Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast

Subject: Technology
Type: Descriptive Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1043
Topics: Automotive, Engineering, Innovation, Transportation

Automatic independent surveillance broadcast is a system of monitoring air traffic. It enables the accurate tracking of aircrafts by other pilots and air traffic controllers without the use of the conventional radar technology. It is a system where electronic equipment on the plane broadcasts the location of the plane through a digital data link. This data can be used to identify the aircrafts location and altitude. It involves the identification of an aircraft’s position using GPS and then transmitting this position at rapid intervals. Dedicated stations on the ground receive this information and transmit it to air traffic controllers and other pilots ( 2017).

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The FAA tested the ADS-B by fitting displays on planes that showed pilots their location and information such as other aircrafts, bad weather and terrain. ADS-B has significantly enhanced air traffic surveillance by providing greater accuracy precision and reliability. The system is automatic because it is always on and does not require an operator to input any data. It depends on accurate GNSS and GPS data about the aircrafts altitude, identity and velocity. It also provides surveillance data about an aircraft to authorities that might require the information. This information is similar to information obtained from RADAR. In addition, it broadcasts this information continuously to appropriate ground stations and other aircrafts (Thompson & Sinclair, 2008).

The shift from radar to ADS-B is an improvement in air traffic control. Although radar technology is safe, it has some few limitations. Signals from radar degrade with the increase in distance and cannot penetrate solid objects such as mountains. On the other hand, signals from ADS-B do not degrade with an increase in distance and can provide visibility around solid objects such as mountain. Signals from radar are transmitted every 4.7 seconds while those from ADS-B are transmitted every second and are more accurate. The reason for shifting from radar is that it has occasional problems with the identification of aircrafts and other objects such as rain or migratory birds. Furthermore, radars are large structures, which are expensive to implement and maintain compared to the smaller and inexpensive ADS-B. The FAA issued a rule that requires aircrafts operating in certain controlled airspace to be equipped with ADS-B by 2020. It also published an installation guide and standards for equipment that satisfy the requirements of an ADS-B rule (Baek et al. 2015).

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The benefit of this technology is that it has greatly improved the coverage area off air traffic surveillance. This has allowed more aircrafts to operate safely within the same air space. It has also improved emergency and rescue operations. It has improved the ability of traffic air control to provide navigational assistance to pilots even in cases where there is a loss of position. It has made it possible to track aircrafts with the use of available software ( 2017). They are also in a position to receive updates on issues such as flight restrictions and closed runways. It also improves visibility because air traffic controllers can monitor aircrafts equipped with these systems more accurately. It can also improve search and rescue operations because the system can transmit aircraft down information. The technology proves accurate positioning of aircrafts, which reduces the amount of time for clearances, holding and spacing.  This will reduce fuel consumption and air pollution (Thompson & Sinclair, 2008).

The system makes flying safer by improving the situational awareness of pilots, as they are able to see other aircrafts and have clear detail of the weather. The situational awareness provided by this system translated into improved safety with accident levels reducing by 47 percent. Because the system is more accurate and reliable, it is possible to reduce the mandatory separation between aircrafts and increasing the efficiency and capacity of the airspace. It can also enable aircrafts to fly more directly from one point to another therefore saving time and costs. The system also reduces accidents on the runway because pilots and controllers can see the exact location of an aircraft and the runway even at night or during bad weather ( 2017).

The high cost and the lack of direct benefits might deter some operators from adopting this system. The average cost to install this equipment is over $5,000 while the average value of small aircrafts, which make up a significant portion of aircrafts operating in the country, is less than $40,000. Therefore, the requirement to meet the mandate might be unreasonable to a large segment of operators especially because they do not derive any direct benefit from the equipment. There is also a security risk because ADS-B information in neither authenticated or encrypted. The data can be read by anybody and lacks authentication, which makes it essential to validate the information with primary radar. These issues might pose a challenge to the FAA in their goal to meet the mandate by 2020 (Strohmeier, Lenders & Martinovic, 2015).

The ADS-B is an improvement of the current radar technology. It offers additional benefits such as accuracy reliability and effectiveness. Adopting the system would significantly improve air traffic security by providing situational awareness to pilots. It would also increase the capacity and the effectiveness of the airspace by reducing the mandatory distance between aircrafts. The system is also less expensive compared to radar and can accurately identify aircrafts from other objects. The FAA has encouraged the uptake of the technology and has mandated adoption of the technology by 2020. However, the costs of equipping aircrafts with the system and the lack of direct benefits might hinder the authority goal of implementing the system. Despite these challenges, the authority has not changed its mandate on the adoption of the system because the benefits outweigh the costs.

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  1. Baek, J., Byon, Y. J., Hableel, E., & Al‐Qutayri, M. (2015). Making air traffic surveillance more reliable: a new authentication framework for automatic dependent surveillance‐broadcast (ADS‐B) based on online/offline identity‐based signature. Security and Communication Networks, 8(5), 740-750.
  2. NextGen – Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast. (2017).
  3. Strohmeier, M., Lenders, V., & Martinovic, I. (2015). On the security of the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast protocol. IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials, 17(2), 1066-1087.
  4. Thompson, S. D., & Sinclair, K. A. (2008). Automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast in the Gulf of Mexico. Lincoln Laboratory Journal, 17(2), 1-15.
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