An emerging technology, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), is now in developmental service along the East Coast, allowing general aviation pilots to receive free weather and traffic information on multifunction displays. ADS-B uses GPS technology to send the aircraft's real-time position once every second to other ADS-B-equipped aircraft.
The FAA issued a notam April 14 announcing that ADS-B services are available for pilots flying ADS-B-equipped aircraft between Florida and New Jersey. AOPA has been monitoring efforts to bring this technology to general aviation for nearly a decade. The technology improves air-to-air and air-to-ground surveillance where radar is limited by terrain and can help reduce close calls on the ground and in the air.
"Allowing pilots to voluntarily equip their general aviation aircraft with ADS-B is a positive step toward bringing modern technology into the National Airspace System (NAS)," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA senior director of advanced technology. "Some staff at the FAA would eventually like to use ADS-B in place of radar, but the big benefit to general aviation is the free weather and traffic." ( See an 8.5-minute video on ADS-B.)
If an aircraft has the proper display, the ADS-B datalink can deliver Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B) to the cockpit. FIS-B allows pilots to receive free, real-time textual aviation routine weather reports (METARs), special aviation reports (SPECIs), terminal area forecasts (TAFs), and graphical Nexrad precipitation maps.
The equipment required to use ADS-B is similar in price to purchasing independent traffic and weather datalinks, but prices are expected to drop as more manufacturers start to produce the equipment, making the switch to ADS-B feasible for more pilots, according to Kenagy. A big difference is that there are no monthly subscription fees. According to member surveys, affordable weather datalink is highly desired.
Pilots can check the status of ADS-B, TIS-B, and FIS-B services and developments through an FAA-managed Web site.
May 3, 2005