The U.S. air traffic system has not aged terribly well. Running on ancient radar technologies that relay information to tower control every seven seconds and cover about a 150 mile radius from the radar itself, the system is struggling to keep up with even the reduced number of flights taking to the skies in this post recession economy.
To improve visibility of aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration is investing in the Next Generation Air Transport System, a complex series of initiatives highlighted by Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS) which uses GPS to navigate and track planes in flight according to the New York Times.
Still in a testing stage, the system plans to allow pilots to tune in to weather conditions at any altitude, provide an overview of the surrounding terrain and connect the aircraft to a ground-based data feed that provides constant updates on the locations of nearby planes reports the times.
The motion hopes to be implemented in all aircraft by 2025, making GPS the primary mode of flight tracking with radar relegated to serving as a backup contingency.