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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Science

Brian Wilson

Washington, DC

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GPS to Revolutionize Aviation…Finally

April 28, 2010 - 8:30 AM | by: Brian Wilson

Internet to show me where. GPS to get me there.

Everywhere there’s satellites. Oh, I live the simple life.”

— lyrics from A Simple Life

When a song by country/bluegrass singer, Ricky Skaggs includes a reference to GPS, it seems pretty clear that this amazing satellite technology, developed initially for the military, has become a part of our every day lives.

GPS technology has been in cars for years — now most advanced cell phones are GPS capable, but you might be surprised to know that the nation’s air traffic control system is only now starting to use GPS in a sophisticated way.

Later today, I will board a plane at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center near Atlantic City, New Jersey to witness first hand new technology that will revolutionize aviation — making the skies safer — while making travel more efficient and less time consuming. It should save airlines fuel over time, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of large commercial jets.

The FAA calls this ADS-B (that stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast). It’s the underlying core technology of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System. Once tested, the air traffic controller will be able to reduce aircraft separation from five miles to three. Planes equipped with ADS-B technology will be able to know their location within three meters — and, perhaps more importantly, see exactly where other planes are. I wonder if the ADS-B systems has one of those pleasant female voices like the GPS system in my car? I call her Maggie.

Ground systems should be installed around the country by 2013 and the FAA is proposing that all airplanes be equipped with ADS-B avionics by 2020. Some airlines have already started installing the gear. According to FAA administrator, Randy Babbitt, this new technology “is a tremendous leap forward in transforming the current air traffic control system.”

It’s already up and running in Philadelphia, which sits smack dab in the middle of some of the most congested airspace in the country.

This plane I’ll be flying on is the FAA’s ADS-B testbed . I’m told it is equipped with a mock cockpit and video screens. Being the techno-geek I am, I’m certain I’ll be all agog by the time I land. It doesn’t take much to make me all agog, however.

Be sure to watch for my reports Wednesday afternoon on Fox News Channel. Also check back to this blog for updates!

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