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ADS-B Teams Await August FAA Decision On $15 Billion Contract

By | June 27, 2007

      The key to reducing delays and increasing safety in the aviation industry lies in the quick adoption of a satellite-based air traffic control system, according to aviation experts. A major step toward this goal should take place before the end of August, when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to award a contract for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system.

      For a program estimated to cost more than $15 billion overall, the FAA has reserved $80 million in fiscal 2007 to begin initial implementation of ADS-B in the national airspace system.

      Three vendors —ITT Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. — are vying for a contract to provide ADS-B, which will provide navigation services using GPS satellites and onboard technology instead of ground-based radars. By moving surveillance from ground-based radar systems to satellites, ADS-B will be able offer more precise automatic broadcast of position, altitude and velocity. “It’s a critical undertaking for meeting critical capacity demands over the next 15 years,” said FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones.

      Under the contract, the winner will install, own and maintain the ground infrastructure, while the FAA pays for the surveillance and broadcast services. The system is scheduled to be commissioned by 2010 and fully deployed by 2013.

      “It utilizes GPS, so that each airplane knows where it and another one is,” said Charles Keegan, Raytheon’s director of future air navigation systems. “Once that location is established, it’s radioed to other aircraft and ground stations which send the information to air traffic control and other planes so everyone can see everyone else.”

      Australia has implemented a high-altitude ADS-B system, and testing of an ADS-B systems is underway in Alaska and in Louisville, Ky., where its used by UPS to track its fleet.

      Raytheon also is looking to piggyback its ADS-B solution with communications systems from partners XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. rather than building new ones. This could help Raytheon deploy its system both faster and less expensively, the company said.

      Lockheed Martin declined to discuss details of their program; ITT did not respond to calls by the time of posting.

      Weather was a contributing factor in about 30 percent of aviation accidents, Roderick MacKenzie, vice president of Advanced Applications for XM Radio, said at a panel discussion sponsored by Raytheon. “The industry acknowledged the power of real-time graphical weather in-flight to improve pilots’ situational awareness and has adopted this solution very quickly,” he said. “Today about 80 percent of all new general aviation aircraft delivered has the XM WX Weather Service capability installed at the factory."

      Keegan, the former FAA vice president for operations planning and director of the Joint Planning and Development Office, Keegan, said the biggest hurdle to acceptance of satellite-based air traffic control systems “is acceptance of the commercial marketplace as the solution to what is needed by the pilot community.” Keegan asserted “this is one of the safest periods in the history of aviation. Not to realize that XM has had a hand in that is ridiculous… Getting people to believe the commercial marketplace is helping the country and at a cost substantially lower than implementation from scratch is [one of] our biggest hurdles.”

      ITT is teamed with AT&T, Thales, WSI Corp., Science Applications International Corp., PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Sunhillo and Aerospace Engineering. The Lockheed Martin ADS-B core team includes Era, Sensis Corp., Harris Corp., Honeywell International, Computer Sciences Corp., Parsons, IBM, ISI, URF, Duncan Aviation, ACSS and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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