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ADS and ORBCOMM Alliance Increases Overwater Safety

Aeronautical Data Systems (ADS) – developer of the ERGO suite of aviation safety mapping software – announces a strategic partnership with ORBCOMM Inc., a global provider of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and a market leader in global Automatic Identification System (AIS) data services used by maritime vessels for identification, location and communication.

ADS CEO Jim Stabile says, ORBCOMM is an ideal partner in our efforts to increase aviation safety through improved situational awareness. Their industry-leading AIS data service delivers the most complete situational picture of global vessel activity by drawing data from both satellite and terrestrial AIS receivers. As aresult of our strategic partnership, pilots in distress can now locate ships in the vicinity, learn significant data about the vessel, and communicate an automated distress call in clear, concise maritime vernacular.”

Senior Director of ORBCOMM Maritime Business Development, Andrew Loretta, says, "Use of near-real-time AIS data by an aircraft going down in distress is a unique and potentially life-saving application for ORBCOMM’s AIS service that can help protect pilots in time-sensitive, critical scenarios. ORBCOMM helps pilots pinpoint a location where there are nearby vessels that may be able to provide search and rescue assistance, and offers flight path suggestions that allow the pilot extra time to concentrate on bringing the plane down as safely as possible, which provides greater security and peace of mind for ADS’s customers."

The ERGO software programs share the ability to display airports and ships within range of a distressed aircraft. The pilot can view live-streaming AIS ship data from ORBCOMM, including each vessel’s speed, direction and country of origin. The program will also transmit an automatic mayday distress call formatted to maritime protocols on a continuous 2.5-minute loop, updating all pertinent aircraft location information at each interval. The pilot can select the most desirable vessels to ditch near, but all ships within VHF range (potentially 200-250 nautical miles depending on altitude) will receive this call on the maritime distress channel 16.

“This is equivalent to pulling a fire alarm in the middle of the ocean to alert any resource within hearing distance to come and help,” says Stabile. “Whether it’s a decompression event or an engine fire, emergencies put pilots in task-saturation environments that can seriously jeopardize the safety of all on board. The last thing you want during an emergency with a high cognitive workload is miscommunication. You want your situation clearly articulated in a common language understood by the receiving maritime asset with no conflicting or confusing information.”

This functionality enhances existing search and rescue resources and empowers the pilot to include another layer of safety by reducing time of rescue. Additionally, with ORBCOMM's AIS data in ERGO, pilots can more safely ditch at night or in low visibility conditions when ships are not visible to the pilot.

Looking ahead, the display of ship AIS data will complement the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) due to be implemented in 2023. ORBCOMM and ADS are also exploring options where aircraft may be able to provide assistance to the maritime industry by receiving and relaying secured Digital Select Calling (DSC) information used by all deep water vessels.

ORBCOMM’s Loretta says, “If DSC emergency transmissions can be received by aircraft, this can exponentially increase the chances of finding ships at sea more easily.”

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