Inmarsat hails FAA move to opt for near-term ADS-C surveillance

Enhanced Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) has been selected by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the near-term technology of choice for aircraft surveillance in oceanic airspace.

The decision by the FAA, which regulates the largest aviation market in the world, was confirmed in a recent report published by a US government watchdog which outlined the results of an in-depth analysis by the FAA of the cost and benefits of both ADS-C and emerging space-based ADS-B technologies.

The United States Government and Accountability Office (GAO) report confirmed that the FAA has committed to use enhanced Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) technology to achieve reduced distances between aircraft, called minimum separation standards, in US oceanic airspace as part of its commitment to implement new international standards by 2022.

Inmarsat said the report FAA’s Analysis of Costs and Benefits Drove Its Plans to Improve Surveillance in U.S. Oceanic Airspace concluded that the FAA determined that “the costs of using space-based ADS-B in US oceanic airspace outweigh the efficiency benefits by 6 to 1 and noted that operational challenges to using space-based ADS-B to manage air traffic in US oceanic airspace have not yet been resolved”.

It pointed to the report which states that the “FAA decided to proceed with enhanced ADS-C in the near term because the efficiency benefits to airspace users exceeded the costs of more frequent location reporting and air traffic control system upgrades by 2 to 1.

John Broughton, Inmarsat Aviation’s senior vice president of aircraft operations and safety, said: “We hail these important findings from the GAO. This independent report recommends ADS-C technology based on a proven record of safety and affordability, and reveals space-based ADS-B as a very expensive solution looking for a problem.

“ADS-C, supported by Inmarsat’s Classic Aero and now SB-S services, has been the cornerstone of oceanic aviation safety for more than two decades. This report reiterates the significant value of those solutions for aircraft operations and safety, and underscores our continuous innovation and ability to deliver value to our customers.”

The FAA said it plans to continue studying potential uses for space based ADS-B in US airspace to determine if benefits can outweigh the costs.

In response to the report, Aireon, the US developer of the world’s first space-based global air traffic surveillance system using ADS-B technology, said the Government Accountability Office (GAO) produced its report based on input received over the last two years and the facts available at the time the study was conducted.

“In the past year, substantial developments to both the regulatory standards, implementation and recognition of multiple operational, safety and cost avoidance benefit metrics have been made through extensive collaborative input from the US airlines, A4A, NATCA, ALPA and the FAA,” it said, adding, “in light of these advancements, the FAA’s position toward space-based ADS-B technology has changed considerably and the FAA is exploring an accelerated path to implementation of space-based ADS-B in its oceanic airspace and the National Airspace System.”

Aireon added that the FAA is closely committed to using space-based ADS-B technology to create a safer airspace for the flying public.