The Importance of ADS-B Testing Equipment
ADS-B technology (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast) is a rising solution in the world of aircraft control. It combines GPS, satellite, and computer processing capabilities with the goal of gradually phasing out the reliance on radar, a longtime cornerstone of aviation navigation. Instead of traditional radar, the ADS-B system determines its position via satellite navigation and broadcasts it, allowing it to be tracked. The information is received by air traffic control ground stations as a replacement for secondary surveillance radar, as a ground-based interrogation signal is not needed.
Each ADS-B system comprises two essential pieces of avionics equipment: a GPS or other type of satellite navigation source, and the transmitter that communicates the aircraft information to ground stations. This information includes the aircraft’s position, speed, heading, altitude, and call sign. ADS-B can also be used to transmit critical emergency broadcasts. While the term NextGen is sometimes used interchangeably with ADS-B, it is not entirely accurate. In fact, the NextGen Transportation System is an all-encompassing air transportation advancement effort, which consists of a range of systems including ADS-B and others such as Performance Based Navigation (PBN) and System Wide Information Management (SWIM). Full operation of these technologies will continue to roll out in the next decade and beyond.
A critical element of ADS-B compliance is the testing of transponders for extended squitter and UAT equipment types. An extended squitter is a message or series of messages that broadcast aircraft information such as its ID, position, trajectory, and more. UAT equipment refers to universal access transceivers, which can do things like receive and transmit weather reports. The IFR6000 flight line test set is the industry standard for the testing of installed ADS-B systems. Completion of this test can provide confidence that the transponder, GPS, and antennas are each functioning as intended. The ADS-B test equipment interface allows for much of the testing process to be performed without leaving the main user screens.
The GPS-1000 portable satellite simulator is an easy-to-use test device that can create 3D WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) GPS to support ADS-B testing. The GPS-1000 portable satellite simulator enables the operator to simulate a position rather than doing so by using unreliable repeaters, moving the aircraft outside, or moving it to a surveyed location. Beyond acting as a GPS source, the GPS-1000 is able to test the aircraft’s GPS receiver and support testing of any other airborne system that requires a GPS input. The GPS-1000, when supplemented by the ADS-B INTEGRITY Test App, can simulate an entire flight path and provide a full performance report in accordance with AC 20-165B requirements, inducing factors that could otherwise only be measured by flying the aircraft.
Following decades of development, ADS-B is no longer just an integration of modern technology to improve air traffic safety. It is now a mandated Air Traffic Control communication mode for commercial flights in the U.S. and abroad. Radar technology has established an unparalleled track record for safety and reliability since its inception, but the improvements presented by satellite GPS and modern networking can not be ignored. The growth of the aviation industry has emphasized the opportunity for safer, more efficient air travel through ADS-B. Throughout its implementation, ADS-B test equipment will continue to play a role in making the ADS-B the next step in aircraft navigation.