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Senate Votes To Replace Aviation Radar With GPS

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the secretly-replaced-with-folger's-crystals dept.

Transportation 457

plover writes "The US Senate on Monday passed by a 93-0 margin a bill that would implement the FAA's NextGen plan to replace aviation radar with GPS units. It will help pay for the upgrade by increasing aviation fuel taxes on private aircraft. It will require two inspections per year on foreign repair stations that work on US planes. And it will ban pilots from using personal electronics in the cockpit. This just needs to be reconciled with the House version and is expected to become law soon. This was discussed on Slashdot a few years ago."

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Anonymous Coward. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581680)

HOw close to first am I?

Great... (4, Insightful)

T-Bucket (823202) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581698)

While the nextgen plan is a good thing, the rest is crap. We can get legislation to ban laptops, but we can't get the HORRENDOUSLY dangerous rest regulations fixed. How about NOT giving in to the airline lobbyists for once and actually doing something to make air travel SAFER????

Re:Great... (2, Insightful)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581788)

lobbyists only have sway over issues that people either don't care about or are not informed. Think, if a politician routinely votes against your wishes you don't vote for him right? Then where does his special interest money come from when he can no longer influence policy. Many issues with our government are due to lazy and inept voters. Only vote on an issue if you are well informed and NOT listening to propaganda, we vote these guys in and we can vote them out if they don't do their job.

Re:Great... (-1, Offtopic)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582214)

I remember a couple of years ago trying to get some of those working in windows and it complained about glaux.
There's some "glaux replacement code" but I couldn't get that working either.

So any chance the tutorials will ever be updated to work out of the box so that newbies can avoid worrying about dependencies until they have a handle on the material?

It massively detracts from the value of the tutorials to newbies when the tutorial code simply doesn't work.

Re:Great... (5, Funny)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582600)

You assume people understand what their wishes are. There was a news story of a guy marching against socialized medicine in his Medicare provided scooter.

Re:Great... (1)

SmilingBoy (686281) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582326)

I think air travel is already extremely safe; I don't think it makes sense to spend a lot of money (resulting in higher ticket prices) for a minor further increase in safety. You will never get 100% safety anyway. (To avoid any doubt: I am talking about the regulations in North America, Europe and a number of other developed countries. Flying is a lot less safe in, e.g., a lot of African countries.)

Re:Great... (5, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582704)

This is as much about increasing airway capacity as increasing safety, over ocean there is no radar coverage so that aircraft have to be kept very well spaced, which is becoming a bottleneck on busy routes e.g. US North East to Northern Europe. With GPS you can increase density without decreasing safety. And it will probably save money in the long term - the GPS based systems are inherently cheaper, but you have to put up money in front to run both systems in parallel, and you don't get the payback until you can begin switching off radars. So it needs short term funding to cover the spending hump.

Basically, this is an unsurprising bit of good housekeeping - as shown by the vote. It was a change that would have to be made sometime, and the only real question was exactly when: costs will almost certainly fall if you delay, but that puts off the arrival of benefits as well.

Re:Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582664)

How would you find out the view of the airlines without listening to lobbyists?

Lobbyists are people hired to speak on behalf of the airlines. You cannot always trust that speech to be in the best interest of society as a whole, for example, if a tiny cost for airlines would result in a very small increase in airline safety in a way that wouldn't be noticable to customers, they would probably speak against it.

But if you don't listen to lobbyists, you must have the view that there's a lot of people out there who know a lot better than the airlines themselves what the major issues for the industry are. You had better be correct about that, because if you aren't, there's a social cost from getting it wrong.

Re:Great... (2, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582696)

Some things have often bothered me about the way that congress does things. Its actually reading a bit about coding design that really sunk it home. This seems to me like a top down specification of implementation rather than a specification of interface.

That is, it doesn't say "this is the goal, this is what information we need, this is what you will get". Instead its "This is how you will do it".

"This is the information you will send to the tower, this is the format it will be in, these are the tolerance specifications for how accurate and precise your instruments will be, this is the standard reference that we will use" is much simpler in the long run, because it requires less changes to the specificaion.

Why should the tower care if its GPS, Cell phone tower positioning, or star charts that produce the data? As long as its accurate to a specified reference...

of course, I do wonder.... why do they want to replace radar with GPS? Radar doesn't require an active participant on the other end. That, in and of itself, conveys certain benefits, not the least of which is not requiring much specification beyond not allowing air craft with the radar signature of small birds to be flying around.

Just my thoughts.


Finally Congress gets down to business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581702)

It's about time they got around to work that doesn't involve screwing the country over and ignoring the people they claim to represent.

Re:Finally Congress gets down to business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581960)

It's about time they got around to work that doesn't involve screwing the country over and ignoring the people they claim to represent.

Funny, they did almost exactly what myself and nearly everyone I know wanted them to do. So they're obviously doing the will of the people. Or is my anecdote not as valid as your anecdote?

Re:Finally Congress gets down to business (3, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582120)

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of
government. It can only exist until the voters discover
that they can vote themselves largess from the public
treasury. From that time on the majority always votes
for the candidates promising the most benefits from the
public treasury, with the results that a democracy
always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed
by a dictatorship.

-- Alexander Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)

Re:Finally Congress gets down to business (4, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582140)

Or, as Robert Heinlein once put it: once the Plebes discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses, it's all over.

Re:Finally Congress gets down to business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582118)

Finally got round to it yesterday didn't they?

Satellite vulnerability (5, Insightful)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581718)

This just adds to the consequences of the inevitable solar flare that will knock out all our satellites.

Re:Satellite vulnerability (5, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581804)

Senator 1: "Isn't there some saying about putting all your eggs in one basket?"
Senator 2: "Hey! Good idea!"

Re:Satellite vulnerability (1)

securityfolk (906041) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582164)

In a related story, the Govt has decided to outlaw compasses, magnetically-charged needles, corks, and cups of water, in an effort to get more citizens to use GPS.

Re:Satellite vulnerability (1)

petaflop (682818) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581834)

Absolutely! I'm flabbergasted! The US commercial air fleet could be grounded for days at a time during the next sunspot maximum (probably around 2015).

Re:Satellite vulnerability (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582406)

Which radar are they talking about?

I thought the radar on passenger planes is just weather radar?

e.g. it detects clouds and not other planes.

OK there's also the "going to hit the ground" detection stuff, but I don't think that's what the story is about.

Re:Satellite vulnerability (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582180)

besides the obvious satelite dependence, isnt it generally a better practice in high-safety sectors to use active sensors instead of relying on everyone else to announce their position? This would be the equivalent of going out in the streets in your car, shutting your eyes and hoping everyone else on the road is kind enough to honk their horn to signal their position.

And if i can idiots advocate for a few lines, what about the terrorists? if they manage to hijack a plane, they just need to disable the GPS transponder and the plane dissapear of off the flight-control display?

and what the hell is wrong with radar anyway?

GPS and altitude (2, Interesting)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582698)

I hope they're not going to rely on the GPS for altitude. I've notice a number of times on my bike that my wrist GPS says I'm going downhill when it's obvious to me that I'm going uphill.

By replace I hope they mean augment. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581730)

Otherwise I might just taxi off of a draw bridge.

Re:By replace I hope they mean augment. (2, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581764)

How often do you fly out of castles?

Re:By replace I hope they mean augment. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581800)

Leave my X-Men LARPing out of this :(

sounds risky (4, Insightful)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581732)

what if some big foreign country who has anti satellite weapons decides to blow up our GPS satellites?

Re:sounds risky (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581752)

Then we nuke them back to the Stone Age. Most of the ICBMs still use inertial or starlight based navigation, and you don't need precision when you have brute force.

Re:sounds risky (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582206)

and in the aftermath, with the other party nuked, you still will be without GPS, good luck doing without any kind of airline untill the military puts up a new GPS network..

Re:sounds risky (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582268)

Don't worry, It will only be a few months before we can replace all the satellites. All we have to do is rush order all the parts and have them flown in overnight and... oh.

Re:sounds risky (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582534)

I'm pretty sure we would still have VFR, VOR/VORTAC, NBD/DME, etc.

Sure, it might be a bit more 'interesting' not running into anyone, but you hardly NEED gps (or radar) to get from A to B.

Links below, because having [wikipedia.org] fifteen times in the middle of the text is irritating.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_flight_rules [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VORTAC [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-directional_beacon [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distance_measuring_equipment [wikipedia.org]

Re:sounds risky (5, Funny)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581754)

and what if evil munchkins land on the wing to sabotage the engine and the only one who sees it is a guy who every one thinks is crazy? what if...

Re:sounds risky (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581936)

and what if evil munchkins land on the wing to sabotage the engine and the only one who sees it is a guy who every one thinks is crazy? what if...

Well, at least you could throw your GPS receiver at him

Re:sounds risky (3, Funny)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582142)

That was clearly a feral oompa-loompa, NOT a munchkin. Completely different man.

Re:sounds risky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581780)

blow up all 24 GPS satellites?

Even if you are talking about a localized problem they would need to destroy 3 or more that cover an area I believe. Also I believe the AF maintains a few redundant sats that can be pulled into orbit as needed.

It seems unlikely as a form of attack.

Re:sounds risky (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581950)

Aren't only 12 of those satellites available over the US? Meaning the other 12 are situated over other parts of the world? Since you need 5 satellites to legally be able to use a GPS system in an aircraft, you'd only need to take out 8 to completely knock out US air travel. Taking out 5 or 6 would likely take out a large chunk of it. Sure, it's more than just 1, but it's still quite feasible (After all, if you can knock out one satellite, how hard is it to knock out 5?)...

Re:sounds risky (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582150)

Then the entire worlds civilian airline structure falls to shambles. Pretty much every big plane does use GPS now, just as a side tool. Whatever regulations the US makes, all planes flying into and out of the US have to have. In that way, this tech will eventually start working around the world.

Re:sounds risky (1)

KDN (3283) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582226)

Who needs anti satellite weapons? In the second Iraq war, wasn't Iraq using GPS jamming equipment for a while? Heck, last time I was in DC I noticed that my GPS would blink out around the White House. Although direct jamming equipment I don't worry about as much as the possibility of spoofing equipment. Something that could raise the apparent altitude of your airplane on descent in bad weather. Or move your location so you fly into a mountain range. Jamming would be obvious as you would have problems getting a signal lock. How do you identify spoofing without an independent source? And remember, when something is dependable, people tend to rely on it without critical thinking.

Re:sounds risky (2, Funny)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582394)

Now now, I don't think the EU would go that far to promote its Galileo system (provided they get it up and running, that is)

The way I read it, radar won't be retired. (2, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582484)

It's a little hard to tell, but one of the advantages listed is that aircraft outside areas with radar coverage will be able to transmit position information. So reading between the lines they expect to continue using radar, but replacing its role in the system with more up to date data broadcast by the aircraft.

I'm guessing that they will not throw out radar entirely for primary surveillance. They'll need it to track things that don't transmit their position, like aircraft with failed electronics.

Our rights offline (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581746)

It must be a good thing since there were no nay votes, right?

Or should we believe that debate is a bad thing like we've been told time and again on this Universal Health Care issue.

Re:Our rights offline (1)

The Aethereal (1160051) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581808)

I don't appreciate your sarcasm. You aren't one of those GPS-deniers are you? There is a consensus now. Deal with it!

Re:Our rights offline (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581966)

We had a debate. You acted like children. You lost.

Security (3, Insightful)

The Aethereal (1160051) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581762)

So each plane sends its location back to air traffic control? How is this system secured? This will be breached repeatedly. Also, what happens when a solar storm takes out the satellites? I'm sure GPS is a better system under normal circumstances, but circumstances are not always normal.

Re:Security (5, Interesting)

shrtcircuit (936357) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582582)

Planes already send their location back to ATC using query/response from the ground radar in an easily breached system. We haven't seen the big scary terrorists making fake planes appear on screens yet. In fact the current system is significantly more vulnerable, as it can only handle so many planes in its "view" at a time. Try to imagine loading that up with a few hundred fake transponders that block out real aircraft from showing up - essentially an ATC DoS attack. NextGen would, I hope, be considerably harder to attack in that method. With the current method it isn't unheard of for busy areas to DoS themselves from overload so it's already a weak model.

Also while I don't think GPS is or could ever be 100% reliable, we pilots do have something called pilotage, paper charts, and good old fashioned flying that we can use to get where we're going. It isn't as cool or convenient as a big moving map on your panel, but is a tried and true way to safely navigate that folks have been using since Jeppesen invented aeronautical charting. Even if some freak solar storm blew out all of the GPS satellites, pilots aren't going to suddenly find themselves completely lost, and planes aren't going just drop out of the sky. GPS receivers and transponders fail in planes from time to time, and we have backup plans to account for that and continue on. It's really not the end of the world. In effect an aircraft could suffer entire avionics failure and still make it down just fine.

NextGen is not the end of the world, it's a much needed upgrade to a vastly outdated system. It's better than what we have now, and if it breaks there won't be airliners crashing right and left. It's OK.

My personal beef with it is the "personal electronics" thing. I use my phone to access aviation information (weather, databases, etc) and fail to see why I should stop just because a couple wankers couldn't stop playing Doom in the cockpit or whatever they were doing. Federal Aviation Regs *already* have clauses to deal with pilot stupidity, this is just extra bullshit with literally zero benefit.

Inquiring minds... (4, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581772)

So exactly how prone will this system be to;

  1. Solar storms and sunspots?
  2. Terrorism foreign or domestic?
  3. Hacking or cracking?
  4. The problems surrounding an aging satellite service?

Don't get me wrong, this has a lot of upside, it's just important we have a good idea what the down side is, how significant it is, and what the expected impact on American business and transportation will be.

Re:Inquiring minds... (1)

tius (455341) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581970)

Not to mention that personal electronics are becoming more and more prolific, so expecting pilots and passengers not to use them is begging for trouble.

The smart thing to do is to use this in concert with RADAR as each side improves the reliability of the other's information (Kalman filtering anyone?).

Re:Inquiring minds... (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582648)

"Sat-nav is too easy to attack"

"A UK GOVERNMENT BOFFIN has warned that it is too easy to jam GPS signals with cheap gear.

An engineer at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington warned that jamming sat-nav equipment with noise signals was on the rise and more sophisticated methods even allow hackers to program what GPS receivers display.

Speaking to the BBC, David Last, a consultant engineer and former president of the Royal Institute of Navigation said that GPS gives us transportation, distribution industry, 'just-in-time' manufacturing, and emergency services operations.

He said that the Achilles heel of GPS is the extremely weak signals that reach the receiver and that the signals can be easily swamped by equipment here on Earth."

Full article at: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1593314/sat-nav-easy-attack [theinquirer.net]

93-0 margin (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581778)

US Senate on Monday passed by a 93-0 margin

And what were the other 7 senators doing that day? Biden (the VP) is technically part of the senate, but I'll give him a pass on this. I'll be checking to see if my senator(s) were busy sleeping in that day.

Re:93-0 margin (2, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581842)

US Senate on Monday passed by a 93-0 margin

And what were the other 7 senators doing that day? Biden (the VP) is technically part of the senate, but I'll give him a pass on this. I'll be checking to see if my senator(s) were busy sleeping in that day.

Uh, the VP only votes in case of a tie.

Re:93-0 margin (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581876)

If it passed by a 93-0 margin, it's conceivable your senate's vote wasn't needed.

Washington operated on a mix of reality, image, and rumor. Occasionally there's some morality thrown in. (To be fair, there is a lot of morality if you look in the right offices, but they usually aren't in the capitol building.) It's not so much because people are immoral as because they're busy and one misstatement costs them their career. It's hard to say anything when that's true, so you get very good at saying nothing.

Re:93-0 margin (1, Offtopic)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582094)

If we're going to pay my senator $174,000 a year [wikipedia.org] for 4 year term, plus lifetime pension and health benefits, plus other expenses*, I damn well expect them to be there every day. They already get plenty of days off [thecapitol.net], in addition to federal holidays. Maybe you make more than $174,000 a year, but I promise you, I don't. Considering it's an honor to serve your country, maybe they should rethink their payscale [answers.com].
*Senators have free access to military jets [wsj.com], which cost anywhere from $500 to $5000 an hour depending on who you ask, among the many other perks

Re:93-0 margin (3, Insightful)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582500)

Well, there are a couple of senators who are sick and cannot attend, and if it wasn't for the amendment to the health care reform bill, many of them would have been off on junkets or in committee meetings. 93 is actually a high number for such an uncontroversial bill.

Cool! (1)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581786)

If the batteries in my Garmin go out, I can just use any 747 to go geocaching!

Re:Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582368)

If the batteries in my Garmin go out, I can just use any 747 to go geocaching!

You are FakeSteveC [blogspot.com] A.I.C.M.F.P.

What happens when... (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581824)

A solar flare, natural disaster, or something more nefarious takes out the GPS system? Would the individual independent radars still remain operational in those situations? To someone like me who doesn't really fly much or know much about things it seems like we're replacing multiple independent systems with a system that has a central point of failure if someone or some natural event knocked out the satellites.

How about the same procedure as when radar breaks? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582040)

Radars are very, very reliable nowadays but the backup for air traffic control is to then put all aircraft at different altitudes until they either exit the area with broken radar or land, if things really go awry. There's still plenty of space for aircraft to be at different altitudes if you go below cruise levels, albeit the increased fuel consumption at lower altitudes might then mean that some simply must land. But that's a relatively minor inconvenience in case of radar failure...

GPS confusion (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581838)

Flight 235, we have your GPS signal. Please adjust your flight path 35 degrees northeast. Hold on one second, we're picking up an unidentified GPS signal. They're heading right for you! Emergency maneuver 15 degrees east! --- Ground control, it's a clear sunny day. I don't see any other planes in my flight path. --- Hold on Flight 235, we've received new information. We've identified the rogue GPS signal. Continue on course. It was only a migrating manatee with one of those older GPS tags.

Re:GPS confusion (2, Funny)

cbope (130292) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582016)

Holy crap, flying manatees? What else have we got to prepare for in the future when this GPS thing goes into service by the FAA?

Soo the FAA said this was good? (4, Insightful)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581854)

If this appropriately meets FAA guidelines than this is fine.

In cockpit systems a standby attitude device must be installed in the cockpit as a fallback system unless the existing cockpit systems have dual redundancy.

Along the same token the GPS DAMN WELL better have a backup system of some sort. This backup may be a radar system or it may be an INS system combined with altitude sensors or use of VOR/TACAN systems. There just has to be something there.

What about $50 GPS Jammers? (1)

IDtheTarget (1055608) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581862)

./ had an article a few days ago abouta gps jammer for $50 [slashdot.org]. It seems to me that it wouldn't be all that hard to make one with a pretty powerful jammer and a timer, put it in some checked baggage, and let the thing go off about 20 minutes before landing...

Re:What about $50 GPS Jammers? (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582160)

Or, you know, if you wanted to go to the trouble of making a dodgy looking device that will go off on a timer and stash it in a plane with the sole intent of disrupting service, you could just use explosives. Or turn your cellphone on, I'm always getting told by the flight attendants that my cellphone will disrupt the navigation equipment.

Re:What about $50 GPS Jammers? (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582240)

Why? We don't have electronics sniffing dogs ...yet.

Re:What about $50 GPS Jammers? (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582448)

And I'm sure they will do a good job at exposing all the shavers and vibrators etc stored in someones luggage. There's always X-Ray scanners in the mean time.

Re:What about $50 GPS Jammers? (3, Informative)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582414)

...and then ...nothing bad happens. The pilot reports a gps failure, air traffic guide her by radar towards the airport. When in range of the airport (assuming the weather is bad enough that the pilot can't see out the window) the pilot lands using the airport's instrument landing beacons.

There is slight disruption to traffic in the area due to slightly wider berth being given to our troubled aircraft, and the priority landing pattern.

(precise details made up - broad effect accurate)

Replace? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581872)

Let's replace 50 year old, time-tested technology with something that conks out regularly and is reliant on giant hunks of metal falling through the sky.

Adding GPS is a great idea. Replacing radar totally is beyond ridiculous.

must ENHANCE not REPLACE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31581882)


I can see where this is gonna go... (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581952)

Sexy female voice in the cockpit: "Now come to a heading of 329."
Pilot: "Wait... WTF ? Who put that mountain there ?...."

What about UFO's (4, Interesting)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581954)

In the literal sense, light aircraft not equiped with GPS, (Drug or people smugglers), and of course aircraft that have been hijacked and their transponders disabled.

Or some kid in a baloon (hoax or not, its probably not going to do an engine any good if it sucks it in...

And if the pilots are too busy playing with their laptops to even look out of the window...

It doesnt sound safe to me, especially in a post 911 world.

Re:What about UFO's (3, Informative)

jittles (1613415) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582006)

Right now the Gen AV radar system is actually based upon transponders reporting their altitude, position, speed and bearing. The only people that use active radar these days are the kinds of guys that work at NORAD or on an AWACS.

Re:What about UFO's (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582516)

Most non-military aviation uses Mode C transponders which only report altitude and an identifier code. Radar still tracks bearing and position.


Re:What about UFO's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582192)

Fuck me, stop saying post-9/11 world. It didn't change it that much, it just harmed the American ego.

Re:What about UFO's (1)

mooglez (795643) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582436)

In the literal sense, light aircraft not equiped with GPS, (Drug or people smugglers), and of course aircraft that have been hijacked and their transponders disabled.

Or some kid in a baloon (hoax or not, its probably not going to do an engine any good if it sucks it in...

And if the pilots are too busy playing with their laptops to even look out of the window...

It doesnt sound safe to me, especially in a post 911 world.

Does it matter? GPS is passive, it only figures out its current location via the satellite signals, it does not broadcast it onwards.

To replace radars on the ground for tracking aircraft, you need something in addition to the GPS (what is that, it's not mentioned in the summary?)

Didn't they delay a launch (3, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581992)

Didn't they delay a shuttle launchto avoid a GPS clock rollover? Will they ground all the world's aircraft for the next one?

Re:Didn't they delay a launch (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582316)

Short answer no.

GPS (2, Interesting)

teuluPaul (731293) | more than 3 years ago | (#31581998)

This is intesting on several levels:

1. In the UK NOTAMs ( Notice to airmen) are issued on a regular basis for GPS jamming trials. They take place over several weeks, and are, I believe, carried out by the army. I am not sure if their intention is to remove the possibility of soldiers on exercise using GPS rather than other means to navigate, or for some other reason.

I fly gliders and have a GPS unit on board which is used as a navigation aid. I also carry a chart (as required by air law) which serves as primary aid for navigation.

2. I would be pretty confident that all airliners currently in service have GPS capability

3. Radar is useful for seeing where everyone else is, GPS is for finding yourself. While transmitting location/vector information from an airbourne GPS to a ground station would enable collision avoidance, this feature is currently available through transponders. These are a requirement for any aircraft wanting to transit class A airspace.

Re:GPS (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582224)

1. GPS jamming tests are likely conducted as much for finding ways around them or strengthening resistance to them as anything else. I know the US has conducted a series of tests where GPS/INS munitions were used to kill jammers, and I think they have done that in combat, too. There are probably plenty of reasons why they do it.

2. Nope. A lot of older aircraft (even 757/767/A320 era) don't have GPS receivers. A lot of them are getting those retrofitted, but the airliners that don't have GPS generally use a combination of intertial and ground-based navigation (VOR/DME and such). In a few cases, you'll see a really old aircraft that's still using manually-tuned radio navigation, with no FMS or INS.

3. The advantage of ADS-B (the GPS-based system referred to in TFA) is that the information is more accurate, updates faster, is available to all other aircraft with the proper equipment (better TCAS functionality), has a simpler infrastructure than ground-based radar systems, and works just fine in areas without radar coverage (mountainous areas, open ocean, Alaska, etc). I'm sure the current system of radar/transponder will be retained for a long time, both for backup use and reverse compatability (light airplanes especially will probably retain old-style transponders for a long time). We also still have a network of radars that pick up "primary" targets (ie, raw radar returns) for detecting/tracking aircraft with failed transponders or non-cooperating targets.

Radar detects stuff without GPS. (2)

AssTard (684911) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582038)

With a radar you can detect stuff that's solid. With GPS, I'm guessing you can only see other GPS enabled stuff. Anyone else see a problem here?

Reconciliation!? (2, Funny)

Obyron (615547) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582050)

This is just a parliamentary tactic the Democrats are using to ram this unpopular legislation down the throats of ordinary, hard-working Americans. They're trying to pass this bill in the dead of night, under the old bridge down town, dressed as hobos and reeking of urine. Write your Congressman, radio your Precinct Boss, phone your local librarian. We need all hands on deck to kill this bill and show the Washington fatcats that we're not going to stand for this. I don't care if it's just to buy toilet paper, but getting a bill through our Congress should take a supermajority, the way God intended! Email Barack Hussein Obama and tell him you don't want socialist aviation!

Why not have both? (2, Interesting)

moxley (895517) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582060)

WHy not have both. Redundancy is a good thing when it comes to this sort of stuff.

Security issue... (3, Interesting)

SaberCat (1391411) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582062)

Point one: GPS, since the plane's antenna is semi-omnidirectional, is easily jammed. GPS signal strengths are weak. Point Two: Radar is not easily jammed. A jammer can only jam one radial -- and he gives away his angular position when he does. Point Three: Radar can skin track a plane even when the plane's transponder is turned off.

No personal electronics for pilots? (2, Insightful)

CharlieThePilot (1721810) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582064)

What? Where did that come from? The link in the summary points to the slashdot posting about the airliner that overflew its destination by a bit. THAT summary talks about the crew using their laptops during the flight. However, I am not sure that's the case. In fact, I am led to believe that they had both nodded off. So, while removing personal electronics from the flight deck might be attractive to people who want to remove distractions, in reality it's often useful to have a distraction to keep one alert, particularly during a long period that would otherwise be spent largely in inactivity. If the purpose is to reduce interference with GPS equipment, well, I am not aware of this being a problem. If it really is an issue, presumably the pax will have to forego their MP3 players. Also, my headset (my own) is a nice active noise reducing device. It enhances my performance by allowing me to hear stuff more clearly, and protects my hearing. Will that be banned? More rules, less safety. Rah! Charlie

Re:No personal electronics for pilots? (1)

Scutter (18425) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582170)

Not to mention the question of what qualifies as "personal electronics". A computerized E6B? A handheld GPS? How about a laptop with your Jeppesen FBO maps? It's a dumb thing to regulate.

Re:No personal electronics for pilots? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582630)

What? Where did that come from? The link in the summary points to the slashdot posting about the airliner that overflew its destination by a bit. THAT summary talks about the crew using their laptops during the flight. However, I am not sure that's the case. In fact, I am led to believe that they had both nodded off.

They did not nod off, they were distracted by their laptops. Read the NTSB report [ntsb.gov].

Load of communist crap... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582074)

A system that works is already in place. Maybe GPS based systems can work better, provide fuel cost savings frmo more direct routes, better traffic awareness, etc. Maybe it can, maybe it won't. The problem I ahve with this is the forced compliance and tax of privately used fuel, making the people who DO NOT USE commercial/government regulated flight pay for upgrades to private airlines which are heavily subsidized already. This is a slap in the face to all red blooded Americans and yet another scrap of our Constitution burned.

If this system really has merit, then the airlines would be interested in upgrading their fleet on their own, in coordination with the FAA. I recall GPS based navigation systems enabled a commercial lfight to save something like 4% fuel by flying a more direct and efficient route from Australia to California. So there may be merit in that such a system could offer real cost savings and pay for itself over time.

I'd worry about a buggy GPS unit (2, Insightful)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582122)

I mean from what I understand you use GPS to find out where you are and then have to radio that to air control. Besides it being hacked what happens in the simple case that a GPS unit on a certain plane is broken and reports the wrong location? (I'm guessing there's some sort of "checksum" to prevent this but then again I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't any either.

COULD have been a good thing... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582134)

Sheer foolishness to me. I appreciate the benefits that it has, being a pilot myself, however... There'd be no way to see airplanes without electrical systems (yep, they exist), with failed electrical systems (yep, it happens), or airliners taken over by terrorists that turn the ADS-B transmitters to the "OFF" position. Great idea guys. Then, let's use JUST GPS for navigation when we've already been told that we might not be able to keep the satellite fleet numbers high enough to avoid outages. Oh, and yeah, satellites navigation is much easier to jam by our enemies and can be knocked out by the Sun a lot easier than ground-based. Anyone ever experience RAIM failure? It happens...

Great idea, horrible implementation... :-(

GPS Selective Availability (1)

space_hippy (625619) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582146)

So what happens to private pilots and civil air patrol when the GOV turns on Selective Availability?
No personal electronic devices? what about the electronic E6B flight computers?
or the many iPhone apps that perform flight planing and navigation calculations?
or my hand held Garmin III+ GPS? etc etc etc .... and how the hell will the FAA know if I'm texting my friends in the left seat of a Cessna 172?

reminds me of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582352)

tomorow never dies

where they attempt to start a war by spoofing satelite timing signals

Laptops standard in cockpit (1)

Gandalf1957 (671089) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582404)

Some aircraft - some of the Embraer models for instance - now have laptops in the cockpit which the pilots are expected to use for flight plans etc and the copy holders have been removed. Guessing it's still the case that the plane is not allowed off the ground without both laptops being fully operational. These are standard, IBM laptops so justifying frisking pilots for their personal electronics when there are a couple of laptops fitted in the cockpit is not "going to fly" if you'll pardon the pun.

Really guys? (2, Insightful)

drumcat (1659893) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582496)

I love how everyone here just damn well knows what's better for the FAA. All the OMG they better have a backup, as if it's Windows Me or something. Look; pilots are very smart people. They aren't going to get in a plane that doesn't have some sort of backup nav. That said, you guys worry about things way too much. I know one-engine props crash more than passenger airliners, but how many of you have been on a dual turbo-prop? They say the other engine will get you all the way to the crash site... And how many of you guys have backup systems for your car's brakes? No? No one? OMG!!! Really? You could skid through an intersection at any time! Look at what Microsoft has done to everyone. As they say, I'm really glad the rest of the world is more reliable than Windows.

I can't believe they're that dumb (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582502)

GPS will tell you where you are... if you have a GPS.

Radar will tell you what's out there... as long as it reflects RADAR waves.

I'd say RADAR is a whole lot more useful than GPS in avoiding collisions. Do you think that flock of birds has a GPS? How about that meteor?

Sensationalist title and misinformation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31582632)

Based on the responses here it seems this Slashdot article isn't getting the point across at all and is borderline misinformation.

The new system DOES NOT REPLACE RADAR. It supplements the radar with state information from the aircraft (this state information includes GPS).

At the core this isn't that drastically different from what already happens. All aircraft require a transponder, and these transponders at a minimum respond with an altitude. The aviation radar used in the ATC system does not measure altitude, it requires a transponder reply from the aircraft to get the altitude. Furthermore this altitude reply is only accurate if the pilot has set the altimeter correctly, otherwise the data is bogus and in many cases bogus enough to bust separation. The ATC system is already extremely dependent on cooperative aircraft and pilots, it always has been and always will be. It is an ATC system, not an air defense system.

The new system will allow for a significant reduction in radar infrastructure because the superior state information coming from aircraft will require less overlapping radar coverage. So that is less radar on the ground, but the system still has radar as part of its central core.

Google ADS-B to learn more.

Passive versus active systems (1)

wigaloo (897600) | more than 3 years ago | (#31582654)

It is an astoundingly bad idea to replace the radar network. GPS is not a remote-sensing technology that can be used for aircraft detection. Presumably a transponder will be used in conjunction with GPS locating. Disconnecting the transponder would allow a plane to fly unseen through US airspace. With radar this would only be possible for a stealth or very low-flying aircraft. There is a huge difference between active (radar) and passive (gps transponder) detection systems.

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