Skies around the world are becoming increasingly crowded. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that rising numbers of flights and passengers will overwhelm the current air traffic control system by 2015, leading to an increase in delays, higher costs, and greater environmental impact.
To meet this challenge, the FAA is building NextGen, America's air traffic control system of the future, which will make air travel safer, more efficient, and better for the environment. The backbone of this system is a new technology called Automatic Dependent Surveillance -- Broadcast, or ADS-B.
ADS-B enables the widespread use of satellite-based GPS technology in aviation. It provides air traffic controllers and pilots with information that will help aircraft efficiently navigate our increasingly congested airspace.
So how does it work? ADS-B allows planes to determine their exact location using GPS. That information is broadcast to other nearby aircraft and ADS-B ground stations, which relay the information to air traffic controllers. Additionally, a signal with flight, weather, and radar data is broadcast back to the plane.
To make this possible, aircraft will be required to have equipment that continually broadcasts their position, and, optionally, additional equipment that enables the aircraft to receive those messages from other planes, as well as information from ground stations.
This continuous and nearly instantaneous cycle of broadcasts gives air traffic controllers and pilots a complete and more up-to-date picture of their airspace.
ADS-B provides updates 12 times more frequently than radar, which means better coordinated takeoffs and landings, less time sitting on the ground or circling in the air, more direct routes that shorten flight times, and fewer delays.
Increased airspace efficiency is another chief benefit of ADS-B. The technology puts more information in the hands of pilots, who will now have access to air traffic control data on display screens right in the cockpit, while controllers will guide them from displays which will be more accurate than ever before. This extra layer of data enables advanced air traffic control procedures allowing aircraft to fly more closely together with fewer instructions from the ground.
ADS-B also benefits the environment by enabling a more direct approach and a power-saving continuous descent to the runway. For example, an airliner using these procedures during every landing would save enough fuel to reduce its annual carbon emissions by an amount equal to that of more than 100 cars.
ADS-B will have direct effects on local markets. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, ADS-B stations installed on offshore oil rigs are providing full air traffic control coverage over the Gulf for the first time in history. ADS-B dramatically increases efficiency for both low-altitude helicopter traffic servicing oil rigs and for high-altitude air transport aircraft traversing the Gulf.
Right now, ITT is working with the FAA on a nationwide rollout of ADS-B. ADS-B technology will enable air travel that is safer, more efficient, and better for the environment. This technology, a cornerstone of NextGen, will revolutionize the future of flying. And it's on its way right now.