Spire AirSafe Tracking to Prevent & Reduce Response Time to Airline Disasters (Video)

Spire has announced the upcoming availability of a space-based global aircraft tracking service (Spire AirSafe).

The service, which will capture and provide the location of all Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipped planes, will be ready for customers ahead of the Nov. 8, 2018 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandate for most international flights to provide updated flight information every 15 minutes.

The mandate was set in response to several airline disasters including Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and Air France flight 477 where improved tracking would have led to a recovery effort measured in days rather than months or the prevention of the incident all together.


(Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370/MAS370) [b] was a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Malaysia Airlines that disappeared on 8 March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, to Beijing Capital International Airport in China. Courtesy of AIR CRASH DISASTER INVESTIGATION 2016 and YouTube)

Spire will launch approximately 25 ADS-B equipped satellites in 2017 and another 50 in 2018 for a total of 75 satellites.

Like all Spire satellites, they will be launched into a diverse set of orbits to provide excellent coverage over oceanic areas, polar regions, and other remote places where ground-based tracking is ineffective or impossible.

Satellite-based tracking is the only ICAO 4D/15 (4 dimensions every 15 minutes) compliant method of aircraft tracking over oceanic area.

(Courtesy of FORBES and YouTube)

Jeroen Cappaert’s Spire Global uses wine-bottle-size nano-satellites to listen to (rather than look at) what’s happening on earth, focusing primarily on the world’s oceans. They apply that data to garner insights about global trade, weather, shipping and supply chains, illegal fishing—even pirates.

“We’re focused on the three-quarters of the world that almost nobody looks at,” says Cappaert, co-founder of Spire Global.

Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire
Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire

“Spire AirSafe will offer a compelling alternative to big-ticket air traffic surveillance systems,” said Peter Platzer, Spire’s CEO.

“Most customers don’t need up-to-the-second aircraft information – for many of them, the standard set forth by the ICAO of 15 minutes will do just fine. Spire will be able to provide plane tracking for them at an excellent price.”

Spire’s satellites, which are built on the CubeSat standard, are about the size of a loaf of bread. Their size and use of proprietary technology which draws on advancements in UAVs, robotics, and high-end consumer electronics offers significant cost advantages.

(Spire’s CubeSat satellites—each about the size of a shoebox—can collect and transmit weather data 10,000 times a day, which is more than six times as often as the massive, billion-dollar satellites we’ve used for generations. Spire’s satellites could be key to finally reigning in the stubbornly unpredictable world of weather forecasting, from giving us a better idea of when to pack an umbrella to warning the world’s most vulnerable populations of an impending natural disaster headed their way. Courtesy of Freethink and YouTube)

  • What is Spire AirSafe?
    • Spire AirSafe is a satellite-based tracking service. It will provide updated altitude, latitude, longitude, and time for aircraft globally.
  • Who is it for?
    • Aircraft operators (including airlines and freight), air traffic control, emergency response systems, airport operations, and general aviation industry who are looking for aircraft tracking services to meet mandates.
  • How does it work?
    • Many countries have mandated that planes carry an ADS-B transponder, which is a device that provides a radio signal that alerts nearby air traffic services to the planes location.
    • Spire satellites will listen for this signal from space, then relay the information back through Spire’s infrastructure to customers.
  • Why is it needed?
    • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), has mandated that most overseas flights begin relaying their altitude, latitude, longitude, and time every 15 minutes starting in November of 2018.
    • Satellites are the only means of receiving this information in that interval.

Spire – Tracking 90% of Global Trade

Spire offers data that delivers deep insights into the parts of the world where collecting data is notoriously difficult. Spire’s products, like Spire Sense™, excel in covering the three quarters of the planet that are typically neglected.
  • What technology is used for Spire AirSafe?
    • Many aircraft already carry ADS-B transponders. Spire satellites will track those transponders.
  • When will the service be ready?
    • A beta for customers will begin in 2017. Full coverage meeting ICAO mandates will begin in 2018.
  • How many satellites are required?
    • Spire will launch 25 ADS-B enabled satellites in 2017
    • Spire will launch 50 additional ADS-B enabled satellites in 2018.
  • How much will AirSafe cost?
    • Spire already has more than 70 satellite launch slots booked for its ship tracking and weather products.
    • This new aircraft tracking payload will ride on the same multi-sensor satellites. For that reason, Spire will offer low and fair pricing for the AirSafe service.
  • Are there competitors?
    • Aireon will be launching it’s service some time in 2018. They will not be launching satellites but instead rely on Iridium NEXT satellites to provide data for their service, according to Spire.
    • The use of traditional satellites in their service means the cost of launching their sensors is expected to be much higher, says Spire.
  • What countries mandate ADS-B?
    • Vietnam: Already Mandated
    • Sri Lanka: Already Mandated
    • Singapore: Already Mandated
    • Hong Kong: Dec. 8, 2016
    • Taiwan: Jan. 1, 2017
    • Australia: Feb. 1, 2017
    • Indonesia: Jan. 1, 2018
    • China: 50% 2020, 100% 2025
    • North America: Jan. 1, 2020
    • EU: Jun. 7, 2020

(CNN’s Sara Sidner looks at the theories behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube)

Spire Global’s 3U CubSsat (Image: Spire)
Spire Global’s 3U CubSsat (Image: Spire)

Projects like the FAA’s NextGen, which will bring a US domestic ADS-B mandate in 2020, are rolling out globally.

Europe, Australia, China, Indonesia, and several other countries have mandated implementation dates for ADS-B and countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Singapore have already mandated that planes carry and use the technology.

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was carrying an ADS-B transponder but data received from the plane was sparse as it traveled over open ocean.

The goal of tracking initiatives and services like Spire AirSafe are to make incidents like MH370 a thing of the past.

Spire Global will be holding two webinars to discuss pricing next week on December 12th, at 8:00am PST, and 6:00pm PST. Interested participants can sign up at: http://ardus.at/webinar.


Spire Global, Inc. is a leading player in the nanosatellite sector, building the world’s most advanced, constantly refreshed constellation.

In an industry that is used to measuring development periods in years, Spire has accelerated timelines to a period of just weeks.

Spire’s solutions offer organizations insights into aircraft tracking, weather & climate, shipping & supply chain and maritime domain awareness.

This network of nanosatellites senses the 3⁄4 of the planet inaccessible to most current systems which rely largely on land-based remote sensing.