Autonomous distress tracking device receives FAA approval


Satellite technology firm Blue Sky Network,  has received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for its Hawkeye autonomous distress tracking device.

Autonomous distress tracking (ADT) is part of the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS), a series of technical measures mandated by ICAO in 2016 for the aviation industry in response to a number of commercial passenger flights disappearing while flying over seas.

These include Air France Flight 447, which in 2009 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean en route to Brazil, killing all 228 people on board. It took two years and US$160 million to recover its flight data recorder.

In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared with 239 people on board while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China. The extensive search operation cost an estimated US$150 million. The plane and passengers were never found.

GADSS measures include the requirement for airlines to be able to independently detect aircraft distress. Aircraft must be able to report their position at least every 15 minutes and when in distress must be able to activate position reports at least once every minute with backup power available for ADT in the event of power loss.

The ICAO-GADSS requirement is already enforced in some regions and is required for forward-fit aircraft everywhere delivered after January 1, 2021.

The HawkEye ADT from BlueSky provides airline operation centers with full autonomous normal and distress tracking of aircraft. The FAA certification for Hawkeye includes an approved model list supplemental type certificate for the Boeing 737 type series

The device features an embedded attitude and heading reference system for determining real-time aircraft flight status. It also hosts dual Iridium modems and voice connectivity for global coverage.

Gregoire Demory, president and CEO of Blue Sky Network said, “The HawkEye ADT enables airline operators to be fully compliant with the ICAO-GADSS requirements for autonomous distress tracking. Aircraft delivered after January 1, 2021 need to be in compliance and the HawkEye ADT is the first solution currently available to meet this deadline.”

Jon Gilbert, founder and CEO of Aircraft Tracking Solutions, Blue Sky Network’s teaming partner said, “Starting in 2015, we developed a terrific product to meet the anticipated regulatory requirements. We integrated advanced sensors and processors to allow independent determination of possible distress scenarios without the exclusive reliance on onboard aircraft systems – we made it autonomous.

“This stand-alone intelligent product will NOW set a higher expectation level in commercial aviation for aircraft normal and distress tracking in alignment with GADSS compliance.”

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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