ADS-B Privacy and Security Concerns Grow as January 1, 2020 Mandate Looms

The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) initiative is part of the FAA’s plan to make civil air transportation the safest and most cost-efficient method of public transportation. With the compliance deadline of January 1, 2020 quickly approaching, aircraft owners are in the final stretch of either updating their aircraft or grounding otherwise operational but non-ADS-B compliant planes. According to the FAA, approximately 60,000 aircraft, out of an estimated 106,000–167,000 that need ADS-B are equipped with this mandated avionics enhancement. As the volume of available aircraft shrinks and demand for private aircraft rises, there is an imminent and significant disruption of the private aviation supply chain ahead. ADS-B provides extremely accurate, positional data, much greater than that of radar. The technology to receive and record ADS-B data is accessible to anyone, allowing third parties to track all aircraft in real time, which raises security and privacy concerns.

Aviation hobbyists, crowdsourced websites and hackers are intercepting flight data using private ADS-B receivers and broadcasting the information online. The receivers are widely available and can be purchased on Amazon for as little as $199. The real-time plane trackers have product descriptions such as, “Receive air-to-air traffic information from ADS-B Out equipped aircraft and rebroadcast traffic information from FAA ground towers.” Another says, “automatically record flight data, complete with GPS position, altitude, and speed.” The image shown here is from one such product called the ForeFlight Sentry which shows tail numbers and real-time GPS positioning. An online collaborative, called the ADS-B Exchange, streams the data online. The group’s website says, “The world’s largest source of unfiltered flight data… if the data is broadcast over the air, you can find it here.”

Consider this video tracking Elon Musk’s private jet, a Gulfstream G650, throughout 2018. With a deeper level of positional data and a tail number, a person or company can be tracked in real time. Intercepting flight data may be good, clean fun to a hobbyist, but the technology may also be used by nefarious parties, and there is no proper resolution at this time. Due to widespread concern, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is actively searching for a technological resolution and the FAA has initiated the Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program to improve the privacy of eligible aircraft.

Private Jet Services (PJS) fully supports the 2020 ADS-B mandate and acknowledges ADS-B will certainly improve the flying experience, making air travel safer, more predictable, and more efficient on many levels. Flyers engaging private aviation expect just that – privacy. ADS-B jeopardizes that confidentiality for every civilian aircraft in US airspace.

As North America’s largest aviation consultancy, PJS’ client base represents the most recognizable names in sports, entertainment, corporate, and government sectors. These constituents rely on PJS to deliver the highest levels of aviation privacy and security. Our non-negotiable safety markers go well beyond the FAA minimum legal requirements. For each and every flight, our team determines the best available aircraft, pilots, and crew, all of which must live up to our stringent security standards. PJS has unlimited access to aircraft, in every category, allowing the PJS team to leverage unique tail numbers for each flight, adding an additional level of privacy.

If you or your company share these concerns or would like to learn more about the new regulations and technology coming into effect, contact us today.