Satellite firm Inmarsat said today its technology has saved airlines $3bn by enabling planes to fly closer to one another, among other things.
The FTSE 250 firm compiled a report in association with specialist consultancy Helios. It concluded $1.1bn had been saved through a single air traffic control system and a further $1.9bn was spared by improving the communications with airline control centres.
By using satellite communications to share voice and data messages, aircraft are able to communicate with one another in areas where they previously were not able to do so – for example over oceans where there is limited conventional ground radar.
Increased information sharing between planes means planes can safely fly closer to one another – at a separation of 30 nautical miles rather than the previous limited of 100 nautical miles.
This, Inmarsat said, was particularly beneficial for busy skies such as the north Atlantic.
"Increasing airspace capacity also leads to more aircraft being able to choose optimum flight levels, saving time and fuel," the company said.
“This is the first time that the benefits of satellite communication have been quantified," said Nick McFarlane, a managing director at Helios.
"The technology has already delivered huge benefits to the industry and emerging applications mean the trend is set to continue, in fact it is set to accelerate.”
The report continued: "Delay management and scheduling is improved, fleets and flight crew can be better managed, maintenance can be taken care of and turnaround time on the ground is reduced."
Broadband connectivity will also help with urgent air traffic control demands, Inmarsat said.
The report found that by 2030, there will 7bn passengers in the sky – more than the number of people on the ground currently.