Around the world, the ADS-B mandate is becoming ever-clearer:
if you’re flying anything larger than the smallest and simplest aircraft, you must
install it. As with any innovation driven by new regulations, the introduction
of ADS-B is changing the rules of the game offering heightened awareness of
fleet movements. It includes frequent GPS positions, speed and altitude, on a
public radio frequency.
These transmissions are picked up by a network of ADS-B
receivers that have decentralised ownership and management. All the data is
freely available. Flight tracking services then collate the public data into
something usable by various customers. It is a robust and reliable system with
a lot of redundancy.
Asset tracking is important for all fleets, but especially if
operations revolve around aeromedical, oil and gas and search and rescue. In
other words, they matter most if at least some of the fleet is rotary wing and
operating in remote airspace. Meaning traditional ADS-B has shortcomings for
those who need it. The drawbacks for operators are:
1. Most ADS-B data is gathered by
a decentralised network of public receivers. This largely means there is
coverage only if there is a public reason to have a receiver. Often, this rules
out offshore and remote operations.
2. The public ADS-B network offers
little privacy or security for operators who would rather their aircraft
movements not be public knowledge.
3. It can have altitude limitations
for aircraft flying at low altitude, this is due to the angle of ADS-B ground-based
4. ADS-B data is position
orientated and it does not include aircraft and operational event data.
Private ADS-B resolves the first two drawbacks, however having
your own network usually meant installing your own receivers and managing the
Over the past few years, a few companies around the world have
been installing commercial ADS-B networks for individual customers. Often, these
networks are simply one or two commercial ADS-B receivers to cover a gap in the
existing public network.
A classic example is when a helicopter flies from a regional
airport to a resources hub and leaves publicly monitored airspace along its
SkyNet Systems in Queensland, Australia has built its own comprehensive commercial ADS-B network and provide a secure service for operators in that part
of the world.
High resolution 1-second private ADS-B tracking is the go-to service,
and with the right equipment installed in the aircraft (e.g. Flightcell DZMx),
there are two fallback options for assured coverage:
using cellular data with positions every 15-seconds when out of range of
using Iridium satellite with positions every 1 or 2 minutes when out of range
of cellular or private ADS-B
Switching between these options is automatic and the best
quality and least-cost service is always available to the end user.
This combination of quality
equipment and quality service adds aircraft and operational event data from
sensor inputs, pilot and crew inputs and onboard third-party equipment. This is
critical information for most helicopter operations.
This raises the question, are commercial ADS-B networks, combined with traditional tracking technologies the future
of automated flight following?
UPCOMING: For those of you with Flightcell
DZMx, or considering it, watch this space for information on an extremely
cost-effective ADS-B In option!