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FAA Greenlights Satellite-Based Air Traffic Control System 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-clouds-in-the-sky dept.
coondoggie writes "As one of the massive flying seasons gets underway the government today took a step further in radically changing the way aircraft are tracked and moved around the country. Specifically the FAA gave the green light to deploy satellite tracking systems nationwide, 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 to meet future demands and avoid gridlock in the sky."
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FAA Greenlights Satellite-Based Air Traffic Control System

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  • by Fuji Kitakyusho (847520) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:36PM (#25905743)
    What good does it do to reduce gridlock in the sky if you can't simultaneously reduce gridlock in airport security?
    • by Oswald (235719) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:39PM (#25905759)
      About as much good as it does to reduce airborne separation without pouring more runways. Everybody can get to their holding pattern 2 minutes sooner.
      • by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:55PM (#25905841)
        Exactly. The main problem the civil aviation in the USA has isn't a lack of airspace, but clogged airport aprons.

        Parick Smith, the salon.com airline captain columnist, has just written about it again.

        Nice comment [salon.com]about the usefulness of opening military corridors for civil aviation around thanksgiving:
        "It will have roughly the same effect as, say, organizing a group prayer or rubbing a plastic airplane for good luck."
        • by mccabem (44513)

          Any excuse for us to put even more [universetoday.com] satellites in the sky... And since having new satellites in the sky costs next to nothing, why not? Right?

          -Matt

          • by peragrin (659227)

            think about it this way. Ground based radar is limited by line of sight, and horizon issues. it is technically possible to fly below it.

            With a space based solution you always fly below it.

            • by Shotgun (30919)

              You need to read about how the ground based and satellite based radars work.

              These are not active systems. They do not send out a powerful pulse and measure the reflection. These systems depend on a 'transponder'. The 'radar' (they need to stop calling it that) sends out a moderately powered interrogation signal. The airplane carries a transponder, that replies with a number.

              When I fly VFR (visual flight rules), I set my transponder to respond with 1200. If my radio is broken, I set it to 7600. If I'm

        • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @12:18AM (#25906189) Homepage

          while i agree that the post 9/11 airport security measures and completely pointless and make flying an absolute nightmare, that does not negate the benefits of this new system.

          firstly, it's not the lack of "airspace" that this system is addressing. ADS-B provides more accurate/precise information to pilots in addition to having far more extensive coverage than radar. not only are they getting weather & air traffic information for improved situational awareness in the air, but this technology is also being used to help pilots navigate on the tarmac:

          With radar, pilots rely on air traffic controllers and a see-and-avoid strategy that literally entails looking out the window to avoid wandering in the way of--or colliding with--other aircraft on the runways. With ADS-B, pilots have a cockpit display, which looks like a full-color, topographical map on a computer screen, showing where they are, where everyone else is, and the ever-changing weather around them. "It's giving the pilot an extra set of eyes," says von Thaden, who is also a licensed pilot.

          ADS-B's ability to update in real-time is especially important on runways, with so many planes in such close proximity. "Things happen a lot faster on the surface," says Vincent Capezzuto, the FAA program manager for ADS-B. "There are aircraft speeding up to take off. There are aircraft that are landing and going really fast and decelerating and taking sharp turns onto these high-speed taxiways to get off the runway."
          [...]
          Additionally, by enabling more tightly spaced landings, and less time in holding patterns, ADS-B saves 40 to 70 gallons (150 to 265 liters) of fuel per landing. Mangeot estimates that the Continuous Descent Approach enabled by ADS-B, during which aircraft glide in with their engines at idle thrust, cut nitrous oxide emissions (a greenhouse gas) by about 34 percent as well as noise pollution by some 30 percent.

          in fact the worst plane accident in history (excluding the 9-11 attacks, which were deliberate terrorist acts) was the Tenerife airport disaster [wikipedia.org] (1977) which involved the collision of two 747s on the runway. since pilots rely so heavily on air traffic controllers to help them navigate the runway, a simple miscommunication due to a language barrier between the pilot and the tower caused one of the 747s to be parked directly in the path of another 747 preparing for take-off. and because looking out the window was the only other way for pilots to see their surroundings (and avoid collisions), the heavy fog covering the airport that day obscured the two planes from each other until it was too late. this accident could easily have been prevented if ADS-B had been in place, since the pilots in both planes would have been able to clearly see their relative position to each other and to the layout of the runway system.

          lastly, i want to point out the crash of Avianca Flight 52 [wikipedia.org] in 1990. this incident occurred during foggy conditions as well, but this time the root cause of the accident was due to the 707 being put in a holding pattern for over an hour until they literally ran out of fuel and crashed. the 707 was actually given priority landing right before they ran out of fuel, however due to bad wind shear info given by the flight controllers the plane dropped below the glideslope, resulting a missed approach. however, they didn't have enough fuel for a second approach. the engines flamed out; the plane lost power; and then it crashed.

          accurate weather info, more tightly spaced landings, less time in holding patterns, and less fuel expended for landings would all improve the safety and efficacy of commercial air travel. perhaps if the planes on the ground that night had been able to taxi themselves using the ADS-B display, the decreased workload on the tower controllers would have allowed them to land more planes in a shorter amount of time--maybe ev

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by mysidia (191772)

            Yet another thing to break when an unexpected solar flare or two shorts out some satellites at high altitude.

    • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:39PM (#25905765)

      There's more to the aviation world than large airliners. ADS-B is a positive step in a lot of other ways.

      • by daBass (56811)

        You mean like private pilots having to spend great amounts of money to upgrade their aircraft?

        I like the tech, but I just don't see the need or the extra safety it is supposed to provide us. Flying is expensive enough as it is.

        • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:52PM (#25906081)

          The nature of ADS-B is such that there is the potential for ADS-B equipment to be considerably cheaper than traditional transponders. It remains to be seen whether this will be borne out, and I'm pessimistic about it, but the potential is there.

          In any case, I never denied downsides, but there are upsides as well. As a glider pilot, I'm excited because ADS-B will probably be considerably more practical to install in an aircraft with a battery-driven electrical system.

          • by davolfman (1245316) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @12:58AM (#25906357)
            We're talking the aviation market. There's a snowballs chance in hell of anyone charging a reasonable price for these.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              There's a small chance, if you are willing to accept a reasonable aviation price instead of a price that any outside observer would think to be reasonable. MITRE has developed a reference design for an ADS-B unit which runs off a few AA batteries and could conceivably be produced for just a few hundred dollars if the FAA can be convinced to allow less rigorous certification standards for this sort of application. Whether they can be made to see the light remains to be seen, but it's at least possible even i

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by azery (865903)
                cheaper equipment: it would surprise me as you always need a mode S transponder for ADS-B. FAA relaxing on standards: if ADS-B is the sole means of surveillance, they will require even more stringent testing and performance. In the past, if your transponder was not perfect, they had primary radar to see you. In the future, with only ADS-B, transmitting e.g. a wrong position is much more dangerous.
              • by sycodon (149926)

                FAA see the light?

                They are as blind to common sense as their radar systems are.

              • by jambox (1015589)
                An aircraft navigation system that runs on AA batteries? Can't see any problems there then.
                • I can only imagine you're being sarcastic, but I cannot conceive of why. Could you elaborate, please?

                  Completely unrelated (yeah, right), why is it that 90% of people on Slashdot act as thought their position was the obvious and right and every other position is complete crap, and therefore they have no need to put forth any effort or even sense when posting?

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            While in theory it could be cheaper, I see one practical problem - demand.

            When this goes live there will probably be some mandate to install it by a certain date. That means thousands to millions of these things will be flying off the shelves. If the leading avionics manufacturers want to charge for 300% profits are you going to stop flying to avoid buying one?

            • I imagine that it will start out like transponders are now, optional unless you're flying into class A/B/C airspace, in which case I'll simply wait until the initial surge goes down and buy at leisure, since I never fly in those areas. However you raise a good point and many or most pilots won't be able to follow that strategy.

    • by Kagura (843695)
      What I want to know is what happens when a technologically savvy government or organization decides to start spoofing aircraft in the air or modifying/jamming actual airplanes' signals. There will always be a radar backup, however, as long as we don't become dependent on the greater accuracy that these satellites provide us.
      • by grimw (1253370)
        Actually, you should look up "dependent". You say we it's okay to use it, but we shouldn't be dependent on it. Well, then why use it at all? Dependent just means we require its use, and if we want more accuracy, we do require its use. I'm preeeeeeettty sure we will still know how to use and will still have radar in case there are problems. You know, that same government you mention could very well do the same thing with our existing radar network. So, what's the difference? Also, with satellites, we
      • by timeOday (582209)

        What I want to know is what happens when a technologically savvy government or organization decides to start spoofing aircraft in the air or modifying/jamming actual airplanes' signals.

        Probably the same that happens when/if today's lower-tech transponders are spoofed.

  • I'm surprised I didn't see this tag yet hehehe...

  • It seems reasonable that the government could rationalize subsidizing the costs of the "satellite-based avionics" required due to the fuel and time savings gained from decreased congestion. That would get rid of that controversy [aopa.org].

    Perhaps a more fiscally responsible approach would be front the money for the avionics switch, but levy a tax (proportional only to the actual increased efficiency) on the airports/major-carriers/other-major-beneficiaries.
  • by tylerni7 (944579) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:51PM (#25905817) Homepage
    ADS-B [wikipedia.org] is basically having each plane send it's own GPS signal to the aircraft controllers.

    Because of the security risks involved with having each plane report their own position, rather than aircraft control finding all the positions for planes, I highly doubt that old fashioned radar is going anywhere soon.

    Also, while this will be more accurate in areas where radar doesn't reach, I don't remember hearing about many planes crashing in midair too often....
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I highly doubt that old fashioned radar is going anywhere soon.

      Not just that, but wouldn't it make more sense to run both systems concurrently for added redundancy and such?
      • by bencoder (1197139) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:24PM (#25905971)
        It does make sense and it is what happens currently... the SSR(secondary surveillance radar) data overlays the primary radar return data, so if the aircraft stops squawking it's still visible as a dot or slash on the display. I'd expect the same would happen with ADS-B.
      • by tylerni7 (944579)
        Right, I would think that they will keep the old system too.
        The point is if we still keep the old system, which never had any problems, and have this new system over it, we're not really seeing any change it's just the same old thing.
    • by quanticle (843097)

      As far as the first concern goes, ADS-B isn't really that much of a departure from the current scheme of things. Currently air traffic controllers usually rely on each plane having a transponder that broadcasts its ID. This transmission is then picked up by the radar systems and the plane's altitude/position is then plotted on the ATC's scope. ADS-B, as I understand it, allows the plane to append its GPS position to its transponder broadcast, allowing the air traffic system to get a more accurate read on

      • ADS-B uses different hardware on board the aircraft and I believe most installations make it difficult to switch off. Its a bit like tail lights in a car. In theory a crook could pull the fuse out but in practice that might create more problems than it solves.
    • Well... this isn't just GPS. Proper data encryption will allow the planes to fly with the same level of security they had with Radar tech.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by digitalchinky (650880)

        Pretty much any scope goat with an oscilloscope handy can read out transponder codes in their head after a few days practise, including the military IFF stuff. I'm not sure what you mean regarding security in Radar tech? Radar is absolutely one very complex system, but secure it is not. You can buy gear off the shelf (it's expensive) to build your own electronic warfare station right at home :-)

        While the actual transmission from each aircraft might be encrypted, you can bet your backside that all of it will

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          I've always found the military interesting. On the one hand they'll have the latest and greatest gear that can be found anywhere. On the other hand they'll land it using TACAN. :)

          They have a lot of legacy hardware. I was surprised how little guided ordnance was dropped in the first gulf war. Then I was even more surprised to find out that most weapon systems are integrated with the launching platform - a missile that works on an F14 won't necessarily work on an F15 and vice-versa.

          I suspect that half the

          • by peragrin (659227) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @09:20AM (#25908137)

            The military is addressing that very issue. very slowly but they are. I do believe the missiles for the f-22 and the f-35 use the same interface. they are doing this from a logistics point, as each plane literally needs it own equipment for testing and in the field having to lug 12 different interfaces around has proven to be a pain.

            Think of it less in terms of contracts and more like the auto industry. each brand of car(ford, gm, toyota, honda, etc) and each car in their respective lineups would use different engine codes in their computers, and in some cases different plug interfaces for the information.

            to get a ford f-150 engine computer interface you had to spend several hundred if not thousands of dollars. and again for every different unit. Manufactories think such things needed to be kept secret. yet years of pressure has finally brought at least some standardization in that area allowing less expensive diagnostic units.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EricTheMad (603880)

      Because of the security risks involved with having each plane report their own position, rather than aircraft control finding all the positions for planes, I highly doubt that old fashioned radar is going anywhere soon.

      It's no more of a security risk than the current system which relies on each plane to report it's own position with a transponder.

      • The transponder doesn't report position (well, save for altitude), it merely replies to the radar's interrogation to return a code. Conveniently, it also makes radar more functional at longer distance, but range and bearing are still determined by timing and angle of the antenna, respectively.

      • The transponder only reports the aircraft pressure altitude and the 4 digit Octal "squawk code" assigned by air tragic... the position of the transponder is calculated by the SSR based upon the time difference between the interrogation pulse and the response and the angle at which the radar was pointing.
        The primary advantage "secondary" RADAR gives is an active response which removes the need for the operator to have to pick out the skin paint response from the clutter and other crud on the raw display...
    • Sounds a little like systems in use by the Australian FAA - sort of, they route all the voice and a few other cool odds and ends via satellite. Things like RADAR PPI & SSR - which is the similarity, bonus points for having aircraft transmit the stuff direct instead. A relatively modest :-) home enthusiast could drop 50 or 60 thousand on kit to watch the entire country. Should be quite trivial to plot it all in near real time over the net. (It'd be the kind of thing I'd do anyway, then get my arse kicked

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      As others have pointed out, this is already the status quo.

      What is your threat model? Terrorists hijack 747 to crash it into a barn near Topeka?

      A reasonable air defense network isn't going to try to have 100% coverage of the country.

      This system is supposedly very accurate. That means that you could create a data feed from the FAA to NORAD with realtime positioning on all legitimate air traffic. Then NORAD could get a data-feed from military radar. Anything that isn't civilian gets investigated. Anythin

  • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:52PM (#25905825)

    The FAA has been working on this for 30 years. I was involved in studying it back in the 1970's.

    They have also been working on digital ground-air-ground communications since 1948 (I once had some reports on the subject that go back that far). AFAIK, they still don't have the digital ground-air-ground.

    At one time the FAA radars were the last users of vacuum tubes, and the replacement parts were coming from factories that bought the original manufacturers equipment and were making it in who-knows-where. They didn't even replace the original manufacturer trademarks on the tubes. Quality control? Forget it.

    Technology advances at the FAA very slooooowly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796)

      Technology advances at the FAA very slooooowly.

      As they should be. Twitter breaks for 24 hours because of an update to their code, no big deal. Radar goes out for 15+ seconds? HUGE DEAL.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        exactly. I'd be interested in finding out what kind of redundancy they have in the system; Satellites become disabled in one way or another too frequently.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:56PM (#25905849)

    Okay, it might decrease the already low probability of midair accidents, but the air traffic control system has bigger problems. Firstly, that they are understaffed and overworked. It's the highest stress job in the civilian sector last I looked and these people are pulling 10 and 12 hour shifts every week. They're tired, and they make mistakes. They're also an aging group -- the certification requirements are high, and very, very few people who are under the age of 30 work these jobs. Many of them are set to retire in just a few more years which will stress an already fragile system.

    Second, nobody's been investing in airport infrastructure. The planes are getting bigger but the runways aren't and we're not adding new runways either. Part of it is politics but a lot of it is economic.

    Third, communications -- they're still using one-way VHF. Two people talk and the signal heterodynes and nobody knows what was said. They need a better comm system.

    Lastly, much of the processing infrastructure is running on 1960s tech -- old mainframes. They haven't upgraded in all this time because there's no other options. What good will satellites do if the ground control stations are still running vaccum tubes? We need to network the ground stations together and provide a better interface with the birds in the sky. One of these big iron setups went down in New York and it paralyzed most of the eastern seaboard. That lack of redundancy in such a safety-critical environment is simply unacceptable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Deadstick (535032)
      Second, nobody's been investing in airport infrastructure.

      That should be firstly. For all the administration's talk of opening up new airways, we do not have an air shortage. We have a concrete shortage. More routes for the enroute phase of flight just give you a shorter trip from one traffic jam to the next traffic jam, and it's going to stay that way until we get more runways open.

      rj

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:13PM (#25905923) Homepage Journal

        Second, nobody's been investing in airport infrastructure.

        That should be firstly. For all the administration's talk of opening up new airways, we do not have an air shortage. We have a concrete shortage. More routes for the enroute phase of flight just give you a shorter trip from one traffic jam to the next traffic jam, and it's going to stay that way until we get more runways open.

        rj

        As I understand it the traffic problems in the USA are primarily on a few high traffic routes like New York to Washington. If they invested in high speed rail on those links the congestion problem in the air might not be such an issue.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by zonky (1153039)

          As I understand it the traffic problems in the USA are primarily on a few high traffic routes like New York to Washington. If they invested in high speed rail on those links the congestion problem in the air might not be such an issue.

          Er, like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acela_Express [wikipedia.org] ?

          • As I understand it the traffic problems in the USA are primarily on a few high traffic routes like New York to Washington. If they invested in high speed rail on those links the congestion problem in the air might not be such an issue.

            Er, like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acela_Express [wikipedia.org] ?

            Its average speed (140 km/h) is too slow to compete with air travel.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by nabsltd (1313397)

              It's much easier to get to the endpoints of the Acela, and so you save all the transit time to the airport, all the security delay, the waiting to board delay, and the sitting on the tarmac delay.

              For the Washington to New York run, it's generally faster to take the train.

              Of course, if you're dirt cheap and have the time, there are bus tickets for less than $40 round trip, and some specials were as low as $1 one-way.

              • Does it have spare passenger capacity? If so why do so many people fly?
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by jonwil (467024)

                  Wouldn't surprise me if people just didnt know that the Acela Express was a viable alternative to air travel. Plus, even with all the savings in time (no need to go out to the airport, go through security etc) there may still be other reasons to fly.

            • by bhiestand (157373) *

              As I understand it the traffic problems in the USA are primarily on a few high traffic routes like New York to Washington. If they invested in high speed rail on those links the congestion problem in the air might not be such an issue.

              Er, like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acela_Express [wikipedia.org] ?

              Its average speed (140 km/h) is too slow to compete with air travel.

              I once flew from Tokyo -> LAX -> San Diego. At LAX I had to go through customs then back through security, check my bag again, and wait for my flight. We were delayed for over 45m and I'm willing to bet it was because the winds were out of limits. When I finally got to San Diego and picked up my bag it had been over 4 hours since I cleared customs at LAX. Please note that a normal speed train with frequent stops would have taken about 2 hours.

              • Yeah I had a think about that after I posted. Lets say that a typical flight from A to B takes one hour and the train takes two hours. The flight time includes extra land transport and mucking around at the airport.

                Travelling for work takes two hours out of the day by air and four hours by train. An employer will always pay for a flight because the four hours you are certain to lose by taking the train is too much of the day. If the flight takes longer than expected then thats just bad luck. The company p
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          If they invested in high speed rail

          WHAAAT?!? This is America, you damn pinko commie! We don't do that shit here.
        • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @07:06AM (#25907649) Journal

          You understand wrong.

          The problem of air traffic in the United States is a combination of a number of things: insufficient airport runway capacity, overused "super hubs", predictive overselling of tickets, and antiquated air traffic control systems. All these factors contribute, some (much) more than others.

          I'm a private pilot, so let's be honest - there's plenty of room the air. I fly through very busy (Sacramento and San Fransisco, CA) airspace frequently, I've never had a "near miss". Nag about 40-year-old technology all you want; it works rather well. And in the small-ish airplanes I fly, there are lots of small airports for me to fly to where there is no congestion, no hope of congestion, and rarely any other aircraft "in the pattern". (Airports have an expected approach and landing sequence, usually based around an imaginary box shape around the runways, this is called 'the pattern' by pilots)

          But when you are talking about congestion, you are really talking about runway capacity, because although there's plenty of room in the sky, there are a relatively small number of airports. Combine that with the tendency of airlines to create "mega hub" airports for connecting flights (EG: Atlanta, GA) and the problem of runway shortages become paramount.

          A decent runway is about 1 or 2 miles long. It's basically a 2-4 lane freeway for just a mile or so. Adding more runways dramatically increases air capacity. A 1.5 mile runway is vastly cheaper than 100 miles of railroad, but services a similar amount of traffic over the same distance. Aviation infrastructure is ridiculously cheap compared to highways, trains, and other forms of travel. (except maybe by boat, which is cheaper still but much slower)

          Why is this hard to understand?

          Many large, busy airports have 2 or more runways, and often they split traffic based on type. My small, single-engine 4-seat Cessna 172 with its landing speed of about 60 Knots gets the short runway, while SouthWest airlines flight NNN with its landing speed of 125 Knots gets the big one.

          Notice that my small plane takes 2x as long to approach the runway as the big jet? Adding a small, short, "General Aviation" runway to this large, busy airport adds as much as 3x the capacity anytime a small plane (like mine) lands there. (my plane, plus the two commercial planes that would have landed there, anyway)

          Technology advances in combination with commercial flight restrictions (show me your SHOES!) mean that there are more small-medium sized planes in the sky, flying shorter trips, and generating more traffic where it counts - at the runways.

          Add runways. They are cheap, especially when compared to the cost of other forms of infrastructure....

          • Another poster pointed out the time you can save by going directly from one CBD to another by train. You can't directly compare rail with air transport because they scale in totally different ways. With rail the stations are cheap and the track is expensive. For air transport the reverse is true.

            I am surprised that you would consider landing a 172 at an airport used by heavy jets at all. Small airports are much more convenient, and the landing charges are lower. I doubt the hassle of dealing with air side
            • by hax4bux (209237)

              I'm not the poster you are responding to but I apparently live in his neighborhood. You are right, the small airports are the best because we aren't competing w/the big jets for sequencing and the fuel is cheaper, etc. I certainly prefer to go to the smaller airports.

              In the bay area, we have San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose airports and several smaller ones such as Concord, Livermore, Hayward, RHV, PAO, etc.

              SFO charges landing fees. Don't go there.

              OAK has a general aviation runway in addition to long

            • by mcrbids (148650)

              I am surprised that you would consider landing a 172 at an airport used by heavy jets at all. Small airports are much more convenient, and the landing charges are lower.

              There are no landing fees at any airport I've flown to. Ever. Landing fees apply to larger planes almost exclusively (over 12,500 lbs gross weight) The only one I know of with a landing fee for my itty bitty is SFO, and I just don't go there. For every SUPER MAJOR OMG airport (EG: SFO, LAX) there are many, many "largish" airports (EG: Sacra

          • by hax4bux (209237)

            I'm a NorCal/Oakland commuter as well. It takes a big pot of client money for me to fly commercial.

            Starting from my driveway, I can be in Seattle, San Diego, Salt Lake City faster than commercial (counting the parking dance at SMF and hour long security theater).

            I fly nearly every week and I cannot remember a "near miss" either. I don't usually fly on weekends, though.

            The problem is that many people believe they grok aviation, but really don't. This is especially true of people who have had some PP train

      • There's an easier way to solve the problem of lack of runways that nobody seems to want to discuss: raise the cost of flying. Pile on airport fees and jet fuel taxes. It's simple economics: if you raise the price, demand will drop. The runways will clear themselves.

        There's a lot of reasons for society to not encourage flying: the pollution it causes (delivering particulates directly into the upper atmosphere may be a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect,) the increased ability of diseas

        • by Deadstick (535032)

          That reminds me of the Duke of Wellington's opposition to the construction of railroads..."It would only encourage the lower classes to move about unnecessarily."

          rj

          • by plover (150551) *

            I didn't say we couldn't fly, I just said society has a lot of reasons to discourage it.

            For example: I'm flying to Florida this weekend just because I want to go see palm trees and lie on a beach, and because I have frequent flyer miles coming out of my ears. If this flight were to cost me $1,000 out of pocket I wouldn't consider it. So I'm going out there to help plug up the airports during the busiest travel weekend of the year, just because Minnesota is cold and boring. Does society need me to fly

            • by profplump (309017)

              Buddy, if *you* don't want to fly just *pretend* the trip costs $1000 out-of-pocket. But the rest of us might want to fly, and probably would not appreciate giving extra money to the government just because you think some of the reasons we choose to fly aren't societally valuable.

              What you're suggesting is akin to taxing food to discourage obesity -- sure, you'd make overeating more expensive, which is good for society. But you'd also make sustenance-level consumption more expensive, which is quite likely to

    • Second, nobody's been investing in airport infrastructure. The planes are getting bigger but the runways aren't and we're not adding new runways either. Part of it is politics but a lot of it is economic.

      Right. They didn't just build a new airport at Denver. Sea-Tac didn't just add a third runway. There isn't a steady history of building new airports and runways in the US over the last thirty years...
       
      Oh, wait.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Would this track planes over the United States only, or would it have the capability to track them all over the world (like GPS does)? This would sure be useful when a plane goes down off of its course and outside radar range. Searching would be much, much easier.

    • by maeka (518272)

      Second, nobody's been investing in airport infrastructure. The planes are getting bigger but the runways aren't and we're not adding new runways either. Part of it is politics but a lot of it is economic.

      The FAA is investing in airport infrastructure. Replacing ILS with LAAS might not be sexy - but it will increase capacity and reduce accidents.
      Most of the airports which need more runways do not have the room to add more runways. How many major airports east of the Mississippi are not landlocked?

      The compl

  • Replace TRACON. It also won't replace Ground Traffic Radar. Few, if any, aircraft mishaps occur during the cross-country leg of an aircraft's flight plan. Most airplane crashes -which are not accidents- occur during approach-and-landing, on the runway or taxiway, or during takeoff.
    • Actually, this will make ATC's job a whole lot easier (both TRACON and ground traffic). Knowing where everyone is very precisely means you can automate a lot of common tasks. If I can file an IFR flight plan, and NextGen/ADS-B has it on file, unless there's some sort of conflict in the air, I should be able to get from airport to airport with very little controller interaction. The controller should be there to watch over NextGen and handle conflicts. Hell, collision avoidance between aircraft is automated

  • I can't believe the article doesn't mention that the FAA's Capstone project deployed ADS-B in Alaska years ago.
  • by colonel (4464) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:23PM (#25905963) Homepage

    This is mixed news for me.

    Currently, a big plane will show up on radar as a blip. The pilot will call control, and state his/her identity and position. Controller will then make an educated guess as to which plane is which dot on the radar scope, and assign you a 4-digit "Squawk" code (Say, 1234). Pilot enters the squawk code in to his instruments, and the instruments then start broadcasting "Aircraft 1234 is at 32,000ft" on the radio. This then lets the radar display aircraft identification and altitude beside each blip. Simple, yes? Prone to human error?

    So obviously, we need something less vulnerable to human error, and more vulnerable to programmer error. That's how the world works.

    With ADS-B, the aircraft pulls down GPS coordinates and altitude, and then broadcasts them in cleartext on open frequencies to everyone. "Aircraft C-FBQN is at 10,000ft at N45.4870947 & W75.0967026 travelling at 121kts heading 180 True."

    So, targeting your ground-to-air missiles just got a whole bunch easier.

    The advantage, though, is that you can become much safer in the areas where there's no radar coverage. Hudson's Bay, North Atlantic, etc. Those are busy places with lots of planes and sleepy pilots.

    Also, the aircraft I mentionned earlier in my example is C-FBQN. I love that baby, but she doesn't show up on radar. With ADS-B, my flying can get much safer.

    http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/007288.html [zawodny.com]

    And I don't have to even worry about the missiles, as I have no heat signature and don't show up on radar, so they'll be able to get really close, and never actually hit me.

    • assign you a 4-digit "Squawk" code (Say, 1234)

      Note thats a four digit octal code, twelve bits.

      Also ADSB uses a mode S 24 bit code so it doesn't have to be allocated on the fly like 12 bit codes for mode A.

    • Indeed, the most worrying air safety problem in the western world today is how surface to air missiles are targeted at commercial airliners on approach to LAX or JFK.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by durandal61 (705295)
      So, targeting your ground-to-air missiles just got a whole bunch easier.

      I think this statement is quite silly.

      1) Coordinates do not help you if you have a shoulder-launched SAM. You track the target visually, during approach or takeoff.

      2) If you want to down a plane that is beyond visual range, you don't need coordinates: your SAM is radar guided, and you work for some country's armed forces. That plane is going down whether it transmits coordinates or not.

      End of story.

      d.
    • And I don't have to even worry about the missiles, as I have no heat signature and don't show up on radar, so they'll be able to get really close, and never actually hit me.

      Modern infrared spectrum missiles of the last twenty years or so are not attracted to heat signatures, Hollywood notwithstanding. They lock onto specific aircraft based on an image profile. In essence, the missiles have sufficient discrimination to chase a specific aircraft from all aspects after such aircraft have been designated as

    • And I don't have to even worry about the missiles, as I have no heat signature and don't show up on radar, so they'll be able to get really close, and never actually hit me.

      Depending on the warhead size, "really close" is usually close enough. =)

      Anyways, I think ADS-B is a huge win for air transport. It makes things much safer for everyone, and I say this as a private pilot, a skydiver, as well as an experimental aircraft builder. If everyone walks away alive, everything worked as it should.

    • by hax4bux (209237)

      C-FBQN is so stealthy, it isn't even registered. Put another way, it doesn't show up on landings.com

      Did you already get shot down?

  • Futurama. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ostracus (1354233) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:52PM (#25906085) Journal

    "ADS-B is part of the FAA's wide-reaching plan known as NextGen to revamp every component of the flight control system to meet future demands and avoid gridlock in the sky.""

    Space invaders showed us how to avoid gridlock.

  • Which is a "better" scenario. One where there are many small points of possible failure (a GPS sending unit per plane) or one large point of possible failure (having a radar station go fubar on a Friday night)?

    What are the opinions of Slashdotters who experience both types of failures in their respective corporate worlds?

    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      FWIW, I think the FAA uses ADA for most (all? I'm too lazy to look it up, free mod points if anyone wants to link the wiki) of their systems. For me ADA-95 is a guilty pleasure language; it's really well thought out and it almost won't let you shoot yourself in the foot. I'd give it a thumbs up from the programming department.

      The question is, what's the leading opinion from the network guys/gals? If I program a bulletproof solution, it doesn't mean a thing if the heavy metal goes down hard and isn't
  • ADS-B issues every aircraft a unique, trackable ID number that can be used to issue bills to every aircraft that passes through an area. This means the sky will now become a big toll road.

  • by cstacy (534252) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:55AM (#25907185)
    The summary makes it sound like satellites are going to track the airplanes, but that's not what is going on at all.

    What this is really about is that the airplane's transponder (simply a radio that transmits about 200 miles around) will broadcast not only the plane's ID tag, but also it's GPS position. Satellites only come into this system in the sense that the airplane has a GPS receiver on board, and GPS is of course satellites. So each airplane broadcasts not only who it is, but where it is. The other new part is that all the airplanes will recieve and process that information to give the pilots a picture of who else is flying around near them. Furthermore, ground radar stations will broadcast on the transponder channel as a proxy for those aircraft that are not equipped to transmit their GPS.

    Historically, planes have always transmitted an ID code (mainly, a manually assigned code from the air traffic center who is most recently responsible for them). The next big thing was for the transponder to also include the aircraft's altitude. Now, these are called "transponders" because they only transmit when polled by a ground station's radar sweep. And until recently, only the ground controllers received the transponder hits from the aircraft. About 10 years ago, planes (expensive airliners, mainly) started receiving and processing the nearby transponder responses as well, so that they could see what other planes were at their altitude. This is a collision-avoidance system. So now that planes are equipped with GPS comes the revolution: they can transmit their precise location to each other, and also to the controllers, and everyone can see a complete picture of where all the nearby planes are. This will ultimately enable pilots to fly more efficient routes, allowing more freedom for the controllers and pilots to work things out dynamically.

  • Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

    Skynet fights back.
  • Did this originate from the NASA SATS Program?
    http://sats.erau.edu/nationalsats/ [erau.edu]

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