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MH370: Sept deadline for int'l standard on real-time commercial flights tracking

Publication Date : 28-05-2014


In the wake of MH370, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has set a September 2014 deadline for a global standard to make it mandatory for airliners to track commercial flights in real-time.

International aviation and telecommunication industries have now shifted focus to the possibility of monitoring flight data in real-time, with experts saying that the technology to stream flight and black box data already exists but institutional and capacity issues had to be addressed first.

After a two-day dialogue on the matter, organised by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and United Nations-linked International Telecommunications Union (ITU), experts have agreed to push for a preliminary study into flight data monitoring with the ITU expecting to reveal its findings by early 2015.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who officiated the dialogue involving over 50 aviation, telecommunication and law experts, said transmission parameters needed to be considered if real-time tracking is to be implemented.

Ahmad Shabery also indicated that there was a need to update the current aviation technology which he deemed outdated.

“We are now in the era where data can be transmitted automatically using the satellite. Why not incorporate this into the aviation industry?” he said.

ITU telecommunications standardization bureau director Malcolm Johnson said experts were looking at using cloud computing and big data to stream and analyse data from planes.

"That raises a number of institutional issues such as who is going to be custodian of this data, the ownership of the data, who will be entitled to access the data, security and privacy of the data, and the legal framework for it," said Johnson.

He said ITU would also need to study current and future capacity requirements, including satellite and radio services, so that flight data monitoring and tracking can be feasible and cost-effective.

ICAO navigation bureau director Nancy Graham said work on implementing global flight tracking was being expedited, in view of what happened to the MH370 flight.

"Some are already begining to globally track flights and that is all being done without any rules and standards, which is unprecedented in aviation history. At the same time we are developing a global standard and the taskforce for it should be done by September," said Graham.


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