In September 2017 the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) conducted a short and focussed survey, asking general aviation pilots for their views on electronic conspicuity - technology in the aircraft that broadcasts its position.  The survey attracted almost 1,600 responses with pilots of single engine, fixed-wing aeroplanes making up three-quarters of the total. Glider pilots represented 12 per cent, with hot air balloon, microlight and rotor pilots making up the rest.

Pilots were quizzed on their use, or not, of electronic conspicuity devices. The survey also explored the key drivers that may affect widespread take-up of the technology. The answers will help develop the CAA's strategy for encouraging the use of devices across the GA fleet. ADS-B is the CAA's preferred technology standard for achieving airborne situational awareness for pilots and air traffic controllers. Interoperability is the overriding factor in the selection of any system - devices simply have to be compatible to achieve any safety gains.

The survey

Only one-in-six fixed-wing aeroplane pilots reported using ADS-B already, mostly integrated with a Mode S transponder. A further third of pilots fly aeroplanes that are Mode S equipped, but have not been adapted to use ADS-B. Meanwhile, almost 90 per cent of glider pilots who responded use FLARM - the anti-collision system designed specifically for gliders.  

Asked if they believed that full electronic conspicuity across the GA fleet would benefit safety, nearly nine-tenths of all those who responded thought it would indeed improve flight safety as a whole. Looking at the specific advantages of conspicuity, 83 per cent of aeroplane pilots identified collision avoidance and improved cockpit/ground-based situational awareness as the principle safety benefits.

The survey also looked at the factors that would encourage pilots to use a low powered ADS-B device. Equipment purchase cost came out on top for two-thirds of aeroplane pilots, while compatibility with Mode S was important to six out of 10. For more-than-half of respondents, the ability to receive flight information or weather data via ADS-B was a significant attraction.

When it comes to cost, nine out of 10 pilots are willing to spend more than £100 on new ADS-B kit. Forty per cent of respondents said they were prepared to pay between £100-£250 for a device, while a further 50 per cent were willing to invest £250-£500.

The survey results indicate that the GA community recognise the need for the expansion of electronic conspicuity use within the UK.  The CAA believes that the take-up of devices will improve overall safety levels, as well as increasing airspace access for GA pilots. Enhanced equipage may also help the future challenges such as access to airspace and incorporating the enhanced future use of drones.

While the survey helps to affirm the CAA's ambitions for widescale deployment of ADS-B across the GA fleet, significant work still needs to be done with the GA community to ensure the necessary technological and system standards are achieved in partnership.   

Full details of the Survey