Inmarsat and ESSP partner to manage Iris air traffic modernisation programme testing, certification and integration


Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, today announced a cooperation agreement with ESSP (European Satellite Services Provider) to manage final testing, certification and integration for the Iris air traffic modernisation programme, in preparation for the service’s commercial rollout across Europe by 2023.

ESSP, a pan-European aviation service provider, will focus primarily on technical and service delivery preparations for the Iris programme’s upcoming deployment, including approvals from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Iris has been developed by Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) to enable real-time collaboration between pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operation centre using cost-effective, secure and highly resilient datalink communications. In addition to receiving digital information such as weather updates, this means aircraft can be pinpointed in four dimensions – latitude, longitude, altitude and time – using ‘4D trajectories’ to calculate the shortest available routes and optimum altitudes. This not only improves airspace usage to accommodate future growth, but also allows airlines across Europe to minimise delays, save fuel and reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

John Broughton, Inmarsat’s Senior Vice President of Aircraft Operations and Safety Services, said: “There is monumental support within the aviation industry for modernising air traffic management. The benefits for airlines and passengers are vast, from faster and more efficient flight routes with fewer delays, to improvements in environmental efficiencies, including reduced fuel usage and carbon emissions. The Iris programme will be transformational in this regard and our new agreement with ESSP brings us one step closer to European rollout, expected in the next couple of years. Inmarsat already has a successful track record of working closely with ESSP and we are delighted to further expand on this partnership.”

ESSP was founded in 2009 by seven leading Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK to operate and provide services for the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), a satellite-based navigation system managed by the European Commission.

Charlotte Neyret, Chief Executive Officer of ESSP, said: “The Iris programme is a game-changer for the aviation industry, providing the most advanced new technology to complement datalink communications and meet the challenge of digital, greener and sustainable air travel. ESSP has been working on this important programme with Inmarsat and ESA for several years and we are proud to now expand our involvement. We will provide the full range of ESSP’s expertise in implementing and operating mission-critical services to ensure that Iris will offer the highest quality of service to all aviation stakeholders.”

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “ESA is proud to work with Inmarsat and ESSP to digitalise airspace and reduce the environmental impact of flying, while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the aviation industry. The digitalisation of our skies will lead to a greener environment, a better passenger experience, and a more competitive European economy.”

The Iris programme is powered by Inmarsat’s ELERA global satellite network, which delivers the world’s most reliable and flexible global connectivity, with full global redundancy and unique resilience in all conditions. ELERA capabilities will be enhanced further with the upcoming addition of Inmarsat-6 satellites, the largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever built, the first of which (I-6 F1) is scheduled to launch before the end of the year. The L-band capacity on each I-6 satellite will be substantially greater than Inmarsat’s 4th generation spacecraft and, among other enhancements, delivers 50% more capacity per beam in addition to unlimited beam routing flexibility.