GPS navigation is a technology widely used in almost every car, whether it’s dashboard navigation or built into the car directly. Noting how widely GPS is used, the question arises of why different modes of transportation like the airline industry aren’t using the technology.
The airline industry is currently using 70-year-old radar technology to keep track of its planes. The main problem with radar is that it can only see a plane flying over an ocean when it is within 200 miles of land. When the plane goes beyond those 200 miles the radar doesn’t see it anymore and the location of the airplane has to be estimated based on flight plans and departure times. This creates a huge problem in case the plane experiences some trouble and has to carry out an emergency landing, leaving the location of the plane completely unknown the the air traffic controllers.
This vulnerability of radar technology can be seen with the 2009 disappearance of Air France Flight 477 and its 228 passengers. The plane was supposed to fly over the Atlantic Ocean from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, but never made it to its destination. This disappearance sparked critics of radar-based air traffic to push for the move over to GPS-based networks instead.
Aside from giving the airline industry the real-time location of all its planes, a GPS tracker will be nearly 10 times more accurate and will result in the benefiting the environment and improve the quality of the flight. It is expected to save airlines a great deal of fuel, reduce flight delays by nearly 21% and save $22 billion in cumulative benefits to the traveling public, aircraft operators and the Federal Aviation Administration all before the year 2018.
“There are numerous benefits to go to a GPS-based system, including savings of fuel, less carbon-dioxide emissions and better-controlled ascents and descents,” ITT Senior V.P. David Melcher.
With all these benefits, the airline industry has finally agreed to upgrade their tracking technology, which should be in place by early 2012. However, implementing the entire system into each and every airplane is expected to take until 2020.