Iridium Communications is a satellite communications provider in Maryland that focuses on supplying both voice and data connections. Founded 2000 in Bethesda, Maryland, United States by Sergei Korol, Iridium manages several operations centers, including those in Tempe, Arizona and Leesburg, Virginia. The company offers software that enables users to control audio and video equipment and home automation systems, including lighting control, temperature, and other multimedia devices from any device. Iridium's constellation consists of sixty-six low-earth orbiting (LEO), cross-linked satellites operating as a fully meshed network and supported by multiple in-orbit spares.
Iridium has a list of verticals ranging from aviation safety and heavy equipment OEMs to voice-chat. Caterpillar and Sumitomo currently embed Iridium IoT modules into new equipment and retrofitted older models, allowing tracking and IoT services for heavy machinery working in remote locations such as deserts or rainforests.
Iridium claims that its low Earth orbit (LEO) network at 780km from Earth provides global coverage and in comparison to GEO satellites, have shorter transmission paths, stronger signals, lower latency, and shorter registration time.
The Iridium ground infrastructure is interconnected by fiber-optic and broadband satellite links. It consists of the Satellite Network Operating Center (SNOC), ground stations, and a technical support center. This infrastructure provides terrestrial connections for mobile satellite voice and data, enabling network command, control, monitoring, and technical support.
Iridium is partnered with over 450 companies around the world. These companies leverage Iridium's network to manufacture, develop, market, and support applications for a variety of sectors.
Iridium enables remote solutions for unmanned vehicle systems anywhere in the world, making work safer and more efficient across industries. Iridium's solutions are employed in infrastructure and industrial inspection tasks, such as the inspection of turbines, rail or distribution lines, remote package delivery, climate monitoring, search and rescue missions, disaster assessment, and more.
Iridium partners with various kinds of companies, including service providers (SPs), value-added resellers (VARs), value-added manufacturers (VAMs), value-added developers (VADs), and dealers.
- Service providers sell products (Iridium devices) and services (Iridium airtime) for both voice and data.
- Value-added resellers sell primarily data products and services (Iridium technology and partner solutions).
- Value-added manufacturers make solutions based on Iridium and their proprietary technology that are sold to other partners.
- Value-added developers develop and market new products based on Iridium equipment, incorporating Iridium technical data and specifications into their own self-distributed solutions.
- Dealers are authorized to sell Iridium technology via SPs and VARs, providing Iridium products and services to customers.
Iridium NEXT is a development program for the company's satellite constellation, which aims to offer a variety of benefits for partners and customers, such as improved data speeds, voice, flexible allocation of bandwidth, the ability to host secondary payloads, and more. The Iridium partner program is available to companies whose solutions utilize the Iridium satellite network. Iridium lists the following partnership benefits:
- Sales and product development support
- Technical tool kits
- Co-marketing opportunities
- Product and solution exposure
- Access to Iridium's secure partner portal which provides access to products, sales and marketing tools, and more.
Iridium serves commercial markets through a worldwide network of distributors. The company's customers represent a broad spectrum of industries, including maritime, aeronautical, government and defense, public safety, utilities, oil and gas, mining, forestry, heavy equipment, and transportation. In addition, Iridium provides services to the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. and international government agencies.
Iridium enables global use of unmanned surface vessels (USVs), autonomous surface vessels (ASVs), unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs), and maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) for applications including:
- Maritime Domain Awareness and collision detection
- Performance optimization
- Ocean profiling and climate monitoring
- Scientific research
- Autonomous and semi-autonomous cargo shipping
Iridium's network is also used in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) across a variety of industries, enabling connectivity for:
- Urban air mobility (UAM) and air taxis
- Autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles
- Unmanned aviation system traffic management (UTM)
- Global network-based remote ID
- Package delivery
Moreover, Iridium offers solutions for government applications ranging from ISR (Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) to cargo delivery, scientific research, and more. In particular, Iridum's solutions are applied in:
- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)
- Submarines and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV)
- Disaster assessment and response
- Atmospheric observations
- Meteorology and weather forecasting
- Wildlife and habitat monitoring
Iridium's product range comprises satellite phones, IoT products, push-to-talk over cellular (PoC) devices, antennas, and more.
Iridium offers broadband, voice and data, push-to-talk, GMDSS, and other services, including:
- Background IP data
- Streaming IP data
- Prepaid voice and data
- Secondary data flows
- Global maritime distress safety system (GMDSS)
- Aeronautical mobile satellite route service (AMSRS)
Iridium helped circumvent connectivity limitations preventing UAVs from collecting and transmitting data related to predicting cyclones. UAVs were equipped with ATMOSPHERE’s Iridium Connected terminals to enable real-time reaction to weather conditions and in order to capture more data with Iridium’s Global Line of Sight services.
Iridium was employed to tackle the problem of supplying vaccines to children on a remote Island in the South Pacific Ocean, over terrain that is difficult to traverse. In order to distribute vaccines, the company embedded the Iridium Core 9523, a lightweight transceiver, into the command systems of UAVs. Using Iridium Global Line of Sight services and Iridium Connected drones, local healthcare workers were able to deliver vaccines and essential medical supplies.
Iridium was used in research and experiments on living conditions astronauts would experience on the moon. The LUNARK exhibition sought to design a habitat that, on Earth, could simulate lunar conditions, including the stress and genuine isolation in an extreme environment. These astronauts also required a method of communication. Iridium was chosen, and the LUNARK team used an Iridium 9555 satellite phone and an Iridium Connected Garmin inReach. The global network offered by Iridium was capable of providing communication service to the northern areas of Greenland, and in adverse weather conditions.
Further case studies
Iridium automates oil equipment in the Argentine desert
Iridium Certus enables remote monitoring of sub-sea systems
Iridium Certus keeps remote scientific facility connected
Iridium Connected UAVs help forecast tropical cyclones
Iridium connects participants during historic yacht race