As we ease into 2015, we’re less than five years away from the 2020 mandate that will require all aircraft operating in class A, B or C airspace (and Class E airspace at and above 10,000 ft. MSL) in the contiguous U.S. to be equipped with a certified Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out transmitter. Many pilots remain confused about what exactly ADS-B is—or at least what the requirement means—and many are wondering how to implement it in the most efficient and inexpensive manner. There have been a slew of ADS-B solutions introduced to general aviation, not all of which meet the federal requirements, though future upgrade paths built in by some manufacturers ensure that it’s an investment worth making.
Part of the FAA’s NextGen Air Transportation System (and Europe’s “Single European Sky” SES initiative), Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast is a technology that uses highly accurate GPS signals to track the position of aircraft. The big change is that it uses GPS satellites instead of radar, so it’s not subject to terrain limitations as ground-based radar is today. Also, ADS-B comes with both an In and Out component, each requiring different equipment in the aircraft.
Aircraft that have ADS-B Out transmitters will broadcast their identity, position, track, speed and other vital data. Air traffic control ground stations that have ADS-B In receivers will receive this information once every second. These ground stations broadcast traffic information collected from all the Out-equipped aircraft—along with subscription-free weather in the U.S.—back to aircraft that have ADS-B In receivers for display in the cockpit.
ADS-B comes with benefits for both air traffic controllers and pilots. In addition to being useful in the air, the technology works to monitor aircraft on taxiways and runways. It works anywhere, so monitoring can be made available in places where it isn’t today because of radar limitations. Second, GPS signals are far more accurate than radar signals, so IFR traffic can be spaced closer than it is today and still remain safe. That allows for higher capacity at congested airports. Third, ADS-B surveillance is easier and less expensive to deploy than ground radar. That means even remote ATC facilities can deploy it. And finally, other aircraft receive ADS-B data so they can display nearby traffic as accurately as ATC does. This last feature requires aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B In as well as Out.
What’s The Freq?
ADS-B uses two operational frequencies to transmit data: 978 and 1090 MHz. The 978 MHz frequency is referred to as Universal Access Transceiver (UAT), while the 1090 MHz frequency is referred to as “Extended Squitter.” Internationally, 1090 MHz has been adopted as the standard. Thus, a Mode S transponder with an Extended Squitter feature is the international standard for ADS-B output and is what most aircraft will use as the transmitter. The 2020 ADS-B requirement allows aircraft in the United States flying below 18,000 feet to use either a 978 (UAT) or 1090 (ES) Out transmitter. Aircraft flying at 18,000 feet and above (and any aircraft operating outside of the U.S.) will be required to use a 1090 ES Mode S transponder.
Pilots wondering why anybody would use UAT if 1090 ES is the international standard should realize that weather transmission is only available on UAT (978 MHz). Though traffic and position data is transmitted on both frequencies, free weather transmission is unique to the UAT solution. Pilots should also know that weather reporting has nothing to do with ADS-B and is something the FAA is providing in hopes that more pilots will adopt ADS-B early because of it. Overall cost currently favors the 1090 ES solution.
What Equipment Do I Need?
The 2020 mandate only requires ADS-B Out for GA aircraft. To support ADS-B Out, an aircraft must have a GPS receiver as the position data source, as well as an output transmitter to actually send the ADS-B data as discussed previously. The 2020 mandate doesn’t allow portable ADS-B Out units—they must be panel-mounted.
The GPS receiver used must be IFR certified, though it doesn’t have to be WAAS capable, and has certain integrity and accuracy specifications. You may keep an existing, less-capable navigator and then add a secondary receiver to provide ADS-B data since there’s no rule that requires a single common position source.
If you want a display of traffic in the cockpit (and weather, if operating on the UAT frequency within the U.S.), then you’ll need ADS-B In capability. This requires a datalink receiver in addition to the transmitter providing ADS-B Out. Most UAT-based ADS-B Out solutions will include a datalink receiver, as well as a transmitter, while 1090 ES transponder solutions don’t include an ADS-B In receiver. There’s no requirement for your ADS-B In receiver to use the same technology as your ADS-B Out system, so, because of the added weather reporting in the U.S. on the UAT frequency, there’s a good argument for using a 1090 ES ADS-B Out transmitter together with a UAT receiver for ADS-B In. The traffic display is typically integrated with the Multi-Function Display (MFD) or moving map GPS display (and, increasingly, with tablet computers).
Why Pay For ADS-B In If Only Out Is Required?
If all you’re doing is transmitting your position data, you’ve complied with the 2020 requirements, but you’re seeing no benefit in the cockpit; all you’re doing is helping ATC and aircraft with ADS-B In receivers. To realize the full benefits of ADS-B technology, you’d need an ADS-B In datalink receiver and a compatible cockpit display. That will give you a highly accurate view of traffic data from other aircraft and ADS-B ground stations, and subscription-free weather information on the UAT frequency (U.S. only). The added investment isn’t much more than what you’ll have to spend to comply anyway.
ADS-B Breaking News
With less than five years to go until the mandate, ADS-B requirements are still in flux. On February 8, 2015, after much lobbying by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the FAA corrected its ADS-B rule to address LSA and experimental aircraft (which it had all but ignored in the original ADS-B ruling). The rule change means LSA and experimentals may use ADS-B equipment that hasn’t gone through the expensive TSO process, but delivers equal performance at a lower price. Meanwhile, owners of older aircraft continue to bristle at spending a minimum of $5,000 for ADS-B Out compliance when it buys them nothing in the cockpit but the right to say they comply.
In February, The NextGen GA Fund announced the launch of their “Jumpstart GA 2020” program to accelerate general aviation community installations of rule-compliant ADS-B Out avionics. After AOPA made it clear that 30,000 aircraft owners would park their aircraft rather than upgrade to ADS-B at current market prices, NextGen fund purchased 10,000 Lynx NGT-1000 ADS-B units and will offer them at cut-rate prices to aircraft owners wishing to meet the 2020 ADS-B mandate. “Jumpstart offers a one-time opportunity for N-registered single-engine piston aircraft owners to take advantage of our very special prices,” said Michael Dyment, a general partner of the NextGen GA Fund. “They can also beat the rush to installation before the January 1, 2020, mandate and, at the same time, improve the resale value of their aircraft.”
Appareo was the first on the portable ADS-B scene with their Stratus ADS-B receiver, and integration with the iPad and Foreflight EFB software. The current Stratus 2 is an amazing and cost-effective ADS-B solution with a slew of features. The Stratus solution consists of a receiver that’s about the size of a cell phone and an integrated app that works with your iPad. The result is a package that gives you ADS-B traffic on both 978 MHz (UAT) and 1090 (ES) MHz through the ForeFlight Mobile Maps page. It also provides subscription-free weather, including NEXRAD radar, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, AIRMETs, SIGMETs and NOTAMs. Stratus includes a WAAS GPS receiver, a flight data recorder and an eight-hour battery. Stratus 2 just added ForeFlight’s Synthetic Vision feature to boot. Price: $899.
Appareo offers an ADS-B Out 1090 ES transponder solution, as well. It includes the transponder and a WAAS-certified GPS in the same box. The solution can be combined with their Stratus 2 to form a complete solution for both compliance and enhanced capability. Price: not available.
Aspen has created a number of solutions that interface with their display units. They provide an easy, cost-effective path to increased situational awareness and meeting the FAA’s NextGen mandate. The ARX200 dual-band receiver is for aircraft that have a Mode S transponder with Extended Squitter (ES), plus a WAAS GPS navigation receiver, and already meet the ADS-B Out requirement. Aspen’s ATX200 is a dual-band In, 978 MHz Out ADS-B transceiver for aircraft with a Mode A/C transponder and WAAS-GPS navigation receiver, while their ATX100 provides single-band (UAT) In and Out capability. Price: $3,495 (ATX100).
Avidyne’s IFD540 & IFD440 FMS/GPS/NAV/COMs combine a Flight Management System, digital VHF radio and an ADS-B positioning source to meet the ADS-B Out mandate. Meanwhile, their AXP340 Mode S transponder provides a 1090 ES ADS-B Out solution for general aviation aircraft in a simple “plug and play” design. For ADS-B In, Avidyne’s MLB100 receiver provides FIS-B weather and ADS-B traffic for GA aircraft already equipped with Avidyne’s IFD440/540 and EX-Series MFD systems. Price: $3,995 (APX340); $16,995 (IFD540).
The avionics giant recently introduced their KGX 150/130 Series ADS-B transceivers and receivers. The KGX 150 series transceiver is a certified ADS-B solution for flights below 18,000 feet (978 MHz UAT) offering an integrated WAAS GPS with optional wireless capability to display traffic and weather on a tablet. The KGX 130 transceiver is identical to the KGX 150, but without the WAAS GPS. The KGX 150 provides position data, as well as traffic and weather in the cockpit. The KT 74 transponder supports 1090 ES technology and is also a “plug and play” slide-in replacement for the popular BendixKing KT 76A/C and KT 78 Transponders. BendixKing offers a trade-in deal. Price: from $1,489-$4,069.
Dual Electronics XGPS170
Dual’s newest XGPS170 is an ADS-B receiver with a load of capabilities at a low price. In addition to its function as a WAAS GPS receiver, it provides subscription-free weather (FIS-B), as well as traffic (TIS-B). The XGPS170 allows Bluetooth wireless connectivity to two devices simultaneously and works seamlessly with a growing number of apps, including AOPA FlyQ EFB, Avilution, BendixKing myWingMan, eKneeboard, Flight Guide iEFB, Naviator, WingX Pro7 and EFIS models from GRT avionics. The unit is small and can be used with the attached compact antenna or connected to an external antenna. Price: $699.
FreeFlight Systems offers a number of ADS-B In and Out solutions. Their RANGR 978 family of units is a fully certified STC and TSO solution for any aircraft. It can be used in different configurations to provide In-only, Out-only, or both In and Out capability, including FIS-B (Flight Information System-Broadcast) and TIS-B (traffic). The upgradable RANGR FDL-1090-TX is a high-performance 1090ES ADS-B Out solution for aircraft operating at FL180 and above. The RANGR system will integrate with the iPad for display of weather and traffic. Price: $5,495 (RANGR 978-XVR, In and Out).
Garmin has been a leader in offering ADS-B solutions. For complete ADS-B Out compliance, Garmin offers their GDL 88— a dual-link Universal Access Transceiver (UAT). It also receives FIS-B subscription-free weather and ADS-B datalink traffic. You can order an optional SBAS/WAAS GPS receiver for position data. As a portable solution, the GDL 39 offers traffic and subscription-free weather on your aviation portable or mobile device. When using Garmin Pilot on your mobile device, the GDL 39 provides WAAS GPS data, backup attitude indication, and 3D SVX synthetic vision view. The GTX 330, GTX 33 and GTX 23 1090 ES Mode S transponders provide ADS-B Out and can receive Traffic Information Service (TIS) alerts. Prices: $3,995 (GTX 330 ES); $599-$899 (GDL 39—depending on features); $3,995 (GDL 88); $2,100-$3,700 (GTX 23ES & 33ES—depending on model and features).
In February, after much anticipation and hushed speculation, L-3 Avionics officially unveiled their Lynx MultiLink Surveillance System (MSS) line of ADS-B products. “The Lynx NGT-9000 is unlike anything in the marketplace and delivers a unique set of features for General Aviation pilots,” said Larry Riddle, L-3 Aviation Products’ vice president of marketing and sales. Indeed, the NGT-9000 is a “one-box” solution with a touch-screen display that’s a slide-in replacement for existing transponders. The NGT-9000 supports 1090ES ADS-B Out, as well as 1090 MHz and 978 MHz (UAT) ADS-B In. You get ADS-B traffic (ADS-B, ADS-R and TIS-B), as well as FIS-B input. It’s an excellent choice for pilots wanting both In and Out features. NextGen GA Fund just ordered 10,000 Lynx NGT-1000s as part of their “Jumpstart GA 2020” program intended to accelerate the GA community’s adoption of ADS-B. Lynx also announced they have submitted the NGT-9000 for Technical Standard Order (TSO) authorization. Price: $6,800.
The only ADS-B In solution that we know of that integrates with augmented reality glasses (such as Google Glass), the Levil SW is a 978 MHz ADS-B receiver for free in-flight weather and traffic (with remote antenna option). It includes a WAAS GPS and AHRS for roll, pitch, magnetic heading, rate of turn, inclination and G-meter data output. A Micro USB allows updates, and it’s compatible with iOS and Android devices. Price: $1,050-$1,380.
In February, NavWorx, Inc. announced its ADS600-EXP Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) for Experimental/LSA aircraft owners. The ADS600-EXP will interface with older transponders, eliminating the need to replace the transponder or altitude encoder. It communicates with a variety of display systems via Wi-Fi and RS232. NavWorx also offers the ADS600-B, which is a remote-mounted Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) that was STC-approved in 2014. The ADS600 is a TSO/STC UAT receiver for displaying traffic and weather when 1090ES ADS-B Out is already installed in your aircraft. The PADS-B is a Portable ADS-B transceiver with UAT Out and Dual-Band ADS-B In that will display traffic and weather on iPad/iPhone/Android devices via built-in Wi-Fi. Price: $689 (ADS600-EXP); $2,399 (ADS600-B); $1199 (ADS600); $999 (PADS).
The Clarity ADS-B receiver packs a lot of capability into a small package. The dual band receiver provides FIS-B (Flight Information Service-Broadcast) on 978 MHz UAT, as well as TIS-B and air-to-air traffic on 1090 MHz ES, along with a WAAS GPS. Unique to the Clarity receiver is “data burst” technology, which stores ADS-B messages while your iPad sleeps. Press a button to activate the Data-Burst function, which transmits stored weather and FIS-B data. The Clarity unit also offers altitude and heading reference system (AHRS) for 3D Synthetic Vision and is compatible with nearly all EFB apps. Price: $1,400 (Clarity SV).
SkyRadar offers the popular DX dual band (978+1090MHz) receiver with built-in AHRS, and the D2 receiver which is the same, but doesn’t include AHRS. Both offer all the usual ADS-B In data including weather and traffic, and can function as Wi-Fi hotspots. Each comes with the innovative SkyRadar application, which puts in-flight and post-flight information at a pilot’s fingertips. Price: $849 (SkyRadar DX); $689 (SkyRadar D2).
SkyVision Xtreme was first to market with its portable Xtreme Vision 978 MHz ADS-B In-Out product. Their newest product is the ultra-small GenXv2 ADS-B receiver. It includes everything you need for enhanced situational awareness and supports full ADS-B Synthetic Traffic and Weather on iPad, iPhone, Android or Windows devices. All the hardware (except a display) is self-contained in this portable unit, including GPS and UAT antennas. SkyVision also offers their latest version of their Xtreme Vision “suitcase” unit, which is a transceiver solution. It comes with a certified ADS-B UAT enclosed in the portable case. It can be easily removed later and installed in the aircraft with fixed antennas to meet the FAA mandate. Price: $3,295 (Xtreme Vision); $2,450 (GenXv3).
Trig Avionics’ TT31 ADS-B transponder FAA STC has just gotten better—Trig announced that 650 aircraft types have now been added, making it a good choice for a large part of the GA fleet. Trig’s TT31 transponder is a Mode S and 1090ES ADS-B Out-capable transponder that can be used with popular GNS 400W and 500W navigators. The TT31 is also a direct retrofit replacement for the popular KT76A and KT78A transponders. The products are well supported in the U.S. Price: $2,590 (TT31 with installation harnesses).