How ADS-B Exchange Works

Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) is a surveillance technology that allows aircraft to automatically broadcast essential information, such as their current position, altitude, and velocity, at regular intervals. This information is relayed via radio waves, typically on the 1090 MHz frequency for commercial aviation (supplemented by 978mhz for lower flying aircraft in the US). Unlike traditional radar systems that require an external signal to locate an aircraft, and expensive ground equipment, ADS-B relies on the aircraft’s onboard navigation/GPS systems, making it more accurate and reliable for air traffic control and other monitoring purposes. The data broadcast by the aircraft can be received by air traffic control ground stations, other aircraft equipped with ADS-B, and even hobbyist equipment like personal ADS-B receivers.

ADS-B Exchange collects this real-time data from a network of ground-based receivers, which can be owned by institutions, enthusiasts, or anyone interested in what’s flying above them. These ground stations capture the ADSB signals from passing aircraft and then feed this data into our centralized system. Using this aggregated information, ADS-B Exchange can then generate a comprehensive, real-time picture of the airspace, tracking individual aircraft across large distances. ADS-B Exchange also integrates other types of data, like Multilateration (MLAT) and Mode S parameters, to provide an even more complete view of the aviation landscape.

The data collected by ADS-B Exchange serves various purposes. For one, it greatly aids air traffic control operations and public awareness, enhancing situational awareness and improving safety measures. It is also invaluable for research, whether that’s for studying air traffic patterns or analyzing fuel efficiency. Last but not least, real-time and historical ADS-B data are crucial for emergency response efforts, including search and rescue operations and accident investigations. Overall, the ADS-B ecosystem, bolstered by organizations such as ADS-B Exchange, plays a pivotal role in modern aviation.

Unsolicited comment received from an air traffic controller who wished to remain anonymous:

“My name is xxxx..  I’m an air traffic controller at xxxx ARTCC (US Air Route Traffic Control Center), and I’m also the xxx facility airspace representative. I wanted to reach out and express the gratitude we have for the ADS-B Exchange platform.

Just this past week, we were able to find a low-level aircraft in distress via the website (which was below our radar coverage at the time). We’ve since spread awareness at our facility to bookmark the website on the control room PCs for possible use in future emergency situations. 

We’ve also occasionally used the platform to verify the selected altitude matches assigned altitude for foreign pilots, which is awesome!. Thank you and your team for providing such a great tool.”