Aviation & Drones

The aviation and drone industry is a dynamic and rapidly evolving sector. It includes the development, production, and operation of aircraft ranging from commercial airliners and private jets to military fighters and cargo planes. The recent rise of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), has added a new dimension to this industry. Drones are now used for a wide range of applications including surveillance, agricultural monitoring, film production, and delivery services. The industry is heavily regulated and is at the forefront of technological innovation, with ongoing research in areas like fuel efficiency, noise reduction, and autonomous flight systems.

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Table of Contents

  • Electric Aircraft: Development of battery technology for cleaner, quieter aircraft.
  • Drone Delivery Services: Expanding beyond experimental trials to regular commercial use.
  • Autonomous Flight: Progressing towards fully autonomous commercial and private aircraft.

  • Electric Aircraft: Development of battery technology for cleaner, quieter aircraft.
  • Drone Delivery Services: Expanding beyond experimental trials to regular commercial use.
  • Autonomous Flight: Progressing towards fully autonomous commercial and private aircraft.

EO for Aviation & Drones

Earth Observation (EO) technology plays a role in enhancing various aspects of the aviation industry, from improving safety and efficiency to minimizing environmental impacts.

Environmental Monitoring

Emissions Monitoring: Satellites equipped with EO capabilities can monitor atmospheric gases and particulates, providing data on aircraft emissions. This information is vital for tracking the aviation industry’s environmental footprint and for developing strategies to reduce emissions and comply with international environmental standards.


Noise Pollution Mapping: By integrating EO data with acoustic monitoring technologies, authorities can map noise pollution levels around airports. This information helps in planning flight routes to minimize noise impact on surrounding communities and in implementing noise reduction measures.


Hydrogeological Hazards and Subsidence Monitoring: EO technologies play a critical role in monitoring hydrogeological hazards and ground subsidence around aerodromes. This information is vital for aerodrome planning and infrastructure development, ensuring the long-term safety and sustainability of airport operations.



Aircraft Route Optimization: EO technology can provide up-to-date information on atmospheric conditions, such as wind patterns and turbulence, which can be used to optimize flight routes. This not only improves fuel efficiency but also reduces flight times, leading to lower operational costs and enhanced passenger comfort.


Airport Vicinity Monitoring: Satellites can monitor conditions in the vicinity of airports, including obstacles that may pose hazards to aircraft during takeoff and landing. This information supports airport operations in maintaining safety standards and ensuring clear flight paths.


Obstacle and Terrain Assessment: EO data significantly contributes to the safety and efficiency of aviation navigation by providing up-to-date information on obstacles and terrain. This is crucial for the design of flight procedures, runway and route analysis, and overall aerodrome safety, particularly in rapidly changing environments.


Operations Management

Airport Infrastructure Monitoring: EO can be used to monitor the condition of airport infrastructure, including runways and taxiways. Regular monitoring can detect potential issues early, allowing for preventive maintenance and reducing the risk of operational disruptions.


Fleet Management: Airlines can use EO data to monitor the location and status of their fleet in real-time, optimizing fleet utilization and scheduling maintenance based on actual usage and environmental exposure.


Drone operations planning: Includes the use of EO data to understand the environment close to planned flight trajectory and consequently to support ground risk assessment. EO data supports the inclusion of terrain/surface models into route planning in order to apply ground clearance. EO data can also support operators in identifying alternative landing sites.



EO-Enhanced Communication Infrastructure: By monitoring and planning the deployment of ground-based communication infrastructure, EO data supports the optimization of aviation communication networks. This ensures robust connectivity for air traffic management (ATM) and ground-to-air communications, essential for safe and efficient flight operations.



Unauthorized Activity Detection: EO satellites can help detect unauthorized or suspicious activities within and around airport premises, including unauthorized drone flights. This enhances airport security and safety for both flights and ground operations.


Air Traffic Monitoring: Satellite imagery can complement radar systems by providing an additional layer of air traffic monitoring, especially over remote areas where ground-based radar coverage is limited, ensuring continuous surveillance of airspace.


Weather Services

Weather Forecasting: EO satellites provide critical data for weather forecasting, offering valuable insights into weather patterns and events that could impact flight schedules and safety. Accurate, real-time weather information helps airlines make informed decisions on flight routing and scheduling, minimizing delays and improving passenger safety.


Climate Change Impact Assessments: Long-term monitoring of atmospheric conditions and weather patterns supports studies on climate change impacts on aviation, such as changes in jet streams or increased turbulence. This information is crucial for future planning and for developing strategies to mitigate climate-related risks to aviation operations.


Volcanic Ash and Dust Cloud Forecasting: The ability to monitor and forecast the movement of volcanic ash and dust clouds using EO data is crucial for aviation safety. Volcanic ash can cause catastrophic damage to aircraft, and timely, accurate forecasts allow for the rerouting of flights to avoid hazardous areas, minimizing disruptions and safeguarding passengers.

GNSS for Aviation & Drones

GNSS provide critical technologies for the aviation industry, enhancing safety, efficiency, and global navigational capabilities. By leveraging GNSS technology, the aviation industry can achieve significant improvements in operational management, navigational safety, and the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the airspace.

Flight Navigation and Operations

Performance-Based Navigation (PBN): An umbrella term for navigation based on a specific standard. For simplicity, this is categorised as:


  • Area Navigation: A fundamental requirement for IFR aircraft and certified category drones to be able to navigate along routes with a required accuracy. GNSS is a core capability that enables them to meet the requirements of PBN within the en-route and terminal phases of flight.


  • Approach Navigation: The approach phase of flight is a critical phase where high performance is needed from GNSS. SBAS and GBAS are two solutions that are deployed, providing IFR aircraft and certified category drones with the capability to land in low visibility conditions down to 200 ft. These performances are expected to be extended by incorporating Galileo and dual frequencies.


  • Low-Level Routing: An area navigation capability specified initially for helicopter operations but supporting light General Aviation and potentially drones in the future. The ceiling of the routes is low level (<4 000’) and enables helicopters to transition busy TMA or areas of high terrain safety.


Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) for drones: An umbrella term for navigation based on a specific and certified standard. An equivalent of PBN for manned aviation.


VFR complement:  Use of uncertified GNSS receivers as a navigation complement to VFR piloted operations. This includes moving map displays on portable devices.


Drone navigation (uncertified): An uncertified navigation tool capable of PVT and other capabilities related to drone navigation providing horizontal/vertical accuracy, integrity (integrity risk, time to alert and alert limits), continuity and availability for different phases of flight and environments.


Operations & Air Traffic Management

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B): GNSS is integral to ADS-B systems, which transmit the location of aircraft to ground controllers and other aircraft, improving situational awareness and safety. This system is crucial for air traffic management, especially in remote and oceanic areas where radar coverage is limited.


Aircraft maintenance and operations optimisation: Identifies areas where aircraft have flown through large areas of particulate matter and in turn requires early or more maintenance actions helping airlines and manufacturers save costs. When combined with innovative digital and satellite-based solutions, it also supports new tools and traffic optimisation mechanisms for multimodal access, passenger and freight flows into and out of the airport, as well as between airports, facilitating improved airport access and reducing traffic from/to the city or other key transport nodes.


Airport capacity and safety: GNSS is a valuable asset to support Advanced-Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS) surveillance and safety support services as well as helping airport managers to maintain high quality and complete knowledge of their airport assets.


ATM system timing:  The ground systems used by air traffic control are increasingly connected. The systems rely on precise and high-integrity timing for synchronisation of logs, communication and traffic handover at system level – all of which are dependent on GNSS-derived timing.


Air Traffic Control (ATC) Modernization: By leveraging GNSS data, ATC systems can manage airspace more efficiently, optimizing flight paths, reducing congestion, and minimizing delays. This leads to improved operational efficiency and passenger satisfaction.


Flight Data Monitoring: GNSS data is used in flight data monitoring programs to analyze flight paths, speeds, and altitudes, contributing to safety audits and investigations. This helps in identifying potential safety issues and preventing future accidents.


U-space services: The precise positioning and integrity enabled by EGNOS can support U-space services serving both manned and unmanned airspace users. Such services include network identification, geo-awareness or conformance monitoring. It is important to note that network identification only applies to drones.


Drone operations planning: GNSS (SBAS) enables precise route planning and increased integrity of positioning signal thus ensuring that positioning and navigation performance is known and acceptable.



Electronic Conspicuity (certified): Provides self-reporting of position from an aircraft or drone to other aviation actors providing a means to learn about position and speed vectors. The information from this is derived from GNSS and covers numerous non-certified solutions used for situational awareness of the operator.


Electronic Conspicuity (uncertified): Provides self-reporting of position from an aircraft or drone to other aviation actors providing means to learn about position and speed vectors. The information is derived from GNSS and covers numerous certified solutions used mostly for Air Traffic Management.


GADSS: The Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System is a concept developed by ICAO which enhances the effectiveness and alerting of search and rescue services in the event of an aviation tragedy. It ensures that the aircraft is tracked and that the last known GNSS-derived position is always recorded, maintaining an up-to-date record of aircraft progress. GADSS has three components: Aircraft Tracking; Autonomous Distress Tracking; and Post Flight Localization and Recovery. Aircraft Tracking is enabled through the on-board GNSS equipment (either the PBN or Electronic Conspicuity device), whilst the other components are provided by Emergency Locator Transmitters which are covered in the Emergency Management and Humanitarian Aid segment.


Infrastructure timing: Different solutions, such as radars, are used by air traffic services to track aircraft and provide services to facilitate conflict-free traffic flows. All systems in use today rely on GNSS for timing, and often synchronisation as well, for example in Wide Area Multilateration systems that use multiple synchronised receivers to calculate where an aircraft is.


Safety and Emergency Response

Search and Rescue Operations: GNSS technologies play a vital role in search and rescue operations by providing accurate location data for emergency response teams. This facilitates quicker response times and enhances the chances of survival for individuals involved in aviation accidents.


Efficiency and Environmental Sustainability

Fuel Consumption Optimization: By enabling more direct flight paths and efficient altitude management, GNSS technology helps reduce fuel consumption and, consequently, the carbon footprint of aviation operations.


Noise Abatement Procedures: GNSS supports the design and implementation of noise abatement procedures by allowing aircraft to follow precise flight paths that avoid noise-sensitive areas, minimizing the impact of aircraft noise on communities near airports.

SatCom for Aviation & Drones

SatCom is central to the aviation and drone industry, enhancing connectivity, safety, and operational efficiency. By leveraging SatCom, the industry can address current challenges and explore innovative applications, ensuring its continued growth and sustainability.

Aviation Communication

Global Air Traffic Management (ATM): SatCom enables real-time communication between pilots and air traffic controllers across the globe, improving the safety and efficiency of air travel.


Cockpit Internet Access: Provides pilots with real-time access to weather updates, flight planning tools, and critical safety information, enhancing decision-making capabilities during flights.


Aviation Operations Management

Aircraft Health Monitoring: SatCom facilitates the transmission of aircraft performance data to ground stations for real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and efficient scheduling of repairs, reducing downtime and operational costs.


Crew Management: Enables airlines to communicate with crew members for efficient scheduling, briefing, and management, enhancing operational efficiency and crew satisfaction.


Drones Communication

Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Operations: SatCom provides reliable communication for drone operations beyond visual line of sight, expanding their operational range for inspections, surveillance, and delivery services.


Payload Data Transmission: Enables real-time transmission of high-volume data collected by drones, such as high-resolution images or sensor data, to ground stations for immediate processing and analysis.


Drones Operations Management

Fleet Management: SatCom supports the management of drone fleets by facilitating communication between drones and control centres, optimizing routes, and monitoring drone health for maintenance needs.


Emergency Response Coordination: In disaster response scenarios, drones equipped with SatCom can stream live footage to command centres, improving situational awareness and coordination of relief efforts.

Innovative Applications

Space Weather Monitoring: Advanced monitoring of space weather phenomena, such as solar flares, to mitigate their impact on avionic systems and satellite communications, ensuring flight safety and reliability.


Space-based Internet: Utilizes satellite internet services to provide passengers and crew with high-speed internet access during flights, improving the travel experience and enabling real-time communications.


Predictive Maintenance: AI algorithms analyze data from various sensors and systems onboard aircraft to predict potential failures before they occur, significantly reducing maintenance costs and improving aircraft availability.


Autonomous Flight Systems: AI and ML are being integrated into autonomous flight systems, enhancing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and potentially paving the way for pilotless commercial aircraft, improving safety and efficiency.

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