Business & GA

CAA: ADS-B is Best ‘Electronic Conspicuity’ for General Aviation

By Staff Writer | August 18, 2017
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In December 2016, U.K.’s CAA approved the use of uAvionix’s Ping 1090 and Echo ATT-20B for its electronic conspicuity program. Now, the agency has confirmed 1090 MHz as its preferred surveillance system for GA aircraft. Photo: uAvionix

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), aviation regulator for the U.K., has announced a new policy associated with the use of ADS-B for the country’s general aviation (GA) community. ADS-B equipage is not mandatory for GA operators in the U.K., but the regulatory agency is working to develop what it calls an “integrated electronic surveillance solution” for GA aircraft.

According to an announcement posted to the CAA’s website, the agency has confirmed that ADS-B In/Out using the 1090 MHz surveillance spectrum is the “preferred national system to improve electronic conspicuity for GA, ideally used through transponders.” The CAA wants to increase the number of GA aircraft with electronic conspicuity.

The agency’s guidance on surveillance technologies used for GA aircraft defines electronic conspicuity as an umbrella term for enabling the transmission of aircraft positions to other airspace users that operate with “compatible equipment.”

A government industry iniatiive, the Conspicuity Working Group, composed of the CAA, NATS and the Airline Owners and Pilots Association, has also developed a developed a minimum technical specification for low power, lightweight, portable electronic conspicuity devices that operate using ADS-B. Carriage of an electronic conspicuity device is voluntary, although when carried, operators have to ensure the device meets a declaration of capability and conformance. It features the same type of 24-bit International Civil Aviation Organization address used by transponders.

The CAA provides all of the electronic conspicuity capability requirements on its aircraft ownership and maintenance page.

The agency has also launched a new survey for GA pilots flying in U.K. airspace in an effort to encourage ADS-B take up by the flying community. The survey seeks information on the types of devices already used by private pilots and the devices they would prefer to use.

Additionally, the CAA is launching several trials to assess the effectiveness of electronic conspicuity devices. These will include the following:

  • A trial at Dundee Airport (run by Highlands and Islands Airports) to investigate a low-cost system receiving Mode-S and ADS-B data to provide air traffic controllers with more information on aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace.
  • The transmission of weather data from the ground direct to a GA aircraft cockpit via 978MHz. This trial is being undertaken by equipment manufacturer uAvionix and aeronautical information service provider SkyDemon. In the long term, this system may also assist drones in safely integrating into the U.K.’s airspace.
  • Simultaneous transmissions from GA aircraft with Mode S and a conspicuity device (meeting the criteria in CAP1391). Volunteers from the GA communities are assisting with this trial.
  • A trial run by the Future Airspace Strategy VFR Implementation Strategy will be looking to provide real-time traffic data to GA airfields, enhancing the airfield’s situational awareness of aircraft in its vicinity.

“We are very keen to put electronic conspicuity systems into GA aircraft cockpits as soon as possible. But it’s important we also include the users’ requirements in our decision-making,” said Colin Chesterton, future systems coordinator for the CAA. “We have a real opportunity to put in place an affordable system which will increase the safety of GA pilots and give them some really useful features, such as live weather data, and also provide controllers with the data they need to do their jobs.”

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