Jeppesen defines the ADS-B as a surveillance system broadcasting GPS-derived positions and other information such as velocity over the data link. Yet, the Wiki article on ADS-B relates it to the Mode S transponder system. So the ADS-B operates either on a GPS or on Mode S. Is my understanding correct?

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    $\begingroup$ Your ADS-B transmitter gets its position data from a GPS source. Then it transmits the data using either 1090ES or 978 Universal Access. Mode S transponders already transmit detailed information about the aircraft, called a 'squit'. Some can be upgraded to send 'Extended Squitter' info. The other alternative, in the US only, is to transmit the info on the 978 band. More info at garmin.com/us/intheair/ads-b/squit $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @mins What I meant is closer to "What's required for the ADS-B to function? A GPS or Mode S Transponder?" I'll change the title $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


ADS-B, Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast, is a broadcast of the aircraft's position and other information.

The position is determined by a GPS receiver. It is possible to use another qualified position source, but today it is de facto GPS. Other GNSS (Galileo, GLONASS, Bei-Dou) are other likely candidates in the future, but as far as I know, none have been certified for ADS-B yet.

The broadcast is usually by the Mode S transponder but can also be done by a dedicated transmitter / transceiver in the Mode S format and frequency (1090 MHz).

In the USA below 18 000 ft, in addition to the Mode S based ADS-B, a system based on Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) is used. This operates on 978 MHz

A third broadcast system was VDL mode 4, it was never rolled out on large scale.

So ADS-B uses GPS to determine the position and it operates either on 1090 MHz (a frequency also used by Mode S) or 978 MHz to broadcast information.

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    $\begingroup$ Then in order for the ADS-B to function, an aircraft should be equipped with both a GPS and a mode S transponder (or UAT). Without either of them, the ADS-B simply doesn't function. Correct? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ You could have an ADS-B transmitter on 1090MHz that is not a Mode S transponder, but that is unusual. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ Okay I'll take it as yes. Thank you for your detailed explanation. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Nothing requires the position to be determined by GPS specifically. Requirements are just for precision and any GNSS can do that, so GPS, GLONASS, Gallileo (and BeiDou-2 is under construction and some more are planned). Since the principle and protocols are similar, modern receivers may use more than one. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec you are right of course, but effectively only GPS is used at the moment. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 17:23

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