A linchpin in the FAA’s long-term plan to upgrade the nation’s air traffic control system is Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, or ADS-B, which provides data of unprecedented precision and timeliness on the whereabouts of aircraft in the air and on the ground. Plans call for the ADS-B system to replace the 60 year old, radar based traffic control system by 2013.
ADS-B is being deployed in a growing number of areas, including Juneau, Alaska; Louisville, KY; and Philadelphia. Because it employs GPS, ADS-B extends capabilities to new areas of coverage. ADS-B ground stations were deployed on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and, in November 2009. Service was turned on, making helicopters and other aircraft over the gulf visible to air traffic controllers for the first time.
The system makes for improved ”situational awareness” in the cockpit, too because pilots receive real-time data on aircraft that are close in proximity to their own planes. As of today, ADS-B is being used in Australia, Canada, China Sweden, the US and UAE. When ADS-B is fully implemented worldwide; there should be fewer near misses, less air traffic congestion and more on time arrivals.