2018 Reflections: A Year of Transition for Connected Aviation

Connected Aviation

The past year has shown considerable advancements in aviation industry connectivity. Increased air traffic is redefining global airspace, resulting in greater aircraft reliance on connectivity.

As part of an ongoing series on Connected Aviation Today, we are sitting down with experts in the aviation industry to get their reflections on 2018.   We recently had the opportunity to connect with Michael Hooper, director and general manager for Aviation at Iridium Communication Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM). Hooper discusses the impact of satellite communication on the connected aircraft, operators, and the aviation ecosystem.  Read the full Q&A below:

Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: The connected aviation ecosystem is quickly evolving. In 2018, what are some of the major milestones that you’ve seen in the industry?

Connected Aviation
Michael Hooper, director and general manager for Aviation at Iridium Communication Inc.

Michael Hooper: It is true that 2018 has been a time of rapid change in aviation. With air traffic ever increasing, the reliance on decades-old technology has begun to shift to primary reliance on SATCOM for long-range communication. The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun the roll out of 4D trajectory communication using SATCOM and the FAA NextGen program has announced domestic 4D testing in 2020. The combined voice and data capabilities of SATCOM enable full operational benefit to aircraft operators for surveillance and communication on a global scale.

CAT Editors: What challenges do we still face?

Hooper: The aviation market is still facing several challenges. The global tracking of aircraft is still of major concern and technologies like Aireon’s for Space Based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) are paving the way to global aircraft surveillance. However, surveillance is not communication, and this means that the dependence on SATCOM is going to grow even faster. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) requirements and the ARINC Global Aircraft Tracking work is bringing this to reality.

In addition, overarching on all things SATCOM, security has become a major concern for Internet Protocol (IP)-based SATCOM services. The industry has not standardized a single solution for SATCOM which has led to divergent developments driven by the two leading L-Band SATCOM providers. Much more efficiency could be leveraged in the industry if a single security solution was designed, validated and approved for all aircraft communications. There is also a view growing in the industry that the Communications Management Unit (CMU) should be front and center in the security planning as this would enable all communication links to have the same security with common end points.

CAT Editors: If you could sum up 2018, what would you say?

Hooper: 2018 has been a year of transition for the aviation industry. This transition has not only been in the launch of Iridium® NEXT nor the AireonSM solution, but in the industry as a whole, where existing views have been challenged and a new direction is being forged to address aviation needs.

If 2018 has been as year of transition for the industry, what will 2019 bring? Stay tuned for Michael Hooper’s predictions for the New Year, which will appear in our January series on Connected Aviation Today.