ESA title


  • ACTIVITYDemonstration Project
  • STATUSOngoing

Objectives of the service

The UVFDR is a cloud-based data storage facility available to any aircraft capable of sending flight data to a ground-based data repository in near real time. UVFDR provides secure storage, authentication and provenance control of the transmitted data including global aircraft tracking functions with GADSS (Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System) Distress Tracking and detection/alerting of potentially unsafe situations.
ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) compliant flight data recording solutions available in the market require the recovery of the physical recorder memory. Data transmission systems for quick access recorder data are designed to send data through terrestrial networks after an aircraft lands at its destination (or after the aircraft returns to its home base).

Image Credit: AdobeStock, Physical Flight Recorder 

Aircraft equipped with solutions capable of transmitting data in real-time can subscribe to the UVFDR service for compliance with GADSS provisions. In the event of an incident subject to investigation, the UVFDR provides immediate access to data for authorised users. The secure and assured storage allows independent verification of the data’s truthfulness. It can therefore be trusted and even serve as independent verification of other evidence in an investigation. The non-proprietary solution allows all authorised parties to analyse flight data immediately, without access to the physical aircraft.

Users and their needs

Aviation’s unprecedented level of safety is achieved, in part, through the meticulous investigation of every incident and accident. To that end, flight data is recorded on a crash protected memory from the moment an aeroplane is powered up to the moment it is powered down. The system is commonly known as the “Black Box”, or the Flight Data Recorder and has been in use for many decades. However, data isn’t always recoverable.

Following a number of high-profile accidents over the past 15 years, regulators have introduced mandates for technologies enabling the global tracking of aircraft, especially in distress, and the timely recovery of flight data. 

Targeted users of the UVFDR service are aircraft operators and air accident investigators. Aircraft operators can subscribe to certified UVFDR services through an aviation data service provider. Potential service providers include Data Link Service Providers, Flight Operations Quality Assurance service providers, or a government agency. Air accident investigators can access the certified UVFDR data repository directly upon authorisation following an air accident or incident requiring investigation.

UVFDR User needs - Image Credit: CGI UK

Service/ system concept

Following public pressure in the wake of recent incidents and accidents, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), IATA (International Air Transport Association), and other organisations defined 
Global Aeronautic Distress and Safety System (GADSS) requirements and related, global mandates. To meet these evolving requirements 

  • Critical aircraft flight data shall be sent through a satellite data communication link to a cloud-based storage location on the ground.

  • On the ground, aircraft flight data can be provenance controlled and monitored, and stored in a secure and assured cloud service.

In doing so, the UVFDR service offers compliance with GADSS timely recovery of flight data, global aircraft tracking, distress tracking, and distress triggering requirements. 
Through its monitoring function, the UVFDR also enables new possibilities of reducing pilot workload when operating in a distressed state.

Image Credit: CGI UK, UVFDR System Concept

Space Added Value

Satellite communications is the key enabler of the solution. To enable economical monitoring of a large fleet of aircraft, the UVFDR solution will be able to incorporate techniques developed for satellite telemetry monitoring to allow a relatively small number of people to monitor the health of many aircraft. Not only does it offer scalability but satellite communications are proven to be secure, boast global coverage of most of the routes, offer 24/7 service and have a limited need for retrofit.  With additional satellite communications bandwidth becoming available over the next ten years transmission-based compliance solutions are increasingly viable.  Because data transmitted in near real-time has operational benefits, along with enabling new ways of relieving pilot workload by way of remote engineering assistance, the transmission of flight data becomes more desirable than deployable memory modules.

It is not economically feasible to use exclusively terrestrial networks for a global aviation data network with sufficient bandwidth to transmit flight data near real time. Additionally they are constrained on coverage in remote areas and at specific altitudes, however they may be used in a hybrid communication solution to gain access to additional bandwidth where available.

Current Status

CGI have baselined their use cases, requirements and design with ESA, using both the project consortium members and market stakeholders for key input. The Critical Design Review took place at CGI’s premises in London (UK) and was successful. Next milestone is the Factory Acceptance Testing, expected to complete by the end of  February  2024.  

The current phase of the Project in progress is developing the system and executing the defined test cases ahead of Factory testing. In parallel CGI and Code Magus Ltd will be continuing performance test work on the interface that will pass captured data from the live aircraft during the pilot demonstration whilst confirming the HW installation schedule for those aircraft taking part in the pilot.

Prime Contractor(s)

CGI IT UK Limited

United Kingdom



Status Date

Updated: 05 December 2023