POLICE Magazine

JAN 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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42 POLICE JANUARY 2019 FOR DECADES aviation hobbyists have enjoyed observing, track- ing, and photographing aircraft. "Spot- ters" flock to airport fences and parking garage roofs when unusual and exotic aircraft transition through airports na- tionwide. At home, the same hobbyists can now enjoy tracking interesting air- craft using internet flight data vendors such as FlightAware, FlightRadar24, and other publicly available websites. Unfortunately, technology-savv y crim- inals have also learned how to provide their own countersurveillance using publicly available aircraft tracking websites that can watch the operations of law enforcement aircraft. TRANSMITTING DATA u Generally speaking, aircraft traverse the world receiving radar separation instructions from air traffic control in part due to an aviation electronic trans- mitter onboard the aircraft called a transponder. I don't want to get too far into the technicalities of the different transpon- ders, but most aircraft operate using one of two main types of transponder systems: the Mode S and the Mode S-ES. e Mode S transponder transmits an aircraft's position, altitude, and unique aircraft registration when interrogated by radar. e Mode S Extended Squit- ter (Mode S-ES) transmits the same in- formation as the Mode S continuously without interrogation by radar. Another difference is that the Mode S-ES trans- mits and receives more precise location and altitude information based on sat- ellite data. A critical thing for you to know about both Mode S and Mode S-ES trans- missions is they are not encrypted and can be received, stored, and ana- lyzed by open source receiver systems and software. Consequently, internet flight data vendors can currently track Mode S equipped aircraft independent of any FAA provided flight data. And soon internet vendors will be able to track aircraft more precisely. e Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated that all aircraft operating in most controlled airspace be equipped with Mode S (ES) ADS-B (Automatic De- pendent Surveillance-Broadcast) Out technology no later than Jan. 1, 2020. e highly precise GPS accuracy of ADS-B information provides for a sig- nificant improvement in safety and ef- ficiency. While radar systems feed air traffic controllers an aircraft's position every five to 12 seconds, ADS-B trans- mits the aircraft's position and infor- mation every second. Additional fea- tures of ADS-B include satellite weather and airspace restriction information being fed directly to pilots to improve situational awareness. at's the good part of the change to this technology. e bad, or potentially bad, is that it makes it easier to track an The operating range of FlightAware's PiAware monitoring system is 50 to 200 miles, depending on conditions. PHOTO: MICHAEL HAMANN g THEY'RE WATCHING YOUR AIRCRAFT THE BAD GUYS CAN TRACK LAW ENFORCEMENT AIRCRAFT IN FLIGHT USING A VARIETY OF READILY AVAILABLE TOOLS. MICHAEL HAMANN PHOTO: MICHAEL HAMANN

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