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UN announces real-time flight tracking rules on anniversary of MH370 disappearance

Measures will require planes to transmit their location at least once a minute in case of distress

The UN's aviation agency has announced new regulations that will allow for airplanes to be tracked in real-time, two years after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) governing council adopted the measures on Tuesday, with ICAO council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu saying they will help "ensure that similar disappearances never occur again."

MH370 vanished from radar shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8th, 2014. The Beijing-bound plane had 239 passengers and crew members on board. A piece of wreckage from the aircraft was found off the coast of Réunion last year, and Malaysian authorities released a progress report on their investigation yesterday, though it is still not clear what caused the plane to crash.

Changes will go into effect by 2021

The rules announced this week are designed to prevent similar disappearances. Planes will now be required to transmit their location at least once every minute in case of distress, while cockpit recordings will be extended to 25 hours. The measures will go into effect between now and 2021.

The disappearance of MH370 prompted aviation authorities to boost real-time tracking capabilities last year, with some criticizing regulators for not implementing a more robust system following the crash of an Air France flight in 2009. In September 2015, the European Union said it would require flight tracking on aircraft from 2018, and in November, the UN International Telecommunication Union agreed to dedicate part of the radio spectrum to global tracking systems.