What is ADS-B in Aviation?

what is ads-b in aviation

Due to the recent popularity of the ADS-B receiver, I hear many student pilots talking about getting a portable ADS-B device.

However, I am certain many student pilots, even private pilots are unaware of the definite use of portable ADS-B devices. Indeed a portable ADS-B receiver will make iPad flying more fun.

I will explain in detail in this post what a portable ADS-B does and why ADS-B out has become a requirement in the recent years.

ADS-B receiver and ADS-B in and out may sound confusing for many.

Pilots from the USA might be familiar with these terms now.

But how about the student pilots from other continents?

I know most student pilots are yet to learn a lot about this topic—especially where this next-generation air traffic management technology is not available.

What is ADS-B in aviation?

ADS-B means Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast. It is a new generation of technology to replace radars shortly.

Radar is an aid for Air Traffic Controllers to see the location of aircraft as well as aircraft identification.

That’s how air traffic controllers provide pilots guidance:

  • For maintaining a specific altitude;
  • And a course to avoid collision with other aircraft.

Nevertheless, there have been several devastating air crashes due to air traffic collision. Crashing with another aircraft on the surface is not as devastating but can become costly for the aircraft operator.

Thus ADS-B can play a better role in preventing accidents in a congested airspace.

Hence, in the future, ADS-B may replace the radar detection system entirely. There is no flaw in the radar detection system. This system has been in use for decades.

However, ADS-B can provide information much more accurately than a radar.

Flying in a radar-based airspace, the pilot has to rely on the air traffic controllers and communicate continuously to avoid any collision.

So how is ADS-B any different from radar-based system?

A pilot today has to depend entirely on what the air traffic controller sees in their radar detection system to avoid collision.

But using:

  • ADS-B compliant avionics;
  • A display onboard the aircraft such as a tablet;
  • A portable ADS-B receiver,

a pilot will be able to see what an air traffic controller is seeing. Knowing what is ahead of the airplane route, a pilot can make better decision in IFR or MVFR flying conditions.

Therefore a pilot flying an airplane equipped with ADS-B equipments can deviate long before going to a collision course.

ADS-B uses satellites to define the location of an aircraft. Thus the GPS and satellites aids the ADS-B display a more accurate position of an airplane.

For ADS-B technology to work precisely, both aircraft and ground controllers have to be equipped with ADS-B in and out.

Student pilots that haven’t heard much about ADS-B are unaware of ADS-b in and ADS-B out.

What are the differences between ADS-b in and ADS-B out?

ADS-B in works as the ADS-B receiver. Portable ADS-B receivers are ADS-B in devices.

So what is ADS-B out?

I will get to that, but let’s understand ADS-B in first.

ADS-B in or portable ADS-B devices enable airplanes to receive real-time weather data and relevant flight information of other aircraft in the vicinity.

However, merely having an ADS-B in or portable ADS-B receiver does not enable the pilot to transmit their location to the ground controller.

Likewise, the airplane in your vicinity will be unaware of your location.

The job of an ADS-B receiver is to receive information on aircraft position and weather data.

But to see all these data, a pilot requires an ADS-B compliant display. An iPad combined with a portable ADS-B receiver to display all the information is very convenient for student pilots.

Having an ADS-B receiver as a pilot will increase your situational awareness.

But if you don’t have ADS-B out in your airplane, you cannot enter a ADS-B rule airspace.

From January, 2020 Federal Aviation Administration Regulation requires every aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B out to fly into Class A, B, C airspace.

What exactly ADS-B out do?

ADS-B out transmit information about the location of the equipped aircraft to air traffic controllers as well as to other aircraft.

Having and ADS-B out in the aircraft allows the satellite to locate the airplane more accurately than a radar.

So the air traffic controller will have more accurate information of your ADS-B out equipped airplane’s:

  • Location;
  • Altitude;
  • Speed of the aircraft;
  • Identification.

Not just the air traffic controllers, any other airplane in the vicinity with ADS-B receiver, can see the exact information on an ADS-B in compliant display such as the iPad.

  • An airplane equipped with ADS-B in and out can receive Data of other planes within a radius of 15 nautical miles and altitude of 3500 feet.

To equip an airplane with ADS-B out means the aircraft either needs:

  • A Mode S transponder;
  • Or Universal access transceiver.

Generally to operate an airplane in the ADS-B rule airspace, the airplane needs:

  • Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS);
  • Upgraded Transponders;
  • Capability to input flight Id;
  • Upgrading the necessary software and hardware.

Do student pilots need ADS-B receiver for iPad flying?

Now that I already gave you a general idea of what ADS-B is, you can decide do you need an ADS-B or not.

But as a pilot myself, I think having a portable ADS-B receiver is excellent for flying.

Using the portable ADS-B receiver and get access to more information as a student pilot will help you.

Even if your aircraft is not equipped with ADS-B out, you can still see information on weather changes or how is the weather en route.

Like I said, indeed, having a portable ADS-Receiver will increase a pilot’s situational awareness.

Having great situational awareness and getting used to with information available to you will help you become a better pilot.

Regardless of your aircraft has ADS-B out or not, you can see the benefits of using a portable ADS-B device once you start using it.

And once you get to fly an aircraft equipped with ADS-B in and ADS-B out, you will be much more comfortable using this next generation air transportation system.

Nevertheless, having a portable ADS-B receiver is not required by law to have in an airplane.

On the contrary, FAA regulations don’t allow aircraft not equipped with ADS-B out to enter ADS-B rule airspace.

Thus if you as a pilot expect to fly in ADS-B rule airspace, then having a portable ADS-B receive and an iPad is not going to help you.

But as the use of ADS-B is rising every day, soon expect to see ADS-B out components installed in all airplanes.

And as a student pilot flying an airplane with ADS-B out, and your ADS-B portable receiver with an iPad will enable you to have a new experience in flying.

What are the benefits of using ADS-B in modern-day Aviation?

As the airspace and airports are getting more and more congested, ADS-B will reduce the risk of air traffic collision by giving a more accurate location information.

As a result, the flights are becoming safer than ever before, and the airline can operate their flights efficiently.

ADS-B ground equipments are cheaper, and installing them is more susceptible than installing a radar.

So a wide area coverage is possible for ADS-B quickly.

How having ADS-B equipped aircraft ensures safety?

An aircraft equipped with ADS-B in and ADS-B out improves the situational awareness of a pilot.

  • The pilot will be able to see the other traffic within 15 nautical miles radius of his/her aircraft;
  • The pilot can read the airspeed of the other the aircraft as well as it’s altitude;
  • The pilot will get a heads up on the weather ahead and what to expect;
  • Users of ADS-B will receive updates on Temporary flight restrictions to runway closures.
  • ADS-B equipped aircraft has a better VFR range coverage;
  • During an emergency the ADS-B enables the search and rescue to locate the aircraft more accurately;
  • Visual separation in all weather conditions for example in MVR conditions;
  • Real-time cockpit weather and airspace display.

How has ADS-B contribute to the efficiency of operating aircraft?

ADS-B enables air traffic controllers to maintain a better flow of traffic.

By having accurate information of the aircraft position, it is easier for air traffic controllers to maintain:

  • Traffic separation;
  • Reduced separation on final approach;
  • Improved air traffic control service in congested airspaces.
  • Surface operations in lower visibility conditions.

Due to all these factors, airlines relying on ADS-B technology in their aircraft is seeing a noticeable reduction in fuel burn and holding times.

How has the ADS-B out rule affected the aircraft operators?

Like I mentioned, aircraft using ADS-B out in their plane will have more benefits than loss.

But airplane not equipped with ADS-B out avionics will be denied access from entering ADS-B rule airspace.

As more and more air traffic controllers and aircraft are complying with ADS-B in and ADS-B out rules, you can say that aircraft without ADS-B equipment will be considered not airworthy of flying soon.

At least an aircraft must have an S mode transponder to operate so that the air traffic controller can see information about your flight.

Without an S mode transponder, your aircraft can not enter the airspace as you will not transmit adequate information to avoid collision inside the airspace.

As the air traffic controllers in an ADS-B rule maintain a smooth flow of flights in a congested area, depending on the information of flights using ADS-B display and receiver.

Entering an ADS-B rule airspace with no ADS-B out equipment in the airplane, may hamper the smooth flow of traffic in the area. Thus the air traffic controller will be unable to get accurate flight information on your aircraft.

So if you, as a student pilot, want to have an ADS-B receiver, that is not a bad idea. It is a small investment you can make to make your flight more entertaining as well as develop situational awareness.

But it is not going to support you entering an ADS-B rule airspace.

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