Missing Malaysia plane puts new satellite sensors in the spotlight
* U.S, European projects eye use of ADS-B signals
* Satellite-based sensors would pick up ADS-B signals
* Systems could still theoretically be switched off
* Would help rescue efforts, cut fuel costs
By Victoria Bryan and Andrea Shalal
FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - The unexplained fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has thrown the spotlight on some satellite technologies that will make it easier in future for authorities to track and communicate with aircraft over water and uninhabited areas.
The plane vanished from radar screens on March 8 with 239 people aboard. Investigators believe it most likely flew into the southern Indian Ocean.
Already, new systems are being developed by European and North American teams to allow more accurate plotting of location and flight paths. These would use satellite-based sensors rather than radars to pick up signals containing automated location and velocity data sent every second from aircraft.
Currently, information on a plane's location can be picked up by ground-based radar, which loses coverage over oceans or remote areas, or it can be combined with optional on-board satellite communications tools that require pilot actions and that airlines, many under budget constraints, must pay for. Continued...