Landmark accord will allow satellites to track flights

Graphics on a TV screen shows the current search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in this Apr 9, 2014 file photo.
Graphics on a TV screen shows the current search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in this Apr 9, 2014 file photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA • Countries across the world struck a landmark deal yesterday on using satellites to track flights,which could prove key to preventing a repeat of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March last year.

They reached an accord at a conference hosted by UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that aimed to improve on the current civilian flight-tracking system that relies on ground-based radars.

“In reaching this agreement... ITU has responded in record time to the expectations of the global community on the major issue concerning global flight tracking,” the organisation’s secretary-general Zhao Houlin said in a statement. The ITU statement made clear the deal was driven by the disappearance of Flight MH370, which had 239 people onboard.

That tragedy “spurred worldwide discussions on global flight tracking and the need for coordinated action”, the organisation said.

Representatives of more than 160 nations attended the conference. It was tasked with determining technical requirements for a tracking system capable of complete surveillance of global airspace.

The ITU said a frequency band previously used to transmit signals from aircraft to terrestrial stations would be enabled to send transmissions from aircraft to satellites. “The allocation of frequencies for reception of ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) signals from aircraft by space stations will enable real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world,” said Mr Francois Rancy, director of the ITU’s radiocommunication bureau.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has set a November 2016 deadline for adopting new tracking guidelines for planes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Landmark accord will allow satellite use to track flights'. Print Edition | Subscribe