Mode S Transponder Comm-B Capabilities in Current Operational Aircraft

J. Sun, Huy Vû, Xavier Olive, J.M. Hoekstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Mode S surveillance allows air traffic controllers to interrogate certain information from aircraft, such as airspeeds, turn parameters, target altitudes, and meteorological conditions. However, not all aircraft have enabled the same capabilities. Before performing any specific interrogation, the surveillance radar must acquire the transponder capabilities of an aircraft. This is obtained via the common usage Ground-initiated Comm-B (GICB) capabilities report (BDS 1,7). With this report, third-party researchers can further improve the identification accuracy of different Mode S Comm-B message types, as well as study the compliance of surveillance standards. Thanks to the OpenSky network’s large-scale global coverage, a full picture of current Mode S capabilities over the world can be constructed. In this paper, using the OpenSky Impala data interface, we first sample over one month of raw BDS 1,7 messages from around the world. Around 40 million messages are obtained. We then decode and analyze the GICB capability messages. The resulting data contain Comm-B capabilities for all aircraft available to OpenSky during this month. The analyses in this paper focus on exploring statistics of GICB capabilities among all aircraft and within each aircraft type. The resulting GICB capability database is shared as an open dataset.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event8th OpenSky Symposium 2020 - Virtual/online event due to COVID-19
Duration: 12 Nov 202013 Nov 2020
Conference number: 8


  • OpenSky
  • Mode S
  • GICB
  • transponder capability
  • Comm-B


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