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World nations agree on a new way to track planes via satellite

A new global deal has opened the way for nations to track civilian planes by using satellites. The breakthrough was motivated by the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner, according to the UN communications agency.

Delegates from over 160 nations agreed to dedicate part of the radio spectrum to a global flight tracking system at the UN World Radiocommunciation Conference on Wednesday.

In the future, civilian planes will use frequencies between 1087.7 and 1092.3 MHz to emit to satellites, according to the officials.

This change will enable "real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world," said Francois Rancy, director of the Radiocommunication Bureau of the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Warnings of MH370

Modern planes communicate their position through ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast signals. Their movement is tracked by radar-based systems on the ground, which leave some 70 percent of the world's surface uncovered.

However, satellites could also monitor airliners in "oceanic, polar and other remote areas," the ITU said in a statement. According to the UN guidelines, the planes would send their position at least once every 15 minutes, or more often in case of emergency.

The recommendations are to be adopted by 2016, according to the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization.

The accord was spurred by the unexplained loss of flight MH370 last year, the ITU said in a statement. The incident, in which 239 people disappeared over the Indian Ocean, exposed weaknesses in existing radar systems and prompted demands for modernization.

The agency has "responded in record time to the expectations of the global community" said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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