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Mon, Apr 18, 2005

Iridium Providing Satellite Links On Mesaba Turboprops

TAMDAR Units To Observe Weather.

Iridium Satellite announced last week that it will provide satellite data links for an atmospheric data collection and reporting system that will be installed on regional airline aircraft. This program is designed to improve the quality of weather forecasting.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, Forecast Systems Lab, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will all be working together on this program. AirDat LLC will equip 64 Saab 340 turboprops with patented Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Report (TAMDAR) sensors.

The TAMDAR sensor measures humidity, wind, pressure, temperature, icing and turbulence conditions about every 300 feet as the aircraft climbs.. A GPS receiver ouputs the position, time and altitude as the sensor observations are transmitted to the AirDat data center using the Iridium data link.

The airplanes are flown by Mesaba Airlines, Based in Minneapolis. This first demonstration is called the Great Lakes Fleet Experiment. It is the first step in a nationwide deployment plan.

"The Mesaba aircraft collectively make more than 400 daily flight segments, yielding 800 vertical soundings and about 16,000 TAMDAR observations per day," said Jay Ladd, CEO, AirDat in a news release. "This will yield a real-time stream of rich atmospheric data for forecasting models that is orders of magnitude greater than currently available from radiosondes and other sources.  Preliminary analysis reveals the TAMDAR data is providing significant improvement in the accuracy of atmospheric forecast models."

"We believe we can achieve complete coverage of the continental United States with 400 to 600 aircraft in key regions," Ladd said.  "Weather forecasting agencies in other countries are monitoring the TAMDAR deployment, and Iridium's global architecture will facilitate seamless expansion to other regions."

Regional passenger carriers are being used for TAMDAR sensors because they make shorter trips and fly at altitudes below 30,000 feet. Because they climb and descend frequently, they provide numerous sensor readings along the way.

The Iridium datalink can also be used to provide two-way data links with the aircraft to get automated operational reports from the aircraft.  AirDat expects to add email text messaging soon.

"We are very pleased to be working with our valued partner AirDat to develop this exciting solution, which has enormous potential to enhance safety for the entire aviation industry, as well as making an important improvement to the world's weather forecasting capabilities," said Don Thoma, executive vice president of Iridium Satellite.



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