As part of a larger validation effort to test space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology, the FAA and Nav Canada successfully have flown tests in Bombardier aircraft to validate ADS-B signals captured by satellite, both agencies reported earlier this month. Nav Canada used a CRJ-200 (registry C-GNVC) with top- and bottom-mounted 125-watt ADS-B antennas, while the FAA employed a Global 5000 (registry N47) that was equipped with three Aireon payloads to receive data and top- and bottom-mounted fuselage antennas.
The space-based ADS-B receivers are installed in Iridium Next satellites, which are being launched to create Iridium’s new high-speed satcom network. Aircraft with the proper equipment, including top-mounted antennas, will be able to send ADS-B signals via the Next satellites, which means that ADS-B surveillance could then work anywhere in the world, not just where ADS-B ground stations are available.
During the a March 7 test for Nav Canada, 6,935 ADS-B messages were received and decoded by a single Aireon payload, "and after rigorous analysis, were found to exhibit comparable results to that of terrestrial ADS-B stations," according to Aireon. For the FAA test on March 30, “A total of 2,462 ADS-B messages were received and decoded providing comparable data to that of terrestrial ADS-B stations.” Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system is scheduled to be operational next year, after the 66-satellite Iridium Next constellation is completed.
Aireon also conducted a flight test with Polaris Flight Systems, a private vendor, on March 20. The aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was outfitted with a top and bottom mounted 200-watt ADS-B antenna and flew solely through the Albuquerque FIR, where more than 1,050 ADS-B messages were received from two Aireon payloads during the flight.