The minimum equipment you’ll need to have on board before the 2020 ADS-B mandate is a Mode S ADS-B transponder and an approved WAAS GPS navigation source providing required position, vector, altitude and velocity data. The FAA has given U.S. aircraft operators two options for satisfying the ADS-B “Out” requirement. The first is the 1090 MHz “extended squitter” (or ES) broadcast link available on certain Mode S transponders. The second is the dedicated 978 MHz universal access transceiver, or UAT. If you fly at or above FL 180 or in Canada and the Caribbean, you’ll have to go with the 1090 MHz ES link. Aircraft flying below FL 180 can opt to use either the 1090 MHz ES or the UAT broadcast link. Both options will meet the ADS-B “Out” requirement — and when equipped with an ADS-B receiver as well as a transmitter, both systems can also provide ADS-B “In” functionality for display of traffic data in the cockpit. However, only UAT equipment has the ability to offer FIS-B service providing free datalink weather and other flight information (such as real-time TFRs and notams). That’s a shame, because it will mean equipping with multiple technologies to gain the full scope of ADS-B benefits. Interestingly, Rockwell Collins says it has no plans to include UAT technology in its TCAS line.
So how much will ADS-B compliance cost? That’s a hard question to answer because competition for your ADS-B dollars has yet to heat up in a significant way. Still, while 2020 might seem like a long way in the future, do the math and it suddenly becomes clear that we in the United States will need to equip about 25,000 airplanes per year over the next nine years.
“That’s assuming people start upgrading now, which they won’t,” said Bill Stone, avionics product manager for Garmin. “They’ll wait as long as they can. If suddenly we have 100,000 aircraft per year to upgrade, that’s pretty much an impossible situation” for avionics installers.
Yet preparing for ADS-B now is pretty pointless for aircraft owners because we’re on the verge of an explosion of new products, including hybrid traffic surveillance systems that will combine ADS-B with TAS and TCAS, not to mention ADS-B apps that will transform flying in ways we can only imagine. You can bet that once aircraft owners wake up to the fact that the mandate is nearly upon us, competition among avionics makers will grow. So, if you’ve done nothing yet to prepare for the ADS-B mandate, don’t worry; if you’ve still done nothing seven or eight years from now, that’s another story.
One of the pioneers in ADS-B technology, especially in the air transport market, is ACSS, a joint company owned by L-3 and Thales of France. The Phoenix-based company has developed an app suite known as Safe-Route that harnesses ADS-B technology to save airlines significant fuel and time — and could serve as a blueprint for technologies that might benefit GA. Among the intriguing ADS-B applications ACSS is working on, one called Merging and Spacing allows pilots to fly closer in-trail procedures by permitting the pilots to monitor their distance from aircraft ahead on a cockpit display. Fitting more airplanes in a busy terminal area can mean reduced delays and fuel savings resulting from more direct routings. For UPS, which has evaluated Merging and Spacing at its busy cargo hub in Louisville, Kentucky, the technology has been shown to increase the number of aircraft that are able to land at busy times, boosting the company’s bottom line.
On the ground, ACSS’ SAMM (surface area movement management) technology uses software algorithms to alert pilots of potential runway incursions, yet another ADS-B benefit few pilots are even aware is possible. The application gives flight crews an airport surface map and tracks the movements of their aircraft and other ground and airborne traffic in the terminal area, alerting the crew when potential conflicts arise by displaying threats on an EFB display.
It’s the kind of technology you could easily envision running on an iPad. But will we ever get there?
“Absolutely,” said Cyro Stone, director of ADS-B products for ACSS. “We’re creating this application for the airlines, but bringing technologies like SAMM down to general aviation is already on our future road map. It’s only a matter of time.”
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