The FAA is calling for nationwide deployment of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast system by 2013. ADS-B is the satellite-based surveillance system slated to replace current radar-based aircraft surveillance systems. ADS-B has been deployed and rigorously tested at four key sites throughout the US: Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, Louisville and Philadelphia. The sites were chosen because they represent some of the most extreme environments in the nation’s airspace and allowed the new technology to be thoroughly tested.
The new system allows air traffic controllers to use satellite-based technology to track and separate aircraft in addition to traditional radar-based tracking. ADS-B requires aircraft be equipped with special avionics, but it offers a greater level of accuracy and reliability. Additionally, it provides controllers with information such as aircraft type, call sign, heading, altitude and speed. According to the FAA, all locations currently covered by radar can expect to have ADS-B coverage and approximately half of the ground stations are already installed. The new system also offers a number of benefits to pilots including free weather and traffic information. The FAA will require all aircraft flying in controlled airspace in the U.S. to be equipped with ADS-B avionics by 2020.
While ADS-B offers significant improvement over radar-based systems, there are still concerns with remote and mountainous regions. In order to cope with such areas as well as a potential ADS-B outage, the FAA has commissioned system known as Wide-Area Multilateration. WAM, similar to ADS-B, consists of a number of small sensors which allow controllers to see aircraft that would ordinarily be blocked by the rugged terrain. WAM is currently deployed in Colorado and Alaska and offers many of the same benefits to pilots as ADS-B.
The full-scale deployment of ADS-B represents a significant step in the modernization of the aging air traffic control system. The proposed benefits offer a significant safety advantage to both pilots and air traffic controllers in the form of greatly increased situational awareness. Additionally, the new systems will provide new methods of obtaining weather and flight restriction information that will have a large and lasting effect on all types of flying.
Is free weather and traffic information enough of an incentive for you to upgrade to ADS-B capable avionics?
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