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Inmarsat and ESA to Launch Iris Air Traffic Modernization Program to Europe in 2023 

By Rachel Jewett | June 10, 2022
Artist rendition of Iris satellite-based communication system. Photo: European Space Agency

Artist rendition of Iris satellite-based communication system. Photo: ESA

Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) recently signed a new contract to globalize the Iris air traffic modernization program.

Iris, developed in a public-private partnership launched by ESA, is a service designed to offer high bandwidth and cost-effective satellite datalink communications between air traffic controllers and pilots.  It allows aircraft to send and receive live data with ground systems during the entire flight. The service operates on Inmarsat’s SB-S platform. 

The service is set to enter commercial and operational service in Europe in 2023. The new phase, Iris Global, will focus on the technologies and certification required to share the fuel, CO2, and congestion-saving benefits of Iris with regions beyond Europe. It will also adopt System Wide Information Management (SWIM) applications to facilitate greater information sharing for airport operational status, weather information, flight data, etc. 

Inmarsat CEO Rajeev Suri said this program will help with capacity issues, make aviation more environmentally friendly, and help integrate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the airspace. 

“Iris will have an enormous impact in Europe as it enters service in 2023, which is set to continue at pace as air travel increases and the push for more sustainable aviation operations grows. It’s a natural next step for us to expand its remit beyond European airspace and share our spoils with the rest of the world,” Suri said.