Business & GA, Commercial, Military

Editor’s Note: ADS-B and EFBs

By Charlotte Adams | September 1, 2006
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This month’s issue of Avionics Magazine reports on a range of commercial, business and military aviation topics — from area navigation (RNAV) and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) to electronic flight bag (EFB) and helmet mounted display technologies. Two of these technologies are coming together, as UPS, a leading air transport advocate of ADS-B in the United States, adopts Boeing/Astronautics Class 3 flight bags to display ADS-B-enabled applications on its B757/767s and 747-400Fs. The cargo carrier expects to achieve major operating efficiencies, fuel savings and noise reductions at its Louisville, Ky., hub. 

ADS-B has taken a high profile in the United States since its public launch by FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in May. She appeared at the Farnborough Air Show in July, reiterating that the technology will be the "backbone" of the U.S. Next-Generation Air Transport System (NGATS). While in the UK, she also signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Commission to enhance cooperation in ATS activity between NGATS and its European equivalent, SESAR (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research) program. So the steps are being taken to ensure cross-Atlantic standardization in this area. ADS-B is coming to be recognized in the United States, Europe, Asia and elsewhere as a cornerstone in global air traffic management.

Europe and the United States have been moving ahead with ADS-B.

Although Europe has not mandated ADS-B-Out, as the United States plans to do, a Mode S ELS/EHS (elementary/enhanced surveillance) requirement kicks in for Western Europe (areas such as France, Germany and the UK) on March 31, 2007. This entails installing much of the plumbing needed to support ADS-B-Out. About 40 percent of aircraft in Europe had been equipped with ADS-B Mode S extended squitter capability as of January 2006, and about half of them were broadcasting position at that time, according to Eurocontrol.

While Farnborough was getting under way, Nav Canada announced that it, too, was taking the first step toward satellite-based air traffic control. The air navigation service provider (ANSP) plans to implement ADS-B surveillance in Hudson Bay airspace, where there is no radar coverage. It predicts that customers will save more than $200 million in fuel costs over a period of 15 years through more efficient flight routes.


At Farnborough Blakey was flanked by representatives of UPS and ACSS, the L-3 Communications/Thales company whose SafeRoute ADS-B software will be displayed on the carrier’s EFBs. UPS plans to employ the software in new RNAV procedures that it hopes will improve throughput at its Louisville hub. The company has submitted the first four out of up to 16 continuous descent arrival (CDA) procedures at Louisville to FAA for operational approval by the fall of 2006. Capt. Karen Lee, UPS director of flight operations, predicts big benefits when ADS-B is implemented. "We’re looking at in the neighborhood of 1 million gallons a year in jet fuel savings if we could implement CDAs across the whole inbound operation [at Louisville] at night," she said at Farnborough.

The electronic flight bag is a flexible tool, available in gradations of cost and performance. UPS is investing in high-end systems as a cost-effective approach to retrofitting advanced capabilities–not just ADS-B–on legacy aircraft. Athough the carrier is adding a small display in the pilot’s forward field of view for critical information such as speed commands, it will save money, compared to a full cockpit upgrade. "We could spend a lot of money to get the FMS [flight management system] and primary displays updated," says Capt. Bob Hilb, UPS’ advanced flight systems manager. "But we came up with having all the ADS-B information on the EFB, using it as a situational awareness tool. It’s a lot less expensive." 

Other carriers are entering the EFB arena with less expensive and capable Class 2 gear to allow electronic documents, charts and video displays. In the future–who knows?–ADS-B surface traffic awareness applications may make their way onto Class 2s. However, FAA will need to make that call.

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