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UK satellite company Inmarsat offers free airline tracking service

Comes after flight MH370 vanished without trace on 8 March 2014

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The UK satellite company that revealed the last position of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has offered to provide a free basic global airline tracking service.

London-based Inmarsat, whose data on brief electronic "pings" from the lost Boeing 777 led investigators to start looking for wreckage in the southern Indian Ocean, said the free service it is offering will carry definitive positional information and go some way towards ensuring flights don't go missing in the same way again. 

Investigators' only insight into the possible location of MH370 was a series of hourly "handshakes" made between Inmarsat equipment onboard the plane and ground stations that were automatically checking to see if a satellite connection was still open. 

In order to determine the plane's approximate location, investigators had to use frequency analysis techniques but Inmarsat said this takes time and isn't ideal. 

As a result, the company recommends that all passenger jets regularly transmit definitive data over its network with its free tracking technology.

The service is designed to determine a plane's location using GPS and then transmit that data, along with a heading, speed and altitute, over Inmarsat's global satellite network every 15 minutes. 

It is being offered to all 11,000 commercial passenger aircraft, which are already equipped with an Inmarsat satellite connection, and nearly all of the world’s long haul commercial fleet.

The announcement comes ahead of a conference of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) being held in Montreal, Canada, today, where talks surrounding the loss of MH370 have been prioritised. 

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “We welcome and strongly support ICAO’s decision to place the delivery of next-generation aviation safety services at the heart of the industry’s agenda at its meeting on 12 May.

“Inmarsat has been providing global aviation safety services for over 20 years and we are confident that the proposals we have presented to ICAO and IATA represent a major contribution to enhancing aviation safety services on a global basis. In the wake of the loss of MH370, we believe this is simply the right thing to do.

“Because of the universal nature of existing Inmarsat aviation services, our proposals can be implemented right away on all ocean-going commercial aircraft using equipment that is already installed.

“Furthermore, our leading aviation safety partners are fully supportive of expanded use of the ADS-C Service through the Inmarsat network. This offer responsibly, quickly and at little or no cost to the industry, addresses in part the problem brought to light by the recent tragic events around MH370.”

Inmarsat, headquartered at Old Street roundabout in East London's Tech City, was set up in 1979 by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to ensure ships could stay in constant communication with shore or to call for help in an emergency. Today Inmarsat is one of the largest satellite operators in the world. 


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