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GPS Aircraft Tracking
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GPS Aircraft Tracking

GPS (Global Position System) aircraft tracking are systems installed on aircraft to give position reports over a satellite and/or cellular network. This information is typically accessed from a web-based mapping interface where current and historical information can be viewed. These devices come in many different forms: some are portable devices that can be moved between aircraft and others are fixed installations. There are varying degrees of fixed installations: some with only the antenna permanently installed and others where the electronics must be installed in the dash of the cockpit.

GPS aircraft tracking systems report aircraft-specific information such as speed, bearing and altitude and sometimes have built in voice or data communications capabilities. These systems have varying configurations for reporting intervals, typically from one-minute to fifteen-minute time intervals but cellular based systems can also report at shorter intervals. Some devices also have the ability to report for AFF.

Some common satellite networks include the Iridium satellite constellation, Globalstar, and Inmarsat. Data networks such as Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) can also be used for periodic transmission of GPS positions of aircraft.

Common Uses

Unless an aircraft is in an air traffic control zone it is not being tracked, and this is especially true for the general aviation market. Most general aviation aircraft frequent remote locations where the traditional check system includes calling the base upon arrival using a satellite phone. If the aircraft were to go down, someone would have to alert search and rescue who typically spend multiple days searching for a missing aircraft. GPS aircraft tracking reduces the time spent searching for aircraft by giving position reports indicating the last known location of the aircraft, the altitude, the direction it was heading and at what speed.
Aircraft operators are required by law to report hours flown per aircraft and per pilot to their respective government agency. By having GPS aircraft tracking on board an aircraft, aircraft operators are given access to real historical information for each aircraft to verify logs. Also, this is a way for aircraft operators to verify the information recorded by pilots, possibly saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by reducing the frequency of maintenance and repair.
Government contractors are required to have GPS aircraft tracking by law. This is called AFF (Automated Flight Following).
Situational Awareness
Situational awareness of one's entire fleet of aircraft gives an aircraft operator several advantages. The first is the classic peace of mind. Some GPS aircraft tracking systems have the ability to track aircraft remotely from a PDA or SmartPhone, or to receive alerts by e-mail upon certain events such as OOOI. The second is the ability to improve operational efficiencies from identifying late arrivals and otherwise unexpected events, and plan for them in advance of landing.

Manufacturers of GPS aircraft tracking devices for general aviation

Source: Wikipedia | The above article is available under the GNU FDL. | Edit this article

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