ADS-C over ACARS

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ACARS is a complex system which consists of several software modules which cooperate. Depending on whether you want to simulate an airplane or a dispatch/ATC station, you need another module.


Project Progress

2022-07-02
Thanks to the cooperation of many people, the ACARS system has stabilized nicely. With over 15,000 registered active users and regularly over 700 users online at the same time, the small server doing all the work rarely exceeds 50% load. Not bad for a design that is over 20 years old.

2022-06-06
A bug in the ping command prevented network filtering for stations online. Thanks to Jonas Kuster for pointing it out. The dispatch file stores still need to get the same modification and I hope to get this done this week.

see all previous progress messages

Automatic Dependent Surveillance -- Contract

ADS (Automatic Dependent Surveillance) is a specific application on top of ACARS. It is essentially position reporting, either automatic or on request.

The application included in the system described here is "addressed" or "contract" ADS-C. The position reports are sent to a specific station which needs to ask for reports. There is another system, ADS-B for "broadcast", which uses Mode-S transponder signals much like TCAS to broadcast your position to anybody nearby who may be interested. This ADS-B is not based on ACARS and therefore has nothing to do with the ADS-C system, despite their names.

To add to the confusion, you can also transmit formal position reports as plain ACARS messages. This is yet another system. These formal position reports are the telex equivalent of the voice position reports to air traffic control. They are always sent explicitly by the pilot in real life, but this simulated ACARS system allows an ATC or Dispatch station to request such a report as well. However this is not ADS-C.

How to Enable ADS-C Position Reports

It is important to realise that ADS-C is by default enabled for most aircraft that have ACARS running. If your ACARS client program supports it, your plane is ready, the pilot does not need to do anything. It is the ground station that needs to initiate the reporting: it needs to send a report request (contract) to the aircraft.

In order to offer an ADS contract to an aircraft, call up the technical ADS-C editor page. It may look daunting, but you just need to:

  1. Fill in your own call sign in From (once, cookie).
  2. Fill in the aircraft call sign in To (once, cookie).
  3. Fill in your ACARS logon code in Logon Code (once, cookie).
  4. Press Submit ADS-C Message.

This will offer the ADS-C contract to the aircraft. If it is technically capable of accepting the contract, it will start emitting ADS-C position reports from now on until it goes offline. Should you want to always track this callsign, check the Make Persistant box. NOTE: this is a feature that does not exist in real life. Do not depend on this feature to remain in the system. In real life, a new contract needs to be established between an ATC station and the aircraft every time it logs on to CPDLC. The feature has only been added to the system because the online presence of simulated aircraft is quite unstable.

If you send an aircraft an ADS-C contract request and nothing happens after a minute or two (the plane does not appear on a map), just check the message log. You should see the message you sent to the plane ("Received" time), and when the plane picked it up ("Relayed" time). Only if the plane has picked up the request, there is any chance of getting it to respond.

If an aircraft does not respond to an ADS-C contract request, it usually means that the airborne client does not have the required minimum data or simply did not implement ADS-C.

Here is the last known position of all ADS-C reporting aircraft:

Like this map? You can have it on your own web page!


© 2022 Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers For more information, mail to hoppie@hoppie.nl