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What is GADSS?

The disappearance of MH370, en-route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March, 8 2014, triggered a global search that has yielded no results to this day. Previously, Air France flight 477 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris was lost in the Atlantic Ocean and the aircraft’s flight data recorders were only recovered after a two-year multi-million-dollar search.

Shortly after the disappearance of MH370, a special meeting on global flight tracking was convened by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to propose requirements that will prevent these situations happening again. Consequently, the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) concept of operations was born, requiring airlines to track their aircraft worldwide. ICAO has now mandated specific elements of the GADSS by introducing new standards in ICAO Annex 6 Volume I.

In the short term, November 2018, ICAO has mandated that airlines develop a tracking capability that will provide information on longitude, latitude, altitude and timestamp at least once every 15 minutes, in addition to receive position data at least once every minute when an aircraft is in distress.
In the longer term, starting with new aircraft delivered in 2021, ICAO has also mandated even more stringent requirements in the event of an aircraft experiencing a distress event. This is referred to as Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT).The airline is required to automatically receive position updates from the aircraft at least once every minute and to provide this information to applicable agencies who will respond in the event of an unplanned end of flight.

When the new flight tracking regulations are in full effect airlines will need to meet many specific GADSS requirements:

  • Track aircraft at least once every fifteen minutes.
  • Recognize when an aircraft is in distress.
  • Receive position data at least once every minute when the airplane is in distress.
  • Automatically notify relevant agencies responsible for air traffic surveillance and search and rescue services in the relevant airspace.
  • Function throughout the entire airline operating area.

With GADSS, airlines will know within minutes (not hours) that an airplane may need assistance and can coordinate with governments for a rapid search effort.