Pilot-controller communications will move from voice communications to data link (text messages), increasing both operational safety and efficiency. Iris will also protect aircraft communications from cyber threats with security gateways. These gateways would provide a VPN barrier between the ground and each aircraft, assuring mutual authentication and integrity of data exchange. They will securely connect flight management systems on board the aircraft to the corresponding systems used by air traffic controllers on the ground.

 

The contract between Inmarsat and ESA marks a key phase of the Iris programme, following five years of development culminating in successful test flights. The two organisations will now work with prime partners Thales Alenia Space and CGI, in addition to a consortium of leading aviation and space companies, to finalise the technology before commercial rollout commences in Europe from 2020.

 

The programme will also demonstrate how satellite data link will evolve to become a primary means of communications for air traffic control.