FAA and Exelis complete NextGen ADS-B aircraft tracking system upgrades nationwide

WASHINGTON, 14 April 2014. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed the nationwide infrastructure upgrade enabling air traffic controllers to track aircraft with greater accuracy and reliability, while giving pilots more information in the cockpit.

The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) radio network, installed nationwide, supports a satellite-based surveillance system that tracks aircraft with the help of global positioning system, providing more accurate aircraft location information than the traditional radar system.

“This upgrade is an important step in laying the foundation for the NextGen system, which provides controllers a much more precise view of the airspace, gives pilots much more awareness and information, and as a result strengthens the safety and efficiency of our system,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This state-of-the-art satellite system is already providing controllers with visibility in places not previously covered by radar.”

ADS-B Compliant Avionics

ACSS, an L-3 Communications and Thales company in Phoenix, has “the only certified DO-260B (ADS-B Out compliant) Mode S transponders for airlines ahead of the ADS-B Out mandates, with hundreds of installs already completed on aircraft from JetBlue, U.S. Airways (American), and UPS,” according to a company official. The company has also infused SafeRoute ADS-B In capabilities on a lot of those aircraft. For more, visit http://www.acss.com/

NextGen initiatives being implemented by the FAA in collaboration with the aviation community are designed to ensure that the United States has the safest, most efficient airspace possible for decades to come, officials explain. In addition to ADS-B, NextGen improvements are delivering benefits that include more efficient air traffic procedures that save time and fuel and reduce emissions.

“The installation of this radio network clears the way for air traffic controllers to begin using ADS-B to separate equipped aircraft nationwide,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says. “It will also provide pilots flying aircraft equipped with the proper avionics with traffic information, weather data and other flight information.”

Of the 230 air traffic facilities across the country, 100 are currently using this system to separate traffic. It is expected to be connected and operating at all 230 facilities by 2019. All aircraft operating in controlled airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out avionics that broadcast the plane’s location, by Jan. 1, 2020.

With the upgraded surveillance and broadcast system and aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out transponders, aircraft positions on controller screens update almost continuously, compared to every 4.7 seconds or longer with radar.

ADS-B also enables more accurate tracking of airplanes and airport vehicles on runways and taxiways, increasing safety and efficiency. The new system improves surveillance capability in areas with geographic challenges like mountains or over water. Airplanes equipped with ADS-B In, not currently mandated, will give pilots information through cockpit displays about location in relation to other aircraft, bad weather and terrain, and temporary flight restrictions.

In addition to the operational benefits of ADS-B, each of the 634 ground stations installed by Exelis of McLean, Va., is substantially smaller than a radar installation, resulting in less impact to the environment and less cost to maintain, officials say.

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