4 FAQs Answered About ADS-B Tracking System in Aviation

As something crucial to know for aircraft owners, it has been mandated by the FAA that airplanes flying in airspaces that require a Mode C transponder now must have ADS-B Out installed by January 1, 2020. The ADS-B tracking system is an integral element of NextGen modernization of air traffic.  

The ADS-B Out flight technology transmits information about location, airspeed, and altitude derived via GPS from an equipped airplane to the ground stations as well as to other equipped airplanes in the vicinity. Using this information, air traffic controllers “see” participating airplanes in real time aiming to improve traffic management.  

ADS-B In, although not included in the mandate and needs additional equipment, lets participating airplanes to receive weather and traffic information from the ADS-B ground stations as well as nearby airplanes that broadcast their positions via ADS-B Out. Situational awareness can be improved by displaying this information in the cockpit.  

The ADS-B 2020 mandate has no influence on current transponder requirements, which means airplanes must continue carrying transponders even after getting equipped with ADS-B Out 

Unlike most safety-based rulemaking activities, the ADS-B Out mandate is based on the need to support Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) by the FAA. According to the FAA, the ADS-B Out mandate will not decrease or increase safety significantly but is essential to proceed with NextGen.  

Answers to Some FAQs About ADS-B Tracking System in Aviation 

1. Why is FAA shifting to ADS-B System, moving away from radar? 

ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) is an innovative technology improving efficiency and safety, and benefiting the airlines, airports, controllers, pilots, and the public directly. It is the base for NextGen by shifting from navigational aids and ground radar to precise tracking through satellite signals. 

  • ADS-B flight tracker system allows pilots to see, for the first time, what controllers can see – displays featuring other airplanes in the sky. With cockpit displays, pilots can also get informed about hazardous terrain and weather and receive important flight information like temporary flight restrictions.  
  • With controller and cockpit displays available with ADS-B aviation technology, runway incursion risk is reduced. The controller and cockpit displays provide the location of airplanes as well as equipped ground vehicles at airport surfaces, even during heavy rainfall and nighttime. The newly developed ADS-B applications will help pilots get alerts or indications of potential collisions.  
  • Greater coverage can also be obtained with ADS-B tracking system as it’s far easier to place ground stations than radar. Remote regions that do not have radar coverage, such as parts of Alaska and Gulf of Mexico, have surveillance now with ADS-B.    
  • The use of satellites rather than ground navigational aids lets airplanes fly more directly from one point to another, with reduction in emissions and fuel burn, and savings on money and time.  
  • Satellite signals offer increased reliability, accuracy, and integrity than radar. This would eventually allow controllers to decrease the minimum separation distance safely between airplanes and improve capacity in the skies.  

 2. What are the rules of ADS-B? 

In May 2010, the FAA published the Federal Regulation 14 CFR § 91.227 and 14 CFR § 91.225. According to the final rule, aircraft flying in airspace that’s defined in 91.225 should be equipped with an ADS-B system which consists of a certified position source with the ability to fulfill requirements defined in 91.227.  

 3. ADS-B offers vertical air speed, aircraft number, and altitude. Will it provide horizontal air speed also? 

ADS-B tracking system reports two types of altitudes – geometric and barometric. Geometric altitude is determined by Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) as the aircraft’s height above earth ellipsoid. Pressure or barometric altitude is known best by pilots – it’s the altitude shown on the aircraft’s altimeter. Both the altitudes are different; having both facilitates applications requiring either of them as a source of altitude. 

ADS-B system does not report horizontal or vertical airspeed. Rather, the system reports vertical and horizontal velocity relative to Earth. This velocity helps in air traffic control functions as well as assists ADS-B technology applications.  

 4. When should I equip? 

The mandate requires ADS-B Out installation by January 1, 2020. This ADS-B compliance is required to continue flying in designated airspace. In case you do not need to fly in ADS-B-designated airspaces, then you do not need to equip your aircraft with ADS-B Out 


This information may help you get answers to some of your questions about ADS-B tracking system for aircraft. Following the ADS-B 2020 mandate, get your aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out promptly, as without the system installed, you will not be able to fly in US airspace after January 1, 2020.  

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