How Do You Circumvent ADS-B Dead Spots?

Nicola Tims
August 16, 2022

We’re all well aware of the mandates that are in place in our industry, to ensure the safety of team members, as well as others aircraft sharing airspace in flight. Implementing technologies such as ADS-B is great for broadcasting flight information to ATC.

However, when flying out of range of ground-based receivers, and the requirement of them being ‘on’, how do you continue to transmit your accurate position, speed and identification information?

This is where satellite connectivity has an advantage.

Consider networks, such as Iridium’s Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) constellation, for example. Their network is ICAO flight safety services approved, and allows for faster transmission, stronger connectivity and clearer line of sight when connecting with transmitting devices. 

For rotorcraft especially, that means being able to pick up signals laterally instead of vertically while in transit, a capability that is crucial for search and rescue, charter, and law enforcement teams. Consider this compared to ground-based transmission systems, where terrain obstruction, limited range of signal, or orientation of an aircraft can disrupt connectivity.

Instead of switching however, we’re seeing these systems used in parallel.

Southern Utah University is doing just that. Their flight school is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, where a single ADS-B tower stands. Because of this, every time a pilot flies outside of the valley, they lose ADS-B tracking. With 75-80% of flights leaving the valley, this posed a big problem for the students and staff alike.

“We wanted to make sure we were tracking our aircraft well. We thought ADS-B [Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast] would be the magic bullet. Still, we ran into some big issues pretty quickly during training where we didn’t see the aircraft. Immediately, we liked Spidertracks for the simplicity of the user interface and how easy it is to get the information we want.” - Richard Cannon, Director of Flight Operations at Southern Utah University (SUU).

Read more about how systems such as Spidertracks and ADS-B can be used together to guarantee aircraft connectivity, and keep crew members safe in the skies here.

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