It looks like APRS in the sky. It appears that if we can find the frequency
we could track them ourselves. If had a flight to catch you might be able
to tell if it is on time.
Craig, have you had any experience with this?
Tracking system to better pinpoint planes' locations
Posted 5/2/2006 10:46 PM ET
By Alan Levin, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - The government is endorsing a new concept for the future of
guiding planes that will eventually replace radar in tracking jets over the
Federal Aviation Administration boss Marion Blakey said Tuesday that the new
system will improve safety and save billions of dollars for the government
and airlines by streamlining how aircraft operate.
Known as ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast), the system
works by providing vastly improved information about where a plane is
located and where it is heading. It also allows aircraft to receive far more
detailed reports from the ground on weather and the location of other
Blakey said the technology is "the future of air traffic control." The FAA's
Vincent Capezzuto, who manages the system, said it will revolutionize flying
in the same way that the Internet changed computing.
Ever since the 1950s, controllers have guided aircraft using radars, which
sweep the skies with radio beams that track metal objects. But because radar
is imprecise, controllers must keep planes miles apart to ensure they do not
collide. Only controllers on the ground have access to radar, so pilots
don't always know the location of other planes.
Under ADS-B, planes use global positioning satellites to determine their
exact position and then broadcast once a second where they are. Ground
stations costing a small fraction of a radar can receive the radio blips and
tell controllers the locations of planes. The same information can easily be
transmitted to all the aircraft in the sky so pilots can follow other
The FAA has been testing ADS-B for years, but Tuesday's announcement was the
first time the agency has said it intends to make it the backbone of the air
traffic system. ADS-B has allowed air traffic controllers in Alaska to
follow planes that were hundreds of miles from the nearest radar. Australia
is installing it to track aircraft over stretches of the country's
Blakey said the agency intends to place the system in a few spots around the
country by 2010. That initial phase will cost the FAA and airlines $600
million but will save them $1.3 billion, she said. The new system will cover
all areas currently served by radar by 2014.
Cargo hauler UPS has equipped 107 of its jets with ADS-B and uses it to
speed flights into and out of its Louisville hub, Director of Operations
Karen Lee said. A recent experiment showed the airline could save $2 million
a year in fuel simply by using the system to take more efficient routes to
land in Louisville.
ADS-B has been endorsed by airlines and pilot groups, but numerous details
need to be worked out. Airlines, for example, have been cautious about the
high price tag they must pay. In addition, the FAA is still working out an
adequate backup system for ADS-B.