Inmarsat and ESSP Partner to Manage IRIS Air Traffic Modernization Program Testing, Certification and Integration

Inmarsat has announced a cooperation agreement with ESSP (European Satellite Services Provider) to manage final testing, certification and integration for the Iris air traffic modernization program, in preparation for the service’s commercial rollout across Europe by 2023.

ESSP, a Pan-European aviation service provider, will focus primarily on technical and service delivery preparations for the Iris program’s upcoming deployment, including approvals from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Iris has been developed by Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) to enable real-time collaboration between pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operation center using cost-effective, secure and highly resilient datalink communications. In addition to receiving digital information such as weather updates, this means aircraft can be pinpointed in four dimensions – latitude, longitude, altitude and time – using ‘4D trajectories’ to calculate the shortest available routes and optimum altitudes. This not only improves airspace usage to accommodate future growth, but also allows airlines across Europe to minimise delays, save fuel and reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

“There is monumental support within the aviation industry for modernising air traffic management,” said John Broughton, Inmarsat’s senior vice president of Aircraft Operations and Safety Services. “The benefits for airlines and passengers are vast, from faster and more efficient flight routes with fewer delays, to improvements in environmental efficiencies, including reduced fuel usage and carbon emissions. The Iris program will be transformational in this regard and our new agreement with ESSP brings us one step closer to European rollout, expected in the next couple of years. Inmarsat already has a successful track record of working closely with ESSP and we are delighted to further expand on this partnership.”

ESSP was founded in 2009 by seven leading Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK to operate and provide services for the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), a satellite-based navigation system managed by the European Commission.

“The Iris program is a game-changer for the aviation industry, providing the most advanced new technology to complement datalink communications and meet the challenge of digital, greener and sustainable air travel,” said Charlotte Neyret, CEO of ESSP. “ESSP has been working on this important programme with Inmarsat and ESA for several years and we are proud to now expand our involvement. We will provide the full range of ESSP’s expertise in implementing and operating mission-critical services to ensure that Iris will offer the highest quality of service to all aviation stakeholders.”

Elodie Viau, director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “ESA is proud to work with Inmarsat and ESSP to digitalize airspace and reduce the environmental impact of flying, while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the aviation industry. The digitalization of our skies will lead to a greener environment, a better passenger experience, and a more competitive European economy.”

The Iris program is powered by Inmarsat’s ELERA global satellite network, which delivers the world’s most reliable and flexible global connectivity, with full global redundancy and unique resilience in all conditions. ELERA capabilities will be enhanced further with the upcoming addition of Inmarsat-6 satellites, the largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever built, the first of which (I-6 F1) is scheduled to launch before the end of the year. The L-band capacity on each I-6 satellite will be substantially greater than Inmarsat’s 4th generation spacecraft and, among other enhancements, delivers 50% more capacity per beam in addition to unlimited beam routing flexibility.