ADS-B is on its way, and it promises to change the way you fly. While it’ll make our skies safer, it’s not always the easiest system to understand.


What is ADS-B?

ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, is a new technology that allows air traffic controllers to see traffic with more precision than ever before. Instead of relying on decades-old radar technology, ADS-B uses highly accurate GPS signals. As a result, ADS-B works where radar often doesn’t — even in remote areas or mountainous terrain. And because it can function at low altitudes and on the ground, it can also be used to monitor traffic on airport taxiways and runways. Air traffic controllers aren’t the only ones who will see the benefits of ADS-B, though. Aircraft with certain equipment can also receive ADS-B traffic and subscription-free weather information while in flight over the U.S.

How does ADS-B work?

Under the NextGen Air Transportation System and Single European Sky (SES), properly equipped aircraft will broadcast their identity, position, track, speed and other vital data via what’s called ADS-B “Out” technology. Air traffic control ground stations and ADS-B “In” equipped aircraft receive this information once every second. These ADS-B ground stations are broadcasting traffic information – and subscription-free weather in the U.S. – back up to properly equipped aircraft in the service area for display in the cockpit.

What are the benefits?

Air traffic controllers will be able to reduce congestion, noise, emission and fuel consumption through more efficient routing and resource management. Because the system has the ability to provide pilots access to detailed traffic information, ADS-B also represents a leap forward in pilot situational awareness and will greatly enhance the safety of all those in the air.

With optional ADS-B “In” equipment, properly equipped aircraft can also receive highly accurate traffic information directly from other aircraft and ADS-B signal corrections. In the U.S., they can also access graphical NEXRAD radar information, as well as METARs, TAFs and other subscription-free aviation weather information.


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