The US Federal Aviation Administration has begun operational flight testing of three ITT-provided automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) ground stations in the Miami area, the first working segment of the government’s next generation nationwide surveillance system outside of remote parts of Alaska. ITT won a $1.8 billion contract from the FAA in August 2007 to deploy the ground infrastructure for ADS-B, a network that will ultimately include 794 ground stations when complete in 2013.

 The limited service area around Miami is a prelude to a fully operational southern Florida network planned for August. By that time, ITT says it will have 11 ground stations operational, five of which will be located at airports and the remaining six on cell phone towers.

John Kefaliotis, ITT’s director of ADS-B programs, says the network has passed both an FAA factory acceptance tests (where the system is shown to work in a laboratory environment) and service acceptance tests in the field. “With three radio stations we were seeing aircraft move all the way to the gate at the Orlando International Airport, and the nearest station was 25mi away,” says Kefaliotis. “Generally, the deployed system looks to be operating quite effectively.”

The Florida stations will provide what the FAA refers to as “essential services,” including traffic information services (TIS-B) and flight information services (FIS-B). TIS-B broadcasts air traffic control (ATC)-provided radar position data of non-ADS-B equipped aircraft so that aircraft with ADS-B have information on all traffic, a service that in theory will be shutdown when all aircraft are equipped in the 2020 timeframe. FIS-B provides weather and flight planning information to pilots.

By late in 2010, ITT says it will have an additional 40 stations in place at Philadelphia, Louisville, Juneau (Alaska) and the Gulf of Mexico for testing “critical” services, those which use ADS-B-provided aircraft position reports as the primary source of data for air traffic controllers, in addition to “essential” services. ITT will later upgrade the Florida sites to provide critical services as well, Kefaliotis adds.