Recent media focus on aircraft tracking technology underscores
significant gaps in traditional approaches (radar, transponder,
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), and radio
communication). These technologies, or combinations of them, are
typically used by the scheduled commercial air transport sector (refer
to Figure 1). The gaps are particularly relevant when tracking aircraft
in remote areas where traditional tracking infrastructure can be
limited, for instance, outside radar coverage.
Figure 2: SkyTrac ISAT-200A aircraft tracking transceiver (H x W x D = 5.24in x 3.90in x 13.30in [133.1mm x 99.1mm x 337.8mm], 2.21kg) (Photo: Business Wire)
An alternative - satellite tracking technology - has been quietly
tracking aircraft in other market segments for decades with great
success and reliability rates. Satellite tracking was first developed
and adopted over twenty years ago because no other technology was
practical due to size, weight, or cost constraints. In some cases, for
example, aerial firefighting (part of "Aerial Work" in Figure 1), flight
tracking is now mandated by many aviation authorities because it offers
the best solution for tracking complex low altitude aviation operations
in remote locations with the possibility of congested airspace and
potentially limited visibility. For off-shore oil and gas operations,
satellite tracking is the preferred solution because it offers reliable
tracking where there is often no radar coverage due to offshore, sea
level landing pads and "over-the-horizon communications" are not always
available. In other cases, such as Air Medical Services, satellite
tracking simply fits the cost, size, weight and operational requirement
The reliability, simplicity and cost effectiveness of satellite tracking
systems raises key questions about why this technology is not used for
the scheduled commercial air transport sector.
SkyTrac Systems Ltd., a leading provider of aircraft tracking and
aviation data solutions, has been in the business of flight-following,
monitoring flight data, and supporting aviation businesses for over
twenty years. The high-tech company based in Kelowna BC has a global
customer base of hundreds of operators who rely on SkyTrac's innovations
to ensure they know where their aircraft are at every moment of flight.
What started out as a simple GPS-based aviation tracking system 20 years
ago has developed into a complex and far-reaching flight monitoring
capability that offers unforeseen advantages to operators all over the
"We offer a simple and effective trackin solution to our customers,"
stated SkyTrac CEO, Stephen Sorocky. "Typically our customers are in the
oil and gas, leasing, firefighting, medevac, charter, news or police
aviation sectors. These operators regularly fly below radar coverage -
if radar is even present - and often out of range of effective radio
frequency communications, so they have sought solutions that offer them
critical connectivity during their missions. They rely on our small,
lightweight systems - no bigger than a toaster and weighing
approximately 2 kilograms - to provide minute-by-minute tracking and to
integrate flight data into their business operations on the ground.
Besides tracking, our real-time data helps them with fundamental
business operations such as billing, tracking pilot flight hours, and
documenting passenger or cargo manifests. We also provide invaluable
information for aircraft maintenance programs - engine data, fuel data,
and other critical flight system data - all transmitted off-board in
SkyTrac's products are certified by Transport Canada, FAA, EASA, and
ANAC, so there are no regulatory barriers to installation on aircraft.
SkyTrac's ground-based software ("SkyWeb" - refer to Figure 3) connects
with the on-board hardware. SkyWeb provides mapping as well as a long
list of smart tools to ensure there is a two-way information flow
between the ground and the aircraft.
With low-earth orbiting (LEO) constellations there are no "blind spots"
or gaps in global coverage, and SkyTrac's data centers have multi-layer
redundancy to ensure 24/7/365 coverage. Using LEO constellations,
aircraft of any size can be tracked, monitored and connected from any
internet access point.
In addition to continuous tracking of aircraft position and aircraft
data, over the years SkyTrac has built in intelligence to automatically
transmit alert messages if unforeseen events take place (commonly known
as "exceedances"). Anomalies as simple as straying outside a flight
corridor, flying too fast at low altitudes, or missing a way-point can
trigger an instant alert to a flight following ground station or
directly to your cell phone. Other exceedances examples include (but are
not limited to) abnormal altitude/speed combinations, landing gear
position, flaps, engine temperatures or cockpit warning light status,
excessive maneuvers or aggressive changes in attitude.
In a recent real-world case study, an aviation accident emphasised the
criticality and utility of the SkyTrac tracking system. The tragic
accident involved a helicopter crashing into water in an extremely
remote area. In this case, there were no distress calls or other
emergency notifications by the crew. SkyTrac's system was the first to
raise the alarm due to an exceedance being automatically tripped by
SkyWeb. Within minutes of the accident, an automatic notification was
sent to the flight's tracking team and this alerted the team that there
was a potential problem with the flight. Upon quick reference to SkyWeb
the ground team quickly ascertained the last known position of the
aircraft so an immediate search and rescue team was dispatched to the
crash site. In this case, National Search and Rescue assets were alerted
but did not launch due to the speed and pin-point accuracy of the
tracking team in reaching the crash site. Without the SkyTrac system the
emergency notification would not have been received quickly and the
location of the crash site would have been near impossible to find
quickly or easily. The aircraft would have eventually been reported as
missing, but valuable time would have been lost and there would have
been no solid clues as to where to start the search.
"Our technology brings benefits such as real-time business system
integration and flight data monitoring, but at its core it provides a
clean, simple real-time tracking capability," says Sorocky. "This
technology is readily available today, affordable, light weight and
provides 100% global coverage for aircraft no matter where they are
Even with sound reasons to use satellite tracking technology in the
commercial air transportation sector, it is seldom used. Sorocky
explains, "The commercial airline industry has traditionally used a
combination of older technologies to track their flight operations.
There are long term fixes on the horizon but today and for the
foreseeable future there are large gaps in global tracking coverage.
Despite compelling new technology and some early adopters, the scheduled
commercial air transportation sector has been slow to adopt satellite
tracking. We are making steady progress in this sector and we believe it
is only a matter of time before satellite tracking technology is on
SkyTrac Systems provides specialized flight support services and
technology solutions to enhance flight safety and efficiency at every
level in an aviation operation - in the air, on the ground and in the
office. With over 185,000 daily satellite transmissions to customers in
50 countries on 7 continents, SkyTrac's solutions offer unprecedented
connectivity and access to vital aviation information. SkyTrac offers a
comprehensive range of certified solutions that combine leading-edge
software, firmware and hardware technologies. For more information go to www.skytrac.ca.
Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/multimedia/home/20140410006453/en/
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