FAA Addresses Privacy Concerns Related to ADS-B — Originally published in BusinessAir Magazine, November 2019, Volume 29, No. 11.
With the FAA compliance date approaching, the privacy concerns of aircraft owners and operators related to ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) had been increasing, but the FAA has recently announced a solution to alleviate the apprehensions.
What is ADS-B Out? ADS-B is technology that uses an aircraft’s onboard global positioning system (GPS) to transmit the current position, speed, flight number and, most importantly, whether the aircraft is climbing, descending or turning. The current radar-based system is not able to recognize and process information regarding climb, descent or turns. The transmitted information is sent to ATC and other aircraft. The current radar system sends updates once every two to twelve seconds. However, aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out capabilities transmit data every second. So, not only do the transmitted updates contain more information, including data on climb, descent and turns, but the updates also take place far more frequently.
With the FAA mandated compliance date of January 1, 2020 and with more and more aircraft being equipped with ADS-B Out, privacy concerns have been growing. The concerns stem from the ability to perform tracking of the geographic location of a specific aircraft due to the ADS-B receiver. The FAA has acknowledged the desire to limit the availability of real-time ADS-B position and identifying information of aircraft. As a result, the FAA has initiated the Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program to provide the privacy sought by aircraft owners. Currently program eligibility is limited to (i) US registered aircraft, (ii) flying in US airspace, (iii) using a third-party call sign and (iv) equipped with 1090-MHz ADS-B.
Aircraft owners meeting all four of the requirements above can use the PIA program. The PIA program will allow an alternate, temporary ICAO aircraft address, which will not be assigned to the owner in the civil aviation registry (CAR).
Initially, aircraft owners can apply for the PIA program starting on or slightly before January 1, 2020. The service will be operated, monitored and maintained by the FAA. Later, the FAA plans for the service to be transitioned to a third-party provider. When the PIA program is transitioned to a third-party provider, the PIA assignments obtained initially will either be terminated or transferred to the new service provider.
In order to receive a PIA assignment, the requesting owner must submit all of the following information:
1. Acknowledgement of the FAA notification of collection and management of personally identifiable information (PII) for the management of PIA assignment and their use in the National Airspace System (NAS);
2. Acknowledgement of the PIA Rules of Use in the NAS;
3. Valid aircraft registration for the aircraft which will be assigned the PIA (Permanent ICAO aircraft address);
4. Proof of authorization to use a third-party Flight ID with the identity of the provider;
5. Aircraft Owner’s contact information (phone number, e-mail address, and business or home address);
6. Aircraft Owner’s Individual/Company/Organization Information;
7. Requester’s contact information (phone number, e-mail address, and business or home address);
8. Validation that the aircraft’s ADS-B emitter performance is qualified for ADS-B operations (PAPR report within the past 180 days); and
9. Aircraft operator’s Justification for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption, if applicable.
Assuming the information is complete and there are no open enforcement actions against the aircraft, the requesting party should expect to receive the PIA by way of email within two weeks after the request is submitted. Once received, the requester has 30 calendar days to program the ADS-B transponder with the assigned PIA, fly in ADS-B airspace and complete the verification process. If this is not done within 30 days, the assigned PIA will be rescinded and the requester will need to reapply. For aircraft that are bought and sold multiple times within a short timeframe, there are limitations. A PIA can only be requested after a 60-calendar day period from a previous PIA assignment. This timeframe will become shorter (20-calendar days) once the program is managed by a third-party provider.
Aircraft owners who qualify and wish to receive a PIA for their aircraft should prepare to submit a request as soon as the FAA allows.