US aviation authority greenlights satellite-based air traffic control system

Satellite tracking systems deployed to replace the current radar-based approach

As one of the massive flying seasons gets underway the US government yesterday took a step further in radically changing the way aircraft are tracked and moved around. Specifically the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave the green light to deploy satellite tracking systems across the US, replacing the current radar-based approach.

The new, sometimes controversial system would let air traffic controllers track aircraft using a satellite network using a system known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B), which is ten times more accurate than today's radar technology. ADS-B is part of the FAA's wide-reaching plan known as NextGen to revamp every component of the flight control system meet future demands and avoid gridlock in the sky.

ADS-B promises a ten-fold increase in the accuracy of satellite signals that will let air traffic controllers reduce separation standards between aircraft, significantly increasing the number of aircraft that can be safely managed in America's skies, the FAA said. The agency said when properly equipped with ADS-B, both pilots and controllers will, for the first time, see the same real-time displays of air traffic, improving safety.

Air traffic is projected to grow from 740 million passengers last year to one billion in 2015, and double today's levels by 2025, the FAA said.

The FAA in October 2007 proposed all aircraft flying in the nation's busiest airspace have to have satellite-based avionics by 2020. An executive order signed by US President Bush on November 18 accelerated the implementation of NextGen systems.

As part of this latest announcement the FCC turned up ADS-B in Florida by commissioning 11 ground stations in the state. With the ADS-B pilots also receive free, real-time weather updates from the National Weather Service, as well as critical flight information such as temporary flight restrictions and special-use airspace. system that allows aircraft to be tracked by satellite rather than radar.

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