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Back to Basics (Part 3): ADS-B Data – Not Your Average Aviation Data Set

For the third installment of our “Back-to-Basics” blog series, 1090 Global is exploring the “ins and outs” of Aireon’s analytical ADS-B data. If you read our first two posts, you learned how the system works, and how the data travels from point A to point B.  Now it’s time to understand what differentiates Aireon’s data from today’s available data sets, and how it will greatly impact the global aviation community.

The State of Existing Aircraft Location and Movement Data Sets

Today, the data sets available to Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs), airports and airlines have many limitations.  This is because current aviation data sets are compiled through many different regional sources.  These varying sources include different technologies and systems like primary and secondary radars, ground-based ADS-B and Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) surveillance systems.  Any combination of these systems is used to assemble the aircraft movement data currently available. This piecemealed approach creates a situation where you are not getting the full surveillance picture. Due to regional limitations in the many Flight Information Regions (FIRs) of the world, and incomplete data across major air traffic routes, no single and complete picture is available.

Taking Aviation Data to the Next Level

To address this subject, the AireonSM system will provide the aviation world with a complete global snapshot of all ADS-B 1090 MHz OUT equipped aircraft in real-time (125W and over).  Once fully operational, this will, for the first time, provide the industry with one data set that will allow the community to better analyze and understand what the global airspace looks like at any given time. This data can be used to support global air traffic analyses, airspace and air route design, capacity and resources planning, predictability analyses for arrivals and departures and fleet optimization.  Gone will be the days of gaps in fleet data reports and differing information about critical weather events and flight diversions, greatly affecting traffic congestion.

Given current analyses of Aireon’s data and payload performance, the future is looking bright. To date, 65 Iridium® NEXT satellites are currently in orbit, each hosting an Aireon payload, with 60 of the 65 operational.  Even with just over 90 percent of the constellation complete, the data being received has exceeded expectations, not only in terms of accuracy, but in volume. For instance, after just the first two launches (that’s only 20 payloads in orbit, so less than a third of the constellation) Aireon received over six billion ADS-B position per month.  Since then, the volume has increased to over 10 billion position reports per month, with an expected 25 billion reports per month once the constellation is complete.

In addition to the incredible volume received thus far, the next incredible technological observation came with the types of vehicle ADS-B broadcasts detected by the Aireon system. As expected, the team saw position reports from commercial aircraft, business jets and general aviation aircraft.  But, when the engineers noticed data from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and surface vehicles, such as airport maintenance vehicles, helicopters and balloons, the team knew the power of the payloads was incredible.  This kind of performance is a testament to the strength of the Aireon system, and is an indicator towards the level of accurate data and reports to come soon with a completed network.

So, for all you jokesters out there – think twice when labeling your aircraft.  We see you 😉

We hope you are enjoying this series!  Next up is an overview of key aviation regulations in play today, what it all means and why it matters.