UPS brings ADS-B traffic into aviation’s mainstream

 - January 22, 2008, 6:41 AM

Boeing 757 and 767 pilots at United Parcel Service (UPS) will soon start using a flight-deck display that will likely be the envy of their airline and corporate cousins and one that is expected to become a future aviation standard.

The large, EFIS-like unit–dubbed cockpit display of traffic information (CDTI)–and located in the center panel just forward of the thrust-lever console, will be installed in all 103 UPS Boeings by year-end. The CDTI will simultaneously display the locations of all TCAS-equipped aircraft in the vicinity–in addition to any related traffic and resolution advisories (TAs and RAs), and the locations of all ADS-B-equipped aircraft, with each displayed target showing its relative track and altitude and whether it is climbing or descending. The display screen can also be uncluttered by selecting only targets within a certain range.

Starting in Louisville, Ky., next year, ATC facilities will begin using an ADS-B derivative traffic information service-broadcast (TIS-B)– to uplink data on aircraft that carry neither TCAS nor ADS-B, and these will also appear as targets on the airplanes’ CDTIs. From that point on, pilots will have complete, real-time situational awareness of nearby traffic.

The combined CDTI, developed by UPS subsidiary UPS Aviation Technologies (UPS/ AT) of Salem, Ore., and certified by the FAA in February, will therefore present short-range TCAS alerts for immediate collision avoidance guidance, along with the much longer range picture of all other ADS-B traffic, in some cases out to more than 200 nm. Other ADS-B display options could allow UPS crews to select navaid, weather and terrain overlays. Under development at UPS/AT is an airport runway presentation that displays the location of aircraft and vehicles on the surface, which is expected to contribute significantly to the reduction of runway incursions and other surface accidents.

Yet ADS-B has in the past suffered from mixed opinions within the FAA about its real value. While the agency in 2000 launched Project Capstone to evaluate ADS-B with Alaska’s air-taxi industry, many senior officials insisted that it was not appropriate for widespread use in the continental U.S., reportedly believing that its deployment in large aircraft might somehow dilute the move to TCAS, even though the two systems offer quite different, but complementary, capabilities. TCAS provides relatively close-in collision avoidance, while ADS-B provides much broader situational awareness.

The FAA now recognizes ADS-B as a key element in the future Free Flight environment, and is working with Eurocontrol in establishing international performance standards.

The UPS program gives ADS-B the commercial respect that many believe it has long deserved. The freight carrier had recognized the system’s possibilities several years ago as a potential future means of safe, pilot-monitored self separation during the late-night and early- morning “rush hours” around its major hub at Louisville and at its other hub airports, where standard ATC procedural separations often created large gaps between following aircraft. Company flight evaluations demonstrated the validity of the concept, leading to the recently announced installation program in its 757/767 fleet, which is already TCAS-equipped.