System could provide safety and operational benefits in remote areas of Australia that lack radar coverage

Airservices Australia launched its automatic dependent surveillance- broadcast (ADS-B) pilot programme last month when a Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Beech King Air became the first aircraft in Australia to be tracked using ADS-B technology. The programme comes as the Australian air navigation service provider awaits industry responses to a proposal on national ADS-B deployment from 2005.

Two RFDS King Airs have initially been equipped with Honeywell ADS-B avionics in a programme that will see 15 general aviation and regional aircraft equipped for ADS-B operations in the Burnett Basin around Bundaberg, Queensland, over the next three years. The aircraft will automatically transmit position and altitude information to air traffic control every half-second using the ADS 1090MHz Mode S squitter datalink.

The aircraft will include six or seven Bombardier Dash 8s operated by Qantas regional carrier Sunstate Airlines. The first Dash 8 has already been equipped and is expected to join the programme over the next month or two, says Greg Dunstone, Airservices Australia ADS-B project manager.

Initially one ADS-B ground station has been established at Bundaberg - an area which lacks radar coverage. "Conventionally equipped aircraft cannot be detected by radar in the Bundaberg region until they are above 9,000ft [2,745m] in altitude, so to be able to see an aircraft all the way down to ground level will be a vast improvement for air traffic controllers," says Bob Brown, of Airservices Australia's technology development group. The programme is expected to provide operational and safety benefits compared with the procedural separation services that are provided in remote parts of the country.

ADS-B processing and display capabilities are being integrated into the country's national air traffic management system, the Australian Advanced Air Traffic System, with data to be integrated on air traffic control screens by mid-year.

The service provider recently submitted a proposal to operators in Australia calling for 20 ADS-B ground stations to be operational starting next year, says Dunstone. While there is "reasonable support from industry" for the technology, there is debate over funding such a programme, he adds.

Dunstone notes that the benefits of ADS-B are clearer in Australia compared with Europe or the USA, for example, because the country has a lot of non-radar airspace. With Australia's radar network reaching the end of its 15-yearlife in 2006, the service provider would be seeking nationwide ADS-B coverage from 2005, says Dunstone.

Source: Flight International