Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DO-260B ... well it is compliant

Ok there is compliant, and there is useful. DO-260B is certainly the former, and not likely the latter. ADS-B is full of challenges, and opportunities. Upgrading equipment is expensive. Some equipment is really close to usable, and some just flat out needs to be replaced. The mode S transponder certainly is one of those items.

If an aircraft has a mode S transponder on it, it can almost do ADS-B out. The payload on a stock mode S transponder can only be 56bits. For ADS-B out, the transponder needs to send 112 bits. The extended squitter (ES) is the change needed to make a mode S transponder ADS-B out compliant. DO-260B is the standard needed to "convert" mode S to mode  S with ES.

ADS-B out is needed by 2020, and if an aircraft has a mode S transponder, getting the transponder updated to DO-260B will  make the aircraft compliant. ADS-B out will make the aircraft as functional as it is today in a RADAR environment. There is no additional functionality available to the pilots on the aircraft. The big win for the pilots is ADS-B in. DO-260B has no provision for IN, only out.

Most 1090ES transponders are only transmitting the ADS-B message. To receive the ADS-B message, a separate receiver is needed. Usually jets will will have the TCAS system as a transponder receiver. This unit has the ability to receive all 1090MHz transponder messages. Using the TCAS receiver may allow an aircraft to have ADS-B in, if it has the proper facilities to send the message to a display, or computer for displaying.

Yes, 2020 seemed a long time away when the FAA said we all need ADS-B out. DO-260B might seem a tempting quick answer for older aircraft. It could be cheap, but likely it will cost a bunch to get a WAAS enabled GPS feeding the mode S transponder with ES. UAT's won't cut it for jets, so the right answer will probably be a new transponder that will do a proper job of handling ADS-B messages, along with a modern WAAS GPS receiver.

I am open to arguments, but overall it is going to cost a lot of money to equip for ADS-B in any aircraft.

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