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UN Reaches Landmark Deal to Improve Flight Tracking

FILE - A deal reached Nov. 11, 2015, during a UN conference in Geneva improves tracking of commercial flights.

A landmark agreement to use satellites to track civilian flights was reached Wednesday by 160 countries.

The efforts could prove key in avoiding a repeat of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in March 2014, in which the plane was lost en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard.

Representatives at a conference hosted by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva agreed to improve the current flight-tracking system that relies on ground-based radars. That current system leaves around 70 percent of the world's surface uncovered, according to the ITU.

The agreement, expected to be fully implemented in 2017, allows radio frequencies to be sent from aircraft to satellites. In effect, the new system will "enable real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world,” said ITU Radiocommunication Bureau Director François Rancy.

Associated Press contributed to this report.