Public Service, Regulatory

How This Police Operator Complied With 2020 US ADS-B Mandate 2 Years Early

By Amy Kluber | August 16, 2018
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Maryland Prince George's County Police MD 520N

Maryland Prince George's County Police Department's MD 520N. Photo courtesy of Prince George's Police Department

Maryland's Prince George's County Police Department's aviation unit implemented a four-year phased plan for its aircraft to comply with the FAA's mandate for all aircraft flying in U.S. airspace to be equipped with ADS-B by 2020. Its model could be adapted as a guideline for other operators to comply in time.

The department has operated two MD 520Ns since 2000 and this year added a third to its fleet, making it the first law enforcement operator to fly the aircraft with the new Block 1 all-glass cockpit. The unit began its ADS-B upgrade process in 2014.


"Being a municipal government operation, our budget is fixed and limited," said Sgt. Aaron Smith, chief pilot for the unit, during an R&WI-hosted webinar July 31. "The only area of our budget we can affect is related to direct operating costs."

For example, if the unit knew there would be an aircraft out of service for one to two months, it would translate that to a saving of 150 to 250 flight hours, Smith explained. Those unspent operating costs were then put toward the upgrades.

The upgrade plan had three phrases:

  1. In 2014, the unit upgraded its original 1999 position-source equipment to a wide-area augmentation system (WAAS). This entailed upgrading its Garmin 430 and BendixKing K176 transponder to Garmin GTN 650H and Garmin GTX-33R for $12,500.
  2. In 2015, the unit added ADS-B In and Out for $6,000.
  3. This year, the unit added primary flight display/multi-function display and synthetic vision for $40,000.

By 2020, all Part 27 and Part 29 rotorcraft flying in the U.S. must be equipped with DO-260B ADS-B compliant transponders and GPS receivers. Last year, the FAA estimated only 7% of rotorcraft registered in the U.S. had been equipped with ADS-B Out.

Reasons for the ones holding out include cost concerns, lack of business cases to do so and assuming the FAA would let the deadline slip. The FAA has consistently reminded the industry the deadline will not slip.

Smith advised operators currently not in compliance to not schedule their aircraft for the equipage until all equipment and paperwork approvals are complete.

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