The main challenge for aircraft tracking is not technology, but information management

31 May 2017

At the well-attended 2017 Flight Location and Data Recovery Conference in Hamburg, EUROCONTROL joined aircraft manufacturers, airlines, air navigation service providers, industry and governmental/intergovernmental bodies to exchange information and views on the implementation of the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) Concept that has been developed in response to the tragedies of AF447 (2009) and MH370 (2014). GADSS is moving forward, and as a first step, aircraft tracking is now scheduled to be implemented by airlines in oceanic airspace without automated surveillance in 2018.

EUROCONTROL is working closely with ICAO on the GADSS concept, and Henk Hof from the Agency’s ICAO & Concepts unit, and Chair of the ICAO GADSS Advisory Group, led a discussion on the GADSS Concept of Operations and setting, its overall framework, and its functions such as aircraft tracking, autonomous distress tracking, flight data recovery and post flight localisation.

The objectives of GADSS are to:

  • Ensure timely detection of aircraft in distress
  • Ensure tracking of aircraft in distress and accurate location of end of flight
  • Enable efficient and effective SAR operations
  • Ensure timely retrieval of Flight Recorder Data

Meeting these objectives will help all actors to take the “Search” out of Search and Rescue. The main challenge is not technology but information management to ensure that, on a world wide scale, information necessary for SAR is readily available to the right actors at the right time.

The first step (2018) will be the implementation of aircraft tracking by airlines to be used in oceanic airspace without automated surveillance. The second step (2021) will be the implementation (forward fit) of autonomous distress tracking (automatically activated tracking in case of distress) and means to recover the flight data. Most challenges are currently in the implementation of this second step, e.g. on how to interpret “autonomous” distress tracking, or how to reconcile different manufacturer approaches.

For more information on GADSS, download and read the conference interview with Henk Hof via the link below:


We also invite you to watch our video explaining the GADSS Concept:

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