecoverable wreck without any survivors may be located?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2017 @05:15PM (#54259611)

      Love it when someone compares unreliable low end consumer tech (that doesn't even fully provide the functions needed for an application) with something that has to be bullet proof and work reliably 100% of the time at a professional level.

      • I meant something like the FindMeSpot, which has global coverage, updates every 5 minutes or so, and costs $100 a year.
        • which has global coverage

          It relies on GPS and therefore does not have global coverage. In much of the coverage zone it doesn't update remotely near every 5 minutes, hell they don't even guarantee that on land masses.

          It also doesn't change the fact that comparing an unreliable piece of consumer tech to avionic equipment is simply stupid.

          • It also doesn't change the fact that comparing an unreliable piece of consumer tech to avionic equipment is simply stupid.

            "Unreliable" consumer tracking tech is one fuck of a lot better than no tracking tech, which is what MH370 had.

            Airline shills always make up ridiculous arguments to resist spending another $1000 on a 70 million dollar plane.

            • lot better than no tracking tech, which is what MH370 had.

              You ignorance is a thing of wonders.

              Airline shills always make up ridiculous arguments to resist spending another $1000 on a 70 million dollar plane.

              Air travel didn't get to being the safest form of travel through idiots botching together off the shelf garbage and calling it a day. If you think this system will cost $1000 ... well see the sentence above.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        I am sure that those cheap ones did better than what they had before.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2017 @04:45PM (#54259417)

    ... if the flight crew can't turn off their transponders.

    • a fire can takeout all coms.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        True. But a fire with a flight crew interested in survival will try to land the plane and contact help ASAP. Even if they don't make it, it shouldn't be too difficult to search for a downed plane from the point of last contact. If the flight crew is up to no good, they could fly for hours after turning comms off. And avoid air traffic control/military radar. And make some evasive course changes.

        • they could fly for hours after turning comms off.

          Make it impossible to turn off.
          What possible reason would the crew have to turn off tracking, other than they were under duress?

      • But you'll still know where and when the signal stopped.

    • With this method there will be no locations where it will be expected that the transponder cannot be picked up, therefore loss of transponder signal will be identified as a problem very quickly very quickly. That in turn means the plane will not get very far from the last known location, narrowing down the active search range.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I would assume they will have two of them. If both fail at the same time, it will already be a very clear indication of where to look. You could even include something so you see the difference between a manual shutdown or a complete failure.
      And the moment one turns off, you will have a high alert situation. If both turn off, you have a all hand on deck situation right away. And the people getting that alert are not on that plane.

      From there on it would not be too hard to have procedures in place to take the

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        But if you get that alert a few hours flight from land, it will take time for the searchers to reach that location. And if the flight crew is up to no good, a few evasive maneuvers will create a search area the size of an ocean. We all know how that turned out.

  • The company is known as Malaysia Airlines, or MAS for short.
  • Just give the passenger free WIFI already.

    Then you'll have 300 gizmos inside the cabin, tracking themselves via satellite and sharing that info with god knows how many people, which all will be able to show the last known position of the passengers.

  • This isn't new...Maybe it's a new way, but it's not a new capability.. Such data services already exist and are in use.

    I was SURE I saw a number of news stories about how the airlines already had the capacity to track their aircraft for maintenance reasons and that it worked within most latitudes using geosynchronous satellites already in place. The issue was Malaysia Air hadn't paid the fees for the service so no data was transferred though the equipment did "ping" the satellite on a regular basis during

  • Think like a criminal. Given the network latencies it is not going to be precise enough to guide a missile to an airliner. Still it is a good idea to obfuscate and add time delays if they even make this data public. Hindukush and Himalayan ranges have peaks over FL200 even FL250. Everest is peaking at FL280. A small party of terrorists could lug short range heat seeking missiles (10000 feet vertical, and 5 mile horizontal range) and wait to ambush in the mountains.

    This data need not be public. Flight awa

  • I think it's pretty cool and way overdue for the satellite tracking to finally happen. I have my own ADS-B ground station running PiAware. I'd be interested to see what planes are tracked only via satellite when out of ground station range. http://flightaware.com/adsb/pi... [flightaware.com]
  • Horse Bolted. Check
    Closed gate. Check

    Maybe they plan on losing another.

  • It crashed into the bloody sea: gravity is your co-pilot.

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