The FAA is experimenting with a GPS system to track aircraft instead of ground-based radar.

This is a good solution to problems with ATC. There has been an increase in near-misses, overworked controllers, and problems with radar. This causes congestion around airports.

The GPS can reform the system. It helps pilots navigate and it gives controllers accurate information about traffic.

Popular Mechanics:

It was one of around 1000 flights that Alaska Air rescued last year from typical foul-weather fates: a long delay, cancellation or diversion. Those completed flights added millions to the airline’s bottom line, but the new flight-saving hardware may have an even greater impact than increased profits. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been quietly using Alaska as a testbed for technologies that could radically transform the nation’s antiquated air traffic control (ATC) system from ground-based radar to space-based GPS.

It’s part of an overhaul called NextGen — and it’s long overdue. Last year was the most delay-filled on record; 2007 looks like it will be worse. “The current system cannot handle the projected traffic demands expected by 2015,” Robert Sturgell, the FAA’s deputy administrator, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in March 2007. “Absent modernization, the consequences will be a total system collapse.”

GPS improves efficiencies in measurement. Old Radar systems update plane locations every 36 seconds. GPS updates in real-time. This improves safety and minimizes congestion.

Planes would be able to take more direct routes to their destinations, which reduces flight time and fuel costs.

GPS has lots of potential. I bet it will be implemented gradually as controllers and pilots need to be trained and entire routes need to be replanned. Ground radars will still be used as backups even if a GPS-based system is installed. GPS is too useful to ignore though.