While we await for one of the greatest mysteries of this century to solve itself, researchers have developed a reconfigurable radio that could help air traffic controllers see in real-time, the location of every plane in the air – even the ones which are flying above oceans. This new reconfigurable, higher-bandwidth radio is a result of a collaboration between NASA and Florida-based Harris Corporation. The company has already entered into contracts with Virginia-based Aireon LLC that will use the radios to create the first space-based global air traffic control system. With the two systems working together, researchers hope that air traffic controllers will be able to see in real time the location and heading of every plane in the air.

Until now, airplanes have relied on ground based radar surveillance, which couldn’t really track planes over oceans. It left air traffic controllers with no real-time information about a plane’s whereabouts once it flew above all that endless blue.

To overcome this blind spot, pilots have to stick to detailed flight plans and are required to remain within prescribed lanes at different altitudes so air traffic controllers can estimate their position. But that could change when a total of 66 satellites, owned by Iridium Communications Inc., goes into orbit equipped with AppSTAR radios. The radios are programmed to receive signals from new airplane transceivers called ADS-B, which automatically send out a flight’s number, location, heading and other details.