A First Look at Exploiting the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract Protocol for Open Aviation Research


  • Marc Xapelli Cyber-Defence Campus
  • Tobias Lüscher ETH Zurich
  • Giorgio Tresoldi Cyber-Defence Campus / OpenSky Network
  • Vincent Lenders Cyber-Defence Campus / OpenSky Network
  • Martin Strohmeier Cyber-Defence Campus / OpenSky Network




ADS-C, open aviation data, ADS-B, air traffic control


The OpenSky Network has accumulated air traffic data for research for over a decade, with sensor registrations increasing from a few to over 6000. Recent enhancements have included the addition of data sources such as Mode S, FLARM, and VHF to the initial collection, which started only with the Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) technology. However, the growth of the crowdsourced network has predominantly occurred in developed nations, leaving extensive inhabited regions, but also remote areas such as oceans and mountains, with lacking coverage.

To address this issue, the deployment of Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C) technology offers a potential remedy. ADS-C is an advanced surveillance system that utilizes an aircraft's onboard systems to automatically transmit crucial information, including position, altitude, speed, navigation intentions, and meteorological data. Different from ADS-B, ADS-C transmits contract data via satellite to specific Air Traffic Services Units (ATSU) or Aeronautical Operational Control (AOC) facilities, contributing to a more comprehensive and global approach to air traffic monitoring.

In this paper, we describe the background of ADS-C and implement a resource-intensive data collection. We analyse 227,126 messages collected over 4 months and find that they can be an excellent complementary data source for researchers working with aviation data.


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How to Cite

Xapelli, M., Lüscher, T., Tresoldi, G., Lenders, V., & Strohmeier, M. (2023). A First Look at Exploiting the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract Protocol for Open Aviation Research. Journal of Open Aviation Science, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.59490/joas.2023.7229