Skykraft and Airways partner to test space-based air traffic management service

- Geneva, Switzerland.
Skykraft’s Michael Frater, CEO (right) and Airways New Zealand’s Katie Wilkinson, General Manager Air Traffic Services (left) announce their partnership to test space-based air traffic management at Airspace World 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Skykraft and Airways New Zealand will work together to develop Skykraft’s space-based air traffic management service in one of the world’s largest airspace regions.

Skykraft, a space services company based in Canberra, Australia, will use its satellite constellation to gather data on aircraft movements and then test it against the data held by Airways, which manages 30 million square kilometres of airspace over New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southern Oceans and the Tasman Sea.

Skykraft is developing a space-based, global service combining an air traffic surveillance system and a Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communication system, which would extend the reach of VHF to areas that are covered by older technologies. Skykraft's five satellites were launched successfully by SpaceX from Florida, United States in January 2023, and further launches are scheduled for mid-2023 and early 2024.

Skykraft’s Chairman, Air Vice-Marshal (Ret’d) Mark Skidmore, says the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding brings together two companies who want to advance air traffic control technology in remote and oceanic regions.

“The Memorandum of Understanding allows us to work with Airways New Zealand, a world-leader in air traffic management, on a proof-of-concept demonstration of Skykraft’s world-first combination of space-based air traffic surveillance and VHF radio communications,” says Air Vice-Marshal Skidmore.

“It’s a great opportunity for an Australian space company and New Zealand’s air navigation service provider to use new technology to make flying across the Pacific and the Tasman even safer and more efficient.”

Airways New Zealand’s General Manager Air Traffic Services, Katie Wilkinson, welcomes a collaboration that will help drive the evolution of the next generation of air traffic management services.

“We look forward to contributing our experience managing one of the largest airspace regions in the world, and to exploring how we can integrate space-based air traffic management with our existing infrastructure,” says Ms Wilkinson.

“Skykraft’s satellite-based VHF radio communication system will be a key element in the proof-of- concept process and has the potential to create a step change for aviation.”

Jacqui Tyack


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