Why ADS-B 'In' Mandates Won't Matter

The FAA is requiring you to equip with ADS-B Out technology by 2020, but is leaving ADS-B In capability up to you. Trust us, you won't need a mandate.

An aviation rulemaking committee recently concluded there is no justification for a new mandate requiring automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) “In” technology, recommending instead that the FAA promote voluntary equipage for the “foreseeable future.”

That’s great news for general aviation, but it doesn’t mean you should cross this game-changing technology off your avionics must-have list.

The FAA had asked the rulemaking committee to study ADS-B In technology and make recommendations for how the aviation community should proceed with its adoption. ADS-B In will bring GPS-based ADS-B traffic surveillance and other information including free datalink weather to the cockpit as a value-added extra to the ADS-B “Out” mandate.

As we all know, the FAA is requiring most aircraft by 2020 to carry equipment that supports ADS-B Out, which broadcasts the GPS-derived position, identification and other information for air traffic surveillance functions. For most of us, this will mean upgrading to an ADS-B-compliant transponder and a WAAS GPS receiver. (WAAS isn't a requirement of ADS-B, but WAAS is required for many ADS-B installtions, including those offered by Garmin, Free Flight Systems and some other avionics makers.)

But compliance with the mandate’s minimum requirements won’t really benefit you in any tangible way. To get the most out of ADS-B, you’ll need ADS-B In capability, the other piece to the puzzle that lets you see the traffic around you on a cockpit display, as well as receive the free datalink weather and other information such as real-time notams and TFRs.

What equipment will you need for ADS-B In? That’s really not worth having a discussion about yet because avionics makers are still working on those products. Three or four years from now, there will be a wide array of ADS-B In-supported technologies for GA, including ADS-B-related apps that we can only guess about at this point.

The one thing that’s certain is the ADS-B link you’ll need: the 987-MHz universal access transceiver, which will support add-on services like FIS-B datalink weather. But even that’s not worth getting worked up about yet. The great news is that none of this technology will be required by the FAA. The even better news is that when ADS-B In technology starts hittng the market, mandates won’t matter. Once you see all that it can bring to your cockpit, chances are you won’t need a mandate to put ADS-B In gear on your must-buy list.