The National Academies

ACRP 10-35 [Pending]

Readiness and Feasibility of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Data for Airport Use Cases

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Contract Time: 20 months
Staff Responsibility: Matthew J. Griffin


Towered and non-towered airports need accurate daily and annual aircraft operational counts, including aircraft type, for use in tasks like airport planning, environmental analysis, capital improvement program development, funding justification, and staffing. Aircraft operational counts provided by air traffic control towers offer limited details and towers are often staffed for only a portion of the day, possibly missing large swaths of activity. Meanwhile, non-towered airports have limited or no data from which to estimate aircraft operational counts. Airport sponsors rely upon aircraft operational counts to develop products for purposes such as forecasting, budgeting, and project justification.

ACRP Report 129: Evaluating Methods for Counting Aircraft Operations at Non-Towered Airports was published in 2015 and identified options to fill this gap but Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) was an emerging technology at that time and was noted for additional research. The FAA mandated that by January 2020, aircraft were required to have ADS-B Out installed when flying in certain airspace and with this inflection point, the industry needs an evaluation as to whether ADS-B is a reliable alternative for aircraft operational counts.  Additionally, the accuracy and efficacy of aircraft operational counts obtained via ADS-B needs to be validated through structured scientific research to better understand the benefits and limitations of various collection technologies and the ability to support different use cases across various airport configurations and user characteristics. 


The objective of this research is to develop a guide and techniques to collect and validate the use of ADS-B data for obtaining aircraft operational counts and identifying aircraft type at U.S. towered and non-towered airports. This research should include, at a minimum:

  • A roadmap for implementing the collection and use of ADS-B data at airports;
  • The state of current readiness and feasibility of ADS-B data for airport use cases in airport operations, planning, and development;
  • Trends and statistics of ADS-B equipage across the general aviation (GA) fleet both in terms of equipped aircraft hulls and as a share of operations by business jets, turboprops, recreational piston aircraft, training piston aircraft, agricultural aircraft, and other relevant groupings; and
  • Coverage and limitations of an ADS-B collection program. 


The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following deliverables for ACRP and panel review and approval:

  • A case study plan which includes, at a minimum, 5 locations. The case study locations should include various airport configurations and user characteristics such as airport traffic control tower status (24 hour, part-time, non-towered), airport service levels per NPIAS definitions, airport runway geometry, and traffic type (commercial, cargo, GA). One case study location must include a rural airport with agricultural operations. 
  • An interim report with a summary of research done to date including a summary of the case studies, an outline of the guide, and an overview of the techniques.

The research plan should also include checkpoints with the ACRP panel, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to ACRP and panel review and approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate.

The final deliverables will include: (1) guide and techniques; (2) a Summary of Key Findings; (3) a Further Recommended Research Memo; and (4) a technical memo titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.


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