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ADS-B privacy now available

FAA launches Privacy ICAO Address program

The FAA’s Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program, announced in early November, quietly went live Thursday, December 19. PIA allows aircraft operators to increase operational privacy by requesting an alternate, temporary ICAO aircraft address that is not associated with the aircraft owner in the Civil Aviation Registry.

The FAA is allowing operators to sign up for its Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program, which assigns a temporary ICAO aircraft address not linked to the aircraft owner. In 2020 the FAA will transition the program to private providers. Photo by David Tulis.

It allows U.S.-registered aircraft equipped with 1090 MHz Extended Squitter (Mode S transponder) ADS-B Out technology, using a third-party call sign, and flying in U.S. domestic airspace to opt out of real-time public ADS-B flight tracking. In this first phase the FAA will operate and maintain the service; during 2020 it will be transitioned to third-party service provider(s) who will assume operational responsibility.

Operators can register for PIA through the FAA’s website, built on top of the previous ADS-B rebate website. To participate, the aircraft must have an alternate flight identification issued by a third-party service provider. These are available from commercial providers that have security agreements with the FAA. The website is one of the larger providers with its Dot Com (DCM) call sign, currently available only for jet and turboprop aircraft.

In addition, each PIA applicant must demonstrate that their transponder is performing correctly, before and after the FAA issues a PIA, by obtaining and submitting reports from the FAA’s Public ADS-B Performance Monitor. These tests are required to safeguard the system from incorrect PIA installations, according to the FAA’s PIA User Guide

The National Business Aviation Association was a lead proponent for PIA, and NBAA has published helpful guidance online

AOPA has long supported a privacy solution for 1090ES ADS-B and has been actively involved with the FAA, NBAA, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and others to reach this solution. “Privacy is a key issue for general aviation pilots and, as nearly 85 percent of aircraft owners are equipping with 1090-MHz ADS-B systems, it is important this effort move forward,” said Rune Duke, senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security. “Work must also continue on a long-term privacy solution for ADS-B and operator data.”

The PIA program is limited to domestic operations because other ICAO member states do not currently offer this capability, and aircraft equipped with 978 MHz Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) ADS-B avionics, including dual 1090/UAT-equipped aircraft, cannot participate, although they are able to continue using the UAT’s anonymous mode if they are not on an IFR flight plan or receiving ATC services. Initial discussions are underway to expand the PIA program to include Canadian airspace.


Mike Collins
Mike Collins
Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.
Topics: ADS-B, Avionics

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