European Space Agency

Iris Capacity Assessment

Satellite Communications for Air Traffic Management (Iris) is a programme of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Inmarsat that has developed a satellite-based air–ground communication system for Air Traffic Management (ATM) as a complement to existing terrestrial based datalink services.

Image credit: INMARSAT

The Iris Programme is supporting SESAR to develop the next generation of digital communications by using satellites, complementing the portfolio of available technologies for a reliable, fast, and efficient Air/Ground communication infrastructure. Iris services will be operational by 2022, gradually helping to implement a more resilient and efficient European data digital transformation of Air Traffic Management, that, in turn, will allow increased automation and fuel saving, as well as CO2 emissions reduction.

At this stage of the project, it is important to demonstrate that the Iris infrastructure is capable of supporting the traffic demand required to alleviate VDL-m2. This is particularly relevant given the high risks of a congested VDL2 network in the mid-term and, at the same time, the growing needs for digital exchanges to support improved Air Traffic (ATS) and Airlines Operational Services (AOC).

This study has been performed by the Iris consortium, based on assessment conducted by various partners including TAS Italy and University of Salzburg. It confirms that Iris has the required capacity (with large margins) to support the increased volume of data expected to be offloaded from VDL2. The report details the assumptions considered for the simulations, and explains how the traffic and satellite networks models have been developed.
The study also highlights that the main challenge to achieve much needed VDL2 offload is the development and of a regulatory framework that incentivizes airspace users and ANSPs to start implementing the technology in a timely manner.

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