ADS-B and other means of surveillance implementation status in Europe, as seen from SESAR

Below condensed excerpts from a May 2018 report covering 56 pages by the European Commission’s SESAR project. We will comment on the findings later as they may be surprisingly disappointing for many GA pilots regarding the purpose, effectiveness and maturity of the ADS-B framework, namely in the context of airliners.


In environments with dense traffic, such as Europe or the continental US, ADS-B has faced challenges. Thus, the term ‘the execution of an ADS-B recovery plan’.


The original variant of 1090ES ADS-B was RTCA DO-260 (also known as version 0); early adopters equipped to that standard in the rushed ADS-B implementation. The original standard was inadequate, and the standard was updated twice to DO-260A (known as version 1) and DO-260B (known as version 2).


EU Regulation (1207/2011, 1028/2014, 2017/386): The last postpones the equipment of ADS-B Out functionality by June 2020 for aircraft with 5.7t MTOW or max TAS > 250 knots.

Since 2010, both US and the EU, have promulgated airborne mandates, which have gone through a series of revisions and postponements to finally converge on the currently applicable scopes (generally medium and heavy commercial traffic in the EU and including GA operating in controlled airspace in the US, several exceptions apply e.g. for state and military aircraft) and deadlines (2020 in both cases). In terms of these mandates, this is referred to as ADS-B Out. ADS-B In is not in the scope of the Regulation. European GA is out of the scope of EU mandate.

Airlines are affected by the misalignment of ADS-B mandates, especially between EU and US. European global airlines must equip their fleet to cope with the US mandate which requires to modify the Multi-Mode Receiver (MMR) by including the WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) function. In the US, additionally Selected Availability (SA) Aware MMR`s are required by 2020, and GPS Service Availability Prediction Tool and GPS augmentation WAAS/SBAS by 2025.

Airliner Equipment levels

Many aircraft are not fulfilling the quality requirements defined in the EU Regulation. The retro-fit plans show very few airlines planning to be compliant by 2020. The situation is similar for Regional and Business Aviation: there are no plans to retrofit their fleet, with very few exceptions.

Only around 20% of the EU airliners fleets are compliant with DO-206B, the majority of these are forward-fit on new deliveries. This is in line with the Airbus aircraft equipage rate (21% for A320, 31% for A330/A340). For the long-haul aircraft, 17% of the fleet is equipped, whilst for the short / medium haul aircraft, 21% is compliant with the Regulation. Data shows a consistent equipage level of 20% between mainline carriers and business aviation, with regional carriers falling behind that at 15%.

For the regional fleet, and especially Turboprops, ATR is offering the DO-260B compliance as an option on ATR’s-600 fleet, which is the last certified version. Regarding ATR-500 fleet, a retrofit solution should be certified by end of 2018.

For the long-haul fleet, some airlines are planning to retrofit their aircraft to comply with the Regulation. However, for the medium/short haul fleet, major airlines foresee difficulties to retrofit due to the high number of aircraft needed to be equipped in the short-term.

Technology and Capability

In the short to medium term, Mode S radars offer enhanced performance and substantial RF capacity improvements, whilst multilateration offers a cost-effective alternative to radar with similar performance to ADS-B.

ADS-B as a surveillance technology could not be able to fully replace conventional sensors until all airspace users are equipped and capable.

ADS-B was proven easily eavesdropped and/or spoofed when compared to conventional surveillance sensors. This raises substantial concerns to actors who value operational security or privacy. Technological mitigations are yet to become part of the global standard.

ATC Equipment levels

The current situation on ADS-B receiver installation in Europe is fragmented. Except for isolated areas such as oil rigs in Norway, no country today operates an ADS-B ground infrastructure for enroute surveillance integrated into the ATM system. France and other countries have no ADS-B ground coverage at all. France currently plans to install one single station in the Bordeaux area.

France, Luxembourg and several other countries do not have deployed ADS-B stations at their main airports today. Only a few countries today (mainly Germany and Switzerland) use ADS-B ground infrastructure for airport surveillance on few major airports, integrated into the ATM system.

UK, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and other countries will implement ADS-B ground reception without making operational use of the ADS-B data. In UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Finland and other countries, stakeholders may intend to implement ADS-B for validation purposes or for surveillance of airport surface vehicles but there are no plans to integrate ADS-B position in ATC systems and to use it for ATC services.

Radio Spectrum

Radio frequency spectrum is a scarce resource. Management of the spectrum is handled globally by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) where States are represented. Aviation only has a status as an observer in ITU and is not part of decision making. Aviation is represented by States that often have other priorities to consider.

The aviation spectrum is attractive to telecommunication service providers. Traditionally, it was sufficient for aviation to claim ‘flight safety’ to protect its spectrum, but during the last 20 years, a strong pressure has emerged from satellite service providers, mobile phone industry, broadcast companies etc., demanding access to aviation spectrum. The argument used against aviation is that the reserved spectrum is underutilized because of expected new systems not in operation and low spectrum efficiency due to old and obsolete technologies. The aeronautical band 960-1215 MHz is coming under increasing pressure to allow channel sharing with non-aviation services that by design are not compatible with the aeronautical applications incumbent in the band.

Radio channel saturation largely became a function of traffic density. Both TCAS and ADS-B use random channel access. The practical effect is that when the channel becomes saturated, the operational range of ADS-B in that location is substantially reduced.

Saturation of the 1090MHz channel is a regular occurrence in European airspace. The progressive rollout of the more spectrum efficient Mode S radars in lieu of old Mode A/C units alleviates this issue, but the freed capacity is being taken up by ADS-B with its rigid band usage character. TCAS is a significant contributor to channel congestion and can amount to 50% of radio traffic in a dense environment.

There exists a concrete risk of band oversaturation in the transitionary period when all aircraft are expected to both broadcast ADS-B and reply to Mode S interrogations on the same channel.


The position can be sourced from the aircraft’s inertial platform, i.e. does not need to come from GNSS. Such position quality will start to degrade after some time and the accuracy will be downgraded.

If surveillance is to make itself largely dependent upon GNSS by replacing ground-based surveillance sensors (radar, multilateration) with ADS-B, the shared dependency will lead to a significant common point of failure, since ATC is no longer able to determine aircraft positions. In the absence of an independent positioning source, both the aircraft crew and the ground ATC have effectively become blind. The consensus in the ATM community is that a robust, fully GNSS independent positioning and timing solution of some form will be necessary to provide some level of sustained operational capacity.

GNSS is a relatively fragile system; its weak received power makes it easy to interfere with, obstruct and spoof. Multiple cases of each have been demonstrated in the recent years and the number of interference events has been showing a sharply rising trend.

DO-260B ADS-B uses GNSS as its primary positioning source. The only two operational constellations in existence today being military systems each owned, operated and fully controlled by the US and Russia, and the relative vulnerability of GNSS to interference and spoofing raised unresolved questions of state liability and approval. US GPS and Russian GLONASS are provided realistically on an as-is basis with an expression of commitment from the respective federal administrations. This raises a dilemma concerning the role of national authorizations or approvals of these foreign-power controlled systems for use in the provision of safety of life services such as ATC.

Garmin TIS and Audio Out feature licenses to be removed

The FLARM ecosystem has developed with unprecedented speed in the last few years. Not only have thousands of new FLARM installations been done in GA airplanes and helicopters, but several new PowerFLARM-based OEM FLARM devices have been released by various manufacturers. This has given us lots of knowledge about how the different products are used. In addition, different devices target different target groups (e.g. aircraft types). In these respects, we are continually evaluating our product offerings.

Based on this evaluation, we have decided to remove the Garmin TIS and Audio Out (AUD) feature licenses from our webshop. Both licenses have seen a rather low number of purchases and have come with some technical challenges.

The Garmin TIS functionality has generated an elevated number of support requests regarding compatibility with various 3rd party displays. It is also limited as it allows for a maximum of 8 intruders to be displayed concurrently, and many aspects of a full FLARM display are simply ignored (e.g. error states). Unfortunately, these limitations were not easy to understand by customers and installers.

The Audio Out license has seen a decline in sales when this functionality has been replaced by similar functionality in displays and integrated FLARM systems. In addition, due to upcoming certification requirements for FLARM in rotorcraft, audio warnings need to be more closely integrated with the specific aircraft systems and configuration, which is not possible with the current audio out implementation.

The Garmin TIS and Audio Out licenses will be removed from the webshop end of 2018. Purchases of these licenses will continue to be unrestricted until that time. Licenses that have once been purchased will continue to be functional without restriction. Devices purchased in 2018 or earlier will continue to remain eligible for the licenses. Please contact us in such cases.

These changes will have limited effect but will help us focus on the functions and features that have a high value for the users.

FLARM and uAvionix Collaborate to Create Electronic Conspicuity Solutions for Manned and Unmanned Aircraft

FLARM Technology and uAvionix today announced a partnership to collaborate on Electronic Conspicuity (EC) and Detect and Avoid (DAA) solutions for manned and unmanned aircraft. uAvionix specializes in ADS-B, Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) transponders, and GNSS position sources for manned and unmanned aircraft. FLARM specializes in situational awareness and active DAA solutions for General Aviation and unmanned aircraft. Both companies offer products for installation and portable use together with modern display systems such as Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications.

The companies plan to incorporate their respective technologies into one another’s products and to develop and sell interoperable solutions for these markets across the world. The companies also plan to collaborate on UAS remote identification standards and solutions. FLARM’s Open eID Standard, the first electronic identification standard published globally, is being trialled in Europe for DAA and remote identification purposes, a key enabler for UTM frameworks like U-Space. uAvionix’ DroneAware system is being tested as a component of the NASA UTM TCL3 demonstrations as well as three of the UAS Integration Pilot Programs in the US.

“As the airspace becomes more and more crowded, it is increasingly important to integrate existing electronic conspicuity solutions into interoperable platforms. ADS-B and FLARM are the two dominating GNSS-based solutions in use today” said Christian Ramsey, President uAvionix.

“Combining Detect and Avoid and remote ID solutions for both manned and unmanned traffic will enable the safe and efficient integration of all traffic in the same airspace and keep the responsibility where it should be: with the pilot,” said Daniel Hoffmann, General Manager FLARM Technology.

FLARM instrumental in many accident investigations

FLARM does not only save lives in the sky but has also been instrumental in many accident investigations. FLARM devices not only save the own flown track, but also the first and last received positions of other aircraft. The purpose of this is to enable range analyses of installations, but our forensic team can also use this information to assist with Search and Rescue (SAR) and to establish the flown track during an investigation. Often, data from several aircraft can be combined to establish the track flown, and/or where the aircraft crashed.

This article in Luzerner Zeitung (in German) published today explains how FLARM is currently supporting the Swiss Accident Investigation Board with establishing the final minutes of a Socata TB-10 accident on Saturday.

Commercial BVLOS Drone Service uses FLARM for Traffic Avoidance

Swiss Post, the Insel hospital group, and drone manufacturer Matternet have started a commercial BVLOS drone transport service in the Swiss capital city of Berne. The drones are connecting the Insel university hospital and Tiefenau hospital, located 4 km (2.5 miles) apart, carrying lab samples and urgently needed medication. The route is located entirely inside the controlled airspace around the city’s airport.

“When lab samples need to be transported as quickly as possible from A to B, every minute counts”, says Uwe E. Jocham, Insel’s CEO. The lab samples are currently transported by courier. For urgent cases, Insel uses a taxi.

All drones are equipped with our FLARM traffic information and collision warning system. Our technology is standard in most aircraft operating in European airspace and allows both manned and unmanned aircraft to see and stay well clear of each other at any time. In addition, it enables the drones to be identified and tracked at all times, a key requirement of U-Space for the safe and efficient integration of drones into airspace shared with manned aviation.

In the near future, Swiss Post together with medical laboratory Zentrallabor ZLZ and Matternet will start another commercial BVLOS drone transport service above Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city. The service will connect ZLZ’s main medical laboratory with the Hirslanden Im Park hospital. The routing crosses the lake of Zurich and is partially in uncontrolled airspace.

The Swiss Civil Aviation Authority FOCA has been involved in the project, has inspected the drone and its safety components, defined the legal conditions for flying it, and granted approval for the flights in Berne and Zurich.

FlarmNet is undergoing maintenance

FlarmNet, where pilots can register their FLARM devices to be identifiable by other pilots, is currently undergoing maintenance. The improved FlarmNet will be released shortly.

New customer portal available

We have recently released the new and long-awaited customer portal. It can be found after logging in to under “My Account”, which you can find at the top of the page. The customer portal will be your centerpoint for all things FLARM related. If you have recently e.g. updated your obstacle database, you might have noticed that you no longer receive an email with the files. Instead, license files are downloaded directly from the Order Completed page and are also made accessible from the customer portal.

Under the new tab “Devices” under “My Account”, you can find all devices, for which you have previously purchased a feature license (including an obstacle database). Licenses for a device are only shown for the user that purchased the license. If a license for your device was purchased by a dealer/installer, you will not see the license.

You can download purchased license files by clicking the links in the right column. If you don’t have the latest obstacle database for a certain device, there is a link to add it to the cart. If the device has never had an obstacle database, a link will instead take you to the webshop.

New devices are added to this list as soon as you purchase a license. Devices can also be added manually by clicking the “Add device” button at the bottom of the page.

Under the “Orders” tab you can see a list of all your orders. We have added a button for each order, with which you can download a ZIP file with all licenses for that order.

One last new feature: On the product pages in the webshop, you can now select a device that you own, so you don’t have to enter the data manually. This is especially useful if you purchase several licenses for one device, or if you have several devices from which you want to purchase the obstacle database update. The list does not show devices for which you already own the license in question (or it’s already in the car).

We will continuously improve the customer portal and add new features.

Open FLARM UAS eID Standard published

Upcoming regulations will require unmanned aerial systems (UAS, drones) to have remote electronic identification (eID) and tracking capabilities. The UAS thereby broadcasts a unique identifier along with its position by means of radio, enabling detection, identification, and tracking of the vehicle. Reliable identification is an essential element of airspace and traffic management, and thus a key pillar in U-space foundation services. The benefits include added security, higher safety standards, increased accountability, and easier access to airspace.

The open FLARM UAS eID standard (download) builds on the proven FLARM protocol with over 35.000 installations in manned aircraft worldwide. Based on vehicle-to-vehicle radio technology, it offers unparalleled scalability while not requiring any infrastructure or expensive cellular modems. Secure signatures based on public-key cryptography offer a significant advantage over other proposals. The standard implements key requirements of the EASA, FAA and national regulations drafts. It is designed to be simple to implement, cheap to build, easy to test, free of licenses. Manufacturers can use existing radio hardware, or inexpensively add the required COTS hardware to start using the standard.

For fast time-to-market, we offer development kits specifically for UAS as well as a reference design for eID. Contact us for details.

About Drones

While commercial applications for drones are on the rise, most drones today are small and operate in the close vicinity of the human pilot and under direct line of sight. They are restricted to flying low and well clear of airports, urban areas, and airspace used by manned traffic. Future commercial applications will require large-scale operation in shared airspace, well beyond (visual) line of sight. UAV systems will be highly automated with minimal interaction by human operators. The vehicles will be larger, faster, heavier, and more intelligent, with the capability to resolve complex situations autonomously.

Business models, technology, and regulation all have to evolve under significant pressure. At the same time, traditional airspace users and the general public have significant interests to be taken into account: Safety in the air and on the ground, security and resilience to malicious intents, full accountability for all users of airspace, and affordability by means of a thriving, competitive ecosystem.

For these conflicting interests to meet, UAS will have to fulfil even stricter standards than we have in manned aviation. Reliable detect-and-avoid is a core technology needed for autonomous UAS operation. Human pilots are not capable of visually identifying even a UAV of reasonable size, thus the latter has to give way, always.


The FLARM system was invented by active pilots and launched through a crowd-funding campaign in 2004. It has since gained fast acceptance and high penetration in the entire aeronautical community and is known as a safe, efficient and affordable technology. Today, a broad range of solutions for manned and unmanned aviation is available. Solutions include electronic conspicuity, secure e-identification, traffic sensors, multi-sensor fusion, autonomous detect-and-avoid, ground tracking infrastructure and services, data uplink, IFF, and air risk assessment consultancy.

Our technology is used in many manned aircraft and rotorcraft, and works anytime, anywhere and independent of infrastructure. FLARM is the most popular cooperative traffic avoidance solution in the lower airspace. In Europe, over half of all registered aircraft have a combined FLARM OUT (transmit) and IN (receive) product onboard. FLARM offers the smallest integrated transceiver for aviation, native deconfliction for all traffic sources, thus enabling cost-effective collision avoidance.

Find drone-specific products here.