Airlines are expected to be able to save $15B annually by 2035 due to digital aircraft operations, according to the London School of Economics report. The connectivity of the aviation ecosystem is changing the game for the industry, offering visibility into data from the air– from flight, to fuel, to weather and so much more – to the ground. Now approved by the FAA, satellite data delivery can be global, secure, and improve operations and safety communications.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Performance-Based Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) has been evaluating the performance of the satellite IP-based platform powered by Inmarsat, and recently has issued a letter of approval. FAA has validated the capability of the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S), which supports air traffic services by providing a direct data link communication between pilots and air traffic control (ATC) via satellite.

Leveraging a satellite communications platform, the FAA validates that the system “provides diversity and potential for advances of capability that will further maximize operational benefits and ensure safety.” Several airlines, including Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines and China’s Shenzhen Airlines, have done evaluations of the system over 25,000 flights and seven aircraft types.

Connected aircraft, such as the ones leveraging the SB-S platform, can share operational data intelligence from the aircraft in-flight, which enables greater efficiency and safety. Flight routes can be optimized, improving fuel and CO2 savings. Weather data can be shared, as can impacting flight routes and pertinent details for meteorologists.  Even in the case of medical distress diversions, data delivery of information can improve outcomes and reduce flight diversions by providing real-time telemedicine services on board an aircraft in-flight.  Leveraging satcom, SB-S offers airlines a secure, encrypted connection with better than 99.9 percent availability.

“Delivering real-time data from the air to the ground securely is changing how airlines operate,” said Dan Pendergast, Marketing Director at Collins Aerospace. “Airlines can use the data to enhance fleet and crew management, deploy predictive maintenance, anticipate weather patterns and avoid flight disruptions, which will significantly reduce costs.”

In addition to operational benefits, the SB-S data link improves safety with optimized digital data and voice communications and flight data recorder streaming. Flight plans, and arrivals can be optimized by pinpointing aircraft in four dimensions, known as four dimensional (4D) operations, which include latitude, longitude, altitude and time.

 “SB-S sets an unprecedented new standard for aviation operational and safety communications, ensuring the industry can take full advantage of the only IP-based solution available now to meet its existing and future requirements,” Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation said. Receiving the FAA’s final approval is a milestone of huge significance…validating the potential of SB-S to maximize operational efficiency and assure safety for many years to come.”

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.