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.
STATUS: RESEARCH IN PROGRESS