Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast equipment (ADS-B) refers to specific devices that permit air traffic controllers and aircraft operators to communicate and transfer flight pertinent information such as locations, flight paths, and more. With this exchange of information, operators are able to conduct much safer flights, also resulting in more direct routes and increased cost efficiency. The ADS-B also serves as a critical facet of the Federal Aviation Administration’s goal of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) implementation, slowly replacing the radar-based air traffic control systems that have been utilized since 1960. The two types of ADS-B equipment that can be installed on an aircraft include ADS-B Out and ADS-B In, both providing various uses for operators. As of January 1, 2020, the FAA mandates that ADS-B equipment must be installed on any aircraft that already requires a transponder.
With an ADS-B Out apparatus, a given aircraft can perpetually transmit airspeed, location, altitude, and other aircraft data to an ADS-B ground station. From those stations, data is then sent to air traffic control stations for further use. To meet the requirements as set out by the FAA, an aircraft needs a 1090 MHz extended squitter with a Mode S transponder or a universal access transceiver operating at 978 MHz. Typically, the extended squitter is used for aircraft that are flying at altitudes exceeding 18,000 feet, and these types serve most aircraft across the globe. Meanwhile, the universal access transceiver is most useful for pilots within general aviation, and it must be used at altitudes under 18,000 feet within locations such as the United States. The biggest advantage of ADS-B Out equipment is when operating in areas that are devoid of radar, as such equipment will allow for better flight paths and optimal spacing of planes. Depending on the type of aircraft and desired ADS-B Out equipment, costs can vary on a range of $4,000 to $200,000.
Having an extended squitter or universal access transceiver on an aircraft provides other benefits to flight operations as well, as it allows access to the Traffic Information Service-Broadcast, or TIS-B. With the TIS-B, pilots can be aware of the location of other aircraft in regards to their direction, altitudes, and speed vectors. With certain universal access transceivers, an aircraft may also access the Flight Information Services-Broadcast which provides weather data, temporary flight restrictions, and more.
As compared to the ADS-B out system, the ADS-B In system functions as the receiver part of the system. With an ADS-B In apparatus, an aircraft can obtain and translate the data from other aircrafts’ ADS-B Out equipment and present it on either an electronic flight bag or computer screen. To fully take advantage of an ADS-B In system, an aircraft must be fitted with an approved ADS-B Out system, as well as an ADS-B compatible display interface. With ADS-B In equipment, the pilot can also receive other pertinent flight information, such as weather and traffic data. While ADS-B In equipment does not have an FAA mandated installation for aircraft, studies have shown that those with such devices have a much less chance of having an accident.
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