ESA title

ADS-B Xplore

  • ACTIVITYFeasibility Study
  • STATUSOngoing
  • THEMATIC AREAAviation, Infrastructure & Smart Cities, Transport & Logistics

Objectives of the service

ADS-B, standing for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, is an innovative surveillance technology allowing for high-precision, real-time and global air traffic surveillance data. It enhances safety, increases airspace capacity and improves flight efficiency. The ADS-B Xplore study investigates the technical, regulatory and economic viability of new service families within their dedicated ecosystems. 

  • openADS-B: enabling ADS-B big data and flight data mining applications. 
  • SatVAS: enabling voice communication - for every aircrafts, everytime and everywhere. 
  • AEREAS: enabling RPAS situational awareness and common airspace sharing with manned aircraft.

The study comprises the identification of the user and stakeholder requirements, the definition of the service, the design of a suitable system architecture, the validation of critical service elements using a service mock-up, the analysis of the economic and non-economic viability and the recommendation of subsequent activities to prepare an operational service.

Users and their needs

openADS-B (big data applications)
The combination of real-time and historical air traffic surveillance data aggregated with meteorological, geographical, earth observation and environmental data opens an immense potential applications such as trajectory monitoring, traffic statistics, flight  guidance, flight tracking, traffic prediction, alerting, weather nowcast/forecast, aircraft operations optimization, ground operations optimization, asset tracking, ATM performance evaluation etc.

Users of such applications include general public, aeronautical service providers, logistics companies, general aviation, airlines, airports, OEMs, weather providers, ANSPs, insurances and public entities.
The common need is a low entrance hurdle to access and combine all needed information for a specialized application.
openADS-B aims to satisfy this need. 

SatVAS (global communication)
To exploit the full benefits of global air traffic surveillance a global ATC-grade communication system is needed. The proposed solution closes an important gap between other existing and envisaged systems. The targeted user community consists of small carriers operating in remote areas and General Aviation. Their need is a global, reliable communication system with a known operational concept at no costs for upgrades of their airframes. 

AEREAS (airspace sharing of manned and unmanned systems)
The expected growth of the UAV/RPAS/drone market calls for solutions to enable a safe coexistence of significant air space traffic. This becomes in particular relevant for air spaces shared between manned and unmanned traffic. A public infrastructure ensuring this safety is a public interest and is obviously not restricted to the actual airspace users. A global harmonization is a must to allow compliance to prospective regulations by the UAV/RPAS/drone user.

Service/ system concept

openADS-B (big data applications)

(credit: Atmosphere)

SatVAS (global communication)

(credit: TAS) 

AEREAS (airspace sharing of manned and unmanned systems):
Key of the proposed solution is the establishment of a dedicated ADS-B-like position broadcast system for UAVs/RPAS/drones above 2-5kg. This will enable geofencing,

collision avoidance and situational awareness among the drones. In addition, drones will receive ADS-B on 1090 Mhz to allow autonomous avoidance of manned air traffic.

Needed transponders can be built very compact (~10 g) and at affordable price (few 10€) to allow global equippage.

The elaborated service concept can be downloaded as white paper below. Key benefits are: safety increase, no need for dedicated infrastructure, worldwide harmonized system, defined interaction between manned and unmanned systems.

Space Added Value

All proposed services leverage on a real global availability of a space-based infrastructure and their derived data products. This is seen as the key asset to create added value in comparison to existing, mostly not harmonized terrestrial infrastructure.

Current Status

The activity has been completed with the Final Review in May 2019. The study led to various follow-up activities, partially inside and partially outside the ARTES framework. 

  • openADS-B: a demonstration project based on a sub-set of the elaborated service idea might be pursued by one of the consortium members
  • SatVAS: the concept would allow a globally available, easy-to-use ATM-grade communication system reaching not only the commercial aircraft but also general aviation. The concept has been discussed at various levels (e.g. EUROCONTROL COMSG). Realization of SatVAS is outside the scope of ESA Business Applications.
  • AEREAS: the concept enables drone traffic surveillance and co-existence with manned air traffic in a simple and robust manner. The whitepaper (see below) was met with interest from various stakeholders. A follow-up is outside the perimeter of the consortium and ESA Business Applications programme.

Status Date

Updated: 14 January 2020