Australia on course for ADS-B trials next year

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Airservices Australia says it is on course to having equipment installed on the ground and on aircraft this year for its planned automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) trials that are due to start early in 2003.

Technology development engineer Ed Williams says from Canberra that factory tests of ground equipment are due for June and on-site testing for September. Installations of hardware in 17 aircraft expected to be involved in the trials are also set to begin in June.

Williams says operational trials are to start in 2003 as planned and they will last for three years, possibly paving the way for the nationwide deployment of the technology that will provide aircraft surveillance in remote areas.

With ADS-B, aircraft avionics automatically broadcast aircraft position, altitude, velocity and other data via digital datalink. This information can then be used by other aircraft and air traffic control to show the aircraft’s position and altitude without the need for radar.

Thales ATM has secured a contract from Airservices to upgrade the country’s national air traffic control system, The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS), to enable it to receive, process and display ADS-B information sent by equipped aircraft.

As part of the contract Thales will provide upgrades of the Brisbane Area Control Centre, Melbourne Test and Evaluation platform and simulator.

Honeywell was selected last year as prime contractor for the programme and will provide the aircraft avionics, while Sensis will work under Honeywell to supply the ADS-B ground station. The Ambidji Group will in turn provide installation services and support for Sensis while Chapman Avionics will install the airborne ADS-B equipment on aircraft.

The ADS-B trial site is to have a coverage area of around 120nm (222km) from the ground station at an existing radio communications site near Bundaberg in Queensland, around 300km north of Brisbane. Radar coverage already exists above 12,000ft (3,660m), and it is expected that “radar-like services” will be provided using a 5nm (9.25km) separation standard.

Williams says Airservices has ordered 17 shipsets of avionics equipment to be fitted in participating aircraft, full details of which should be finalised soon. Qantas Airways has already agreed to have systems fitted into some five Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8 aircraft operated by subsidiary Sunstate Airlines.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia’s Queensland section has also agreed to have ADS-B avionics installed in two aircraft operating from Bundaberg and Brisbane. Williams says that “we’re also looking at small GA (general aviation) aircraft” - possibly privately owned - as well as an emergency helicopter for involvement in the trials.

Which one of three ADS-B datalink technologies will be adopted globally is still unclear. The three are the Universal Access Transceiver, VHF Data Link Mode 4 and the 1090MHz Squitter. Airservices has gone for the 1090MHz Squitter but Williams says this does not mean any future full implementation will necessarily use the link technology.

“We’re disappointed the international community hasn’t figured out which to run with,” he says.

He adds that Airservices considers the enhancements within TAAATS being provided by Thales to be “permanent” as they can be used with any ADS-B sensor. The airborne equipment and ground station “we consider to be disposable”, however.