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easyJet Partners with Iris To Modernise Air Traffic Management

easyJet Partners with Iris To Modernise Air Traffic Management

As the first airline to join the innovative Iris program, led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and international communications firm Viasat, easyJet has taken to the skies. They will be utilising the newest satellite technology to assist in modernising air traffic management (ATM).

15 top Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) have joined forces with the EASA-certified Iris service provider ESSP to enable the first commercial flights across Europe this year, which could include up to 11 easyJet Airbus A320neo aircraft. Implementing the Single European Skies initiative is a first for Europe.

EasyJet will be able to significantly enhance fuel efficiency and reduce emissions by using Iris to run its aircraft as effectively as possible. More generally, the program will play a major role in assisting the industry as a whole in implementing airspace modernisation.

Modernising the airspace and gaining more efficiencies is a critical step toward the airline industry's net zero goal. EasyJet announced in 2022 its interim science-based carbon reduction objective, which is a 35% improvement in carbon emissions intensity by FY2035, on a baseline of FY2019. The airline promised to attain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and this was a part of that goal.

Since aviation is now the greatest feasible source of carbon reductions, it is imperative that airspace be used more efficiently to cut emissions. This is because shorter flight durations on more direct flight patterns result in reduced fuel consumption and emissions. To meet the ATM Research (SESAR) goal of 10% carbon emissions savings from European aviation, achieving this will be essential.

Iris, which offers quicker and more dependable satellite communications between planes and the ground, is a significant technological advancement. Adopting continuous climb and descent pathways, cruising at ideal altitudes, and calculating the shortest available routes, will assist pilots and air traffic controllers in achieving even greater operational savings.

Iris is an initiative led and funded by ESA that aims to assist the European Policy on Single European Skies by providing a fully European-wide solution based on cutting-edge, highly secure mobile satellite communication technologies. To guarantee that Iris satisfies all needs and regulations related to aviation in Europe and around the world, ESA has completed this work in close collaboration with European aviation stakeholders, such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). With Viasat, which just bought Inmarsat, as the prime contractor, ESA has assembled a European industrial coalition including over twenty enterprises to accomplish this goal.

Iris, which is supported by Viasat's renowned SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) connectivity platform, lays the groundwork for multilink data link communications, which is essential for introducing new ATM features.

Iris is a fully developed and certified capability that Airbus offers on the A320 and A330 series aircraft. It shares operational data based on trajectory and intent, preventing holding patterns, calculating the shortest routes and ideal altitudes, and providing airlines with continuous climb and descent pathways.

Hugh McConnellogue, the Director of Operations & Navigation at easyJet said, “More efficient use of airspace is a critical way we can tackle the industry’s emissions right now. Adopting Iris technology on these aircraft will enable easyJet to fly more directly and efficiently, thereby reducing carbon emissions as well as enhancing our on-time performance – which in turn improves our customers’ experiences.

“We’re thrilled to be paving the way in this area whilst working towards our goal to achieve our net-zero ambitions by 2050, as outlined in our roadmap.”

Charlotte Neyret, the Chief Executive Officer at ESSP, said, “These first commercial flights are bringing to reality a decade of both vision and investment in this new datalink communication solution to achieve safer and greener aviation. ESSP is delighted to operate this moment of synchronisation between all stakeholders, from industry to airlines, with the proactive contribution of numerous Air Navigation Service Providers. Thanks to all partners, ESSP is proud to provide Iris Satcom datalink service to Europe, as well as to initiate the Iris flights with a key airline such as easyJet. Iris technology allows the development of new environmentally friendly routes, which will improve ATC management, reduce fuel costs and lead to the deployment of more efficient air operations.”

Javier Benedicto, acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA, said, “These first Iris commercial flights put Europe firmly at the forefront of the digitalisation and modernisation of Air Traffic Management. Iris enables tangible benefits to the commercial aviation community and society at large, including reduced emissions of carbon dioxide and fewer delays for passengers through more efficient flight paths.

“As a follow-up of Iris, Iris Global, which was launched in 2022, aims to extend the benefit of Iris beyond Europe. This will be achieved through geographical expansion, including Asia, the USA, the Middle East and Australia, and through service expansions by adding new ICAO aviation standards as well as new satellite-based communication solutions for supporting future air traffic management of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems. We are very proud to share this historic milestone for commercial aviation with the ESA Member States that have funded Iris activities and that will continue to support it in the future.”

Joel Klooster, the Senior Vice President of Flight Safety and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) at Viasat, said, “We are thrilled to see Iris flying with a leading airline such as easyJet, a crucial step on our pathway to reducing emissions and easing congestion in European skies. We want to thank all the partners who played a part in achieving this long-term goal, and we look forward to seeing the results of these first commercial flights. Even more than that, we look ahead to the industry reaping the rewards of this innovation well into the future, and to passengers and airlines alike benefitting immensely.”

Viasat and ESA inked a new deal in 2022 to expand the Iris program internationally. With such advances now well advanced, Iris Global will concentrate on the technology and certification needed to share the fuel, CO2, and congestion-saving benefits of Iris with regions outside of Europe.

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