ADS-B” The future of air traffic control

The FAA plans to install 400 Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) ground stations by 2014, calling the satellite navigation capability the “backbone” of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS).

NGATS is a makeover of the ATC system, designed to triple air traffic capacity in the next 20 years.

ADS-B will ultimately replace the FAA’s aging radar network, which costs about $150 million a year to maintain and would cost an estimated $2.5 billion to upgrade. To build the entire ADS-B system, by contrast, will cost an estimated $1 billion, while it will cost $30 million annually to operate and maintain, FAA officials say.

The FAA plans to let vendors install and maintain the ADS-B equipment, and to lease services from them, just as the agency buys telecom services from telecommunications companies. This will reduce costs and give the agency greater flexibility, FAA officials say.

The FAA plans to use two types of data links in its ADS-B implementation — one for general aviation aircraft and another for airliners. GA aircraft will be equipped with Universal Access Transceiver equipment, and airliners will use Mode S transponders on 1090 MHz as they do in Europe. The FAA also is looking at the possibility of rulemaking that would mandate the avionics necessary for implementing ADS-B across the national airspace system.

While it’s “inevitable” that the equipment will become mandatory, that doesn’t mean an immediate new expense for general aviation pilots, says Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

“It won’t be required aboard general aviation aircraft until it’s affordable and available everywhere,” he says.

FAA officials estimate it will take at least 20 years for the “full evolution” of ADS-B.

The agency has reserved $80 million for fiscal year 2007 to begin the initial implementation of ADS-B. This includes continuing to support the ADS-B infrastructure already installed along the East Coast and integrating ADS-B surveillance into the FAA’s current air traffic control systems.

The agency’s Joint Resources Council will meet in June to determine the next steps in beginning the transition to ADS-B.

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