NATS takes equity stake in Aireon

The UK air traffic management service provider, NATS, has announced it has invested in Aireon, the company pioneering a space-based air traffic surveillance service which could revolutionise the aviation industry.

The service will offer global air traffic surveillance of aircraft. This means that oceans and remote regions like the poles, deserts and mountainous areas will have real-time aircraft surveillance for the first time.

News of the $69m USD investment, worth around 10 per cent equity, was announced at a press conference in Washington DC, near Aireon’s headquarters, at which NATS also confirmed it is currently consulting with its customers about introducing the satellite technology for use over the North Atlantic starting with operational trials from 2019 to deliver the capacity and safety benefits that the airspace requires to keep pace with demand.

Martin Rolfe, NATS Chief Executive Officer, said: “This is a transformational technology that will deliver the world’s first truly global air traffic control infrastructure, making flying even safer and more efficient.

“Investing in Aireon is the best way for us to shape the future of the service in a way that benefits our customers in the UK and elsewhere, and to demonstrate NATS’ commitment to playing a leading role in the development of the next generation of global air traffic technology.

“We’re currently consulting with our airline customers about how to best deploy this technology. The North Atlantic is the busiest area of oceanic airspace in the world and the gateway to Europe, but its routes have now reached their limit of capacity with existing technology, so we are delighted to now have a way to safely fulfil the ever growing demand from our customers. What is additionally exciting is that this same technology will also deliver fuel savings and CO2 reductions that will directly benefit airlines and their customers.”

Don Thoma, Aireon CEO, added: “We are ecstatic to welcome NATS to the Aireon investor family. NATS was among the first air navigation service providers to see the benefits of space-based ADS-B, and now it only makes sense that they would become a more formal part of Aireon. The enhancements Aireon’s space-based ADS-B service will allow in the North Atlantic are a game changer for the aviation industry and will connect North America and Europe unlike ever before.”

Baroness Sugg, the UK’s Aviation Minister, said: “We welcome the agreement between NATS and Aireon which will see UK skills and expertise play a leading role in developing the next generation of global air traffic management technology. Our world class aviation industry has a proud and accomplished history, from the invention of the jet engine to pioneering air traffic control. This agreement will help ensure that we remain at the forefront of this vibrant sector.

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