Published On: Thu, Nov 12th, 2015

MH370: New Satellite Plane Tracking System Agreed

A deal has been struck on using satellites to track planes, motivated by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 last year.

MH370 New Satellite Plane

The decision to dedicate part of the radio spectrum to a global flight tracking system was taken at a UN conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

The conference aimed to improve on the current tracking system which relies on ground-based radars.

MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.

Representatives from more than 160 countries decided to set aside a radio frequency for the satellite tracking of planes at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), organised by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The deal will enable satellites to receive transmissions, known as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), that aircraft currently only send to other aircraft and to ground stations.

This will allow “real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world,” said Francois Rancy, head of the ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau.

The disappearance of flight MH370 exposed weaknesses in worldwide air navigation systems.

The current system leaves around 70% of the world’s airspace uncovered.

‘Record’ response

Soon after the plane disappeared, Malaysia’s communication minister urged the ITU to help find new ways of transmitting flight data in real-time.

The Malaysia Airlines flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when air traffic control staff lost contact with it.

The plane is long believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

In July part of an aircraft wing was found on Reunion Island. Malaysian authorities later confirmed the debris to be from the missing MH370 plane.

Following Wednesday’s decision, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said the agency had “responded in record time to the expectations of the global community on the major issue concerning global flight tracking.”

The UN’s aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), has set a November 2016 deadline for adopting new tracking guidelines.

These will include aircraft sending their position at least every 15 minutes, or more in case of emergency, reported Reuters.