It’s been called the future of aviation.
But what exactly is ADS-B and, perhaps more importantly, what does the average GA pilot need to know to prepare for that future?
Called the cornerstone of the NextGen air traffic control system, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a combination ground- and aircraft-based satellite communications tracking network. Instead of using radar data to keep aircraft at safe distances from one another, signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System provide air traffic controllers and pilots with much more accurate information that help keep aircraft safely separated in the sky and on runways.
Pilots viewing ADS-B cockpit displays are able to see, in real time, their location in relation to other aircraft, bad weather and terrain. In Southwest Alaska, the first place to get ADS-B, the fatal accident rate for ADS-B-equipped aircraft dropped by 47%.
Besides Alaska, ADS-B is already operational in Florida, Kentucky and other Midwest areas. By the end of this year, it will be deployed in the Gulf of Mexico, where radar could never be installed. The FAA plans to deploy the system nationwide by 2013 and will require all aircraft flying in Class A, B, and C airspace, plus all airspace above 10,000 feet msl, to install ADS-B Out, by 2020.
One of the expected benefits of ADS-B is a shift in responsibility for keeping safe distances between aircraft from controllers to pilots who will have displays in their cockpits pinpointing all the traffic around them, along with local weather displays.
But what are those displays and how much are they going to cost you?
While most of the avionics manufacturers are working on products for ADS-B, the final rule has not been approved. That approval is expected later this year.
“Aircraft will have to have some type of transmitter on the ADS-B assigned frequencies, but there is no requirement for a receiver or display for the airborne aircraft,” said Brad Miller, service manager for Gulf Coast Avionics. “It will be expensive for most GA flyers. They will have to have some type of ADS-B transmitter (an extended squitter transponder, traffic transmitter/receiver or dedicated ADS-B transmitter) and WAAS GPS for position input to the transmitter.”
ADS-B will greatly enhance situational awareness for pilots, added Bill Moffitt, vice president of sales at NavWorx, a Rowlett, Texas-based company founded in 2007 to provide affordable ADS-B products to general aviation. “The delivery of traffic and flight information services, such as graphical weather and TFRs, will be universally available and delivered direct to the cockpit.”
NavWorx already sells ADS-B receivers for $1,495 and will be selling an ADS-B transceiver for $2,495, said Moffitt, who noted “those prices will remain in place when we achieve Technical Standards Order (TSO) certification.”
Industry leader Garmin unveiled its ADS-B solutions at this summer’s AirVenture: GTS 800 and GTS 820 traffic advisory systems (TAS) and the GTS 850 traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS I).
“The GTS series incorporates ADS-B In technology, which is one of the cornerstones of the FAA’s NextGen program,” said Gary Kelley, Garmin’s vice president of marketing. “As ADS-B coverage improves worldwide, the expanded capabilities of the GTS system will be realized. We’re ready for the NextGen system.”
There are three distinct configurations for the GTS series at three different price points. All GTS series products include Garmin’s new CLEAR CAS (Correlated Location Enhanced ADS-B Receiver Collision Avoidance System) technology, a hybrid system that provides real-time information that is independent of radar-based air traffic control, Garmin officials note. CLEAR CAS combines active and passive surveillance data, including 1090 MHz Extended Squitter ADS-B data. In the future, the system can provide enhanced information about a target aircraft that includes flight ID, altitude, velocity and direction.
The products are expected to be available in the fourth quarter. Prices range from $9,995 to $23,495.
FreeFlight Systems is another company offering ADS-B solutions.
The Waco, Texas-based company’s ADS-B Out System combines a 978 MHz data radio with its TSO-certified 1201 or 1203 GPS/WAAS sensor, dual antennas, and compact control head. It will provide pilots with WAAS positional accuracy, along with the ability to broadcast ADS-B Out aircraft position information, said company officials, who note the design provides an upgrade path for ADS-B In and its associated benefits, including Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B).
“Our ADS-B solution requires minimal changes to the existing cockpit,” said Tim Taylor, president. “We understand that cost and time implications are a real concern, especially for those flying in non-radar airspace where
ADS-B promises greater efficiency and safety.”
The ADS-B Out System, expected to be available in the third quarter of this year, will be manufactured under a TSO and certified and installed under an STC.
THE LATEST NEWS
The FAA has just received a report from the RTCA task force, which gives the agency a short list of recommendations that can be implemented between now and 2018 to “improve the performance of the national airspace system during the transition” to NextGen, said task force Chairman Steve Dickson, senior VP-flight operations for Delta Airlines.
The task force recommends a building-block approach based on deploying available capabilities, rather than on accelerating future technologies, because “users cannot afford to invest without getting a return on their investment,” he added.
RTCA, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit corporation, organized in 1935 as the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics. It develops recommendations on communications, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management system issues. Its recommendations are used by the FAA as the basis for policy, program, and regulatory decisions and by the private sector as the basis for development, investment and other business decisions.
RTCA includes about 335 government, industry and academic organizations from the United States and around the world, including the FAA, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, Garmin International, Stanford University, Lockheed Martin, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA, and others.
For more information: RTCA.org.