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Sky high connectivity with Airbus Defence and Space Services

With Airbus Defence and Space’s Airborne Data Service (ADS) airlines can tap into a satcom-based system that will give real benefit in terms of commercial operations.

ADS provides much higher throughput than traditional systems. Its real-time data-streaming capability also includes a positioning message sent every 60 seconds, making sure airline operators know where every plane is every minute. And as the ADS system incorporates a powerful processor installed on each aircraft, airlines and their operational teams can select what kinds of information they want to be sent.

Airbus Defence and Space Service's Airborne Data System will ensure real-time connectivity for planes and their operators during flight. (© alphaspirit)
Airbus Defence and Space’ Airborne Data System will ensure real-time connectivity for planes and their operators during flight. © alphaspirit


Being fully encrypted and transmitted via the Iridium satellite networks, the ADS also has one more trick up its sleeve – it can be pre-programmed to broadcast specific and increased amounts of data in the event of any anomaly detected on board.

As Colin Stickland, Head of R&D and Innovation at Airbus Defence and Space explains: “Our Airborne Data Service is designed to do what no other system can do – it sends live data streams about what is happening on the aircraft, including diagnostics about how much fuel is being burned or other operational data that will help reduce overall operating costs. But the real key element is that the system can be pre-programmed to transmit continuous data when it detects something is going wrong. This can give airlines vital information to help diagnose any problems in real time.”

The Airborne Data System concept.
The Airborne Data System concept. © Airbus Defence and Space


The service is being delivered under an exclusive teaming agreement with Canada’s Star Navigation which has developed the already certified and patented system. The sophisticated algorithms that determine when to send continuous data in the event of a problem can be reprogrammed depending on what airlines require. This flexibility to redefine parameters gives airlines total control on what data they want and when they want it.

Global distribution of planes – Airbus Defence and Space is targeting operators with 10 or more aircraft. (© Frost & Sullivan)  
Global distribution of planes – Airbus Defence and Space is targeting operators with 10 or more aircraft. © Frost & Sullivan


When the service was announced there was some speculation that transmission in real time would replace the need for black boxes on airlines that record key data and are used in the aftermath of an accident. But as Colin points out, this is not the point of ADS: “High-throughput real-time data, including location information every minute, will give airlines a real advantage in their management of aircraft operations primarily in being able to manage their repair operations programmes. The added benefit of live streaming when something out of the ordinary happens could help airlines in managing these events and should enable greater understanding in the event of any accident – a topical subject since the loss of the Air France flight from Brazil two years ago.”

Since the launch in Paris the system has begun trials, as Colin explains: “We are already doing test runs with two airlines to amass flight data which will enable us to validate and improve the service. Other opportunities are in the pipeline including trials with a European carrier which is looking to further improve its maintenance and operations programme using ADS.”

ADS: Airborne Data Service - all in a box

And as for the full service being rolled out for all airlines? Colin, again, is positive: “As air travel continues to increase, it’s clear that airlines can gain tangible benefits from having real-time data streamed to their operations teams. Coupled with this, the expected regulatory requirements that all aircraft must be able to transmit data when something goes wrong means that our new service should appeal to airlines around the world. And as the only way to transmit data reliably and securely is by satcoms – our prime area of expertise – this is another great opportunity for Airbus Defence and Space.”

It's all in a box! © Airbus Defence and Space

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