ATM Modernization

TXT Joins Iris Program for Satellite-Based Air Traffic Modernization

By Jessica Reed | November 15, 2022
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The Pacelab Flight Profile Optimiser (FPO) from TXT Group will become part of the Iris program, launched by the European Space Agency and powered by the SB-S connectivity platform from Inmarsat. (Photo: TXT)

TXT Group was recently selected as a new partner for Iris, an air traffic management program developed in a public-private partnership launched by the European Space Agency. Iris utilizes satellite technology to modernize air traffic management (ATM). It’s powered by the SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) connectivity platform from Inmarsat, and it enables real-time communication between pilots and air traffic controllers as well as airline operation centers.

In 2023, Iris will enter commercial and operational service in Europe as part of a new phase called Iris Global

TXT will contribute its Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) application, Pacelab Flight Profile Optimiser (FPO), to the Iris program. The Pacelab FPO provides flight recommendations to airlines for cost-efficient operations. According to the announcement from Inmarsat, the FPO uses vertical and lateral route optimization, and more than 1,500 aircraft have already deployed the application.

“We have developed our Pacelab FPO solution to improve the efficiency and environmental sustainability of commercial aviation operations, and Iris provides the most complete and integrated platform to achieve this result,” commented Daniele Misani, CEO of TXT, in response to the company’s new partnership.

Inmarsat recently published findings from its annual survey of more than 11,000 respondents. Passenger confidence in air travel has recovered significantly from the previous year; 83% of respondents reported feeling confident flying in 2022, compared to just 10% of respondents in 2021.

One significant trend from the survey was the increasing importance of in-flight connectivity for passengers in recent years. 55% of respondents in 2018 indicated that having Wi-Fi onboard is important to them when they travel. That number is now 77% in 2022.

A rendering of the satellite-based Iris system (Photo: ESA)

“Passengers expect a connected experience onboard the aircraft,” explained William Huot-Marchand, Senior Vice President of Inflight Connectivity Business Line at Inmarsat, in an interview with Avionics International. He added that there are three pillars to a successful in-flight connectivity experience: coverage, capacity, and certainty.

“Most of the airlines are very focused on the passenger experience onboard the aircraft. This means that we need to continue our roadmap to allow everybody to have connectivity.”

Inmarsat currently has eight active satellites. Huot-Marchand shared that they launched another satellite late last year that will enter into service by the end of 2022. “We have another satellite launching in two months and four more satellites that will be launched in 2024,” he said.

Additional satellites help to establish better in-flight connectivity and coverage for aircraft. It’s increasingly important for airlines to guarantee a strong and consistent Wi-Fi connection because it is integral to a positive passenger experience. 

Inmarsat recently announced the launch of a series of new bundled services on its OneFi passenger experience platform. This provides airlines with more flexibility and opportunities for personalization. The launch was, in part, a response to an increasing demand in the airline industry for ancillary revenue streams.

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