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US Air Traffic Management and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) Technology

  • 53 pages, published in December 2013
  • By Frost & Sullivan
  • Report Number: 1936256


Table of Contents

The Next-generation ATM Enabler

The world of air traffic management is about to undergo a significant change. The traditional radar based air traffic control environment will soon be replaced by a system based on automated position and flight data reporting by the aircraft themselves. The effort is global with variations by country and by technology. In the US, the construction of transmitter/receiver ground installations is about 65 percent complete. As the aircraft are equipped over the next several years, air traffic management and flight operations will need to change. This research looks at the timelines, costs and implications of these changes.

Key Findings

•Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) is a primary enabling technology.
•While the United States and European countries have been its main proponents, counties in Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Rest of World (ROW) have the greatest need due to limited air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure.
•The basic concept of ADS-B is the same globally, but the technologies used vary considerably by region and country.
•In oceanic situations, the concept requires international consensus and the technology’s use becomes more challenging since the required datalink must be capable of non-line-of-sight transmission.
•The cost of equipage for general aviation aircraft to ensure ADS-B reception and display may be the greatest limiting factor.
•The International Civil Aviation Organization will be pivotal in global implementation.
•Worldwide, primary air traffic radars are aging.
•There is still a tendency to view ATM solutions as only for consumption in North America and Europe, but countries outside of these regions are the potential growth areas.
•Many long-standing ATM systems are reaching the end of their lifecycles, which will change the market dynamics.

The Current ATC System

In air traffic, aircraft are kept at a safe distance from each other by Xof X systems:
•Visual flight rules (VFR)—Aircraft use see-and-avoid (SA) rules plus different eastbound and westbound altitudes to separate themselves from each other.
•Instrument flight rules (IFR)—Air traffic control (ATC) distances aircraft from each other using vectors and assigned altitudes to assure that they are separate.

IFR is generally used in higher altitudes (of X feet or greater), in bad weather, or during approaches to airports. VFR is generally used in good weather by general aviation aircraft and for some limited military operations.

The most basic tools of ATC are radar and radios:
• Primary surveillance radars (PSRs) reflect radio beams off of aircraft. The radar then computes distance and azimuth of the aircraft.
• Secondary surveillance radars (SSRs) use beacons onboard the aircraft to enhance the ability of the radar to see the aircraft. Additionally, SSRs receive aircraft identification information and altitude information from the aircraft’s beacon.

PSRs are expensive, ranging from $X million to $X million per system. SSRs costs only X to X% of what PSRs cost.
Air traffic controllers use the information provided by PSRs and SSRs, which is shown on their radar displays, to inform pilots on how to maneuver in direction or altitude, ensuring separation of aircraft.

The complexity of air traffic separation demands a certain level of predictability with minimal controller interaction. This has resulted in defined procedures:
•VFR traffic flies at odd thousands of feet above sea level plus X feet when eastbound and even thousands of feet above sea level plus X feet when westbound. However, aircraft can fly in any heading that they choose, except in special use airspace.
•IFR traffic is assigned odd thousands of feet eastbound and even thousands westbound. Additionally, aircraft must follow predefined routes, unless given special instructions from a controller.

The graphic on the right shows the low-altitude routes for IFR traffic in the San Francisco Bay area. Routes like these provide predictability for the controllers.

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