The future of air traffic control

Universal access transceiver
The UAT system is specifically designed for ADS-B operation. UAT has a lower cost and greater uplink capacity than 1,090ES. Although 978 MHz resides in the assigned portion of the aeronautical spectrum, in the United States 978 is used for transmission of airborne ADS-B reports and for broadcast of ground-based aeronautical information. UAT users have access to ground-based aeronautical data including traffic information services and flight information services including weather and NOTAMS.

VDL Mode 4
The VDL Mode 4 system could utilize one or more of the existing aeronautical VHF frequencies as the radio frequency physical layer for ADS-B transmissions. It is best used for short message transmissions between a large number of users

VDL Mode 4 uses a protocol (STDMA, invented by Hakan Lans in 1988) that allows it to be self-organizing, meaning no master ground station is required. In November 2001 this protocol was published by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a global standard.

In the flight deck, a generic display would be used to provide the crew with surveillance information about other aircraft and would include existing devices such as TCAS.

ADS-B is a reality and worldwide implementation has already begun. The FAA plan was started in 2006 and deployment to key sites such as Juneau, AK; the Gulf of Mexico; Philadelphia; and Louisville, KY, are forecast to be operational by 2010. The nationwide system is scheduled to be in place around 2013 with required aircraft compliance expected in 2020. European compliance is currently expected around 2012.

Not only can ADS-B equipped aircraft contribute position information, but so can ground support vehicles with a GPS and a UAT.

While recently being included in a golf outing and riding in the golf cart equipped with a GPS, I noticed a high-lighted blip traveling along the cart path. It took a minute but I figured out this represented a “Beverage Cart.” I then noticed a “Push to Call” function on the GPS. When the cart person got to us and took care of the important business, I asked to look at the GPS in the refreshment cart and there it was, an ADS-B system — just not using aviation radio frequencies.

I wholeheartedly approve the concept.

Jim Sparks has been in aviation for 30 years and is a licensed A&P.

EUROCONTROL’s new system
On March 23, 2009, Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Control Center unveiled its new air traffic control system. Air traffic control over Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and northwest Germany will now be exclusively provided via the new flight data processing system. The old system from the early 1970s will be permanently shut down.

This flight data processing system is the first of its kind in Europe to be developed in accordance with European standards on interoperability between systems. It is based on the philosophy behind the Single European Sky, an initiative launched in 2004 by the European Commission. In order to respond to the needs and future challenges of the air transport industry, the Maastricht Center and its partners are currently working on the creation of a functional airspace block, “FAB Europe Central” (FABEC), which aims to implement multinational management of the airspace of six countries (Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland). For more information visit

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