The choices may seem bewildering (and they can be!), but at least prices seem to be settling down.
In 2014, EAA AirVenture's exhibit halls were filled with ADS-B vendors who have viable products for the FAA mandate that's coming sooner than we think—January 2020. The infrastructure is already in place, so why not take advantage of the benefits these devices provide right now, before the requirement date arrives?
There are ADS-B transmitters, receivers and transceivers. The one that is right for your aircraft may not necessarily have the least expensive hardware or installation cost.
Transponder choices in particular can be bewildering. There are three transponder frequencies and it's important to know the differences.
• 1030 MHz is the current radar transponder frequency for both Mode C and Mode S transponders. This transponder frequency is not used in any way by ADS-B technology. Mode C transponders receive an interrogation and send a reply that includes altitude. Mode S transponders do the same, but add information about aircraft identification, and also receive Traffic Information System (TIS-A) data within Class B and C airspace. Service withdrawal for this type of transponder began in 2012.
• 1090 MHz SES (Mode S, extended squitter) transponders are the current ADS-B solution for above and below 18,000 feet adopted worldwide. Specific aircraft information is transmitted to ATC and other 1090 MHz SES-equipped aircraft, and will show your position, altitude, heading and trend vector to ATC and on the displays of participating aircraft.
• 978 MHz UAT (Universal Access Transceiver) is the ADS-B system that evolved from the FAA's Alaska Capstone Project. It includes TIS-B traffic and Flight Information System (FIS-B) NEXRAD graphical weather, textual METARs, TAFs, and notams. UAT uses a ground-based transmitter (GBT) to receive and transmit information to UAT-equipped aircraft. GBT stations also collect ATC traffic information for radar-based targets and Mode SES service. Full TIS-B and FIS-B services are available at no charge once the appropriate transceiver and other hardware installations are onboard the aircraft. Most UAT transceivers that do not have a Mode SES transponder will require a separate control head to set the appropriate squawk code for ATC reference when using ADS-B. Note: 978 MHz UAT service is available only in the United States below 18,000 feet. All other countries will require 1090 MHz SES transponders.
The majority of the products discussed in this article use Wi-Fi to display weather, traffic and other ADS-B In information on an iPad (or in some cases, either an iPad or an Android device). In addition, all either already have a flight planning application interface, or are working diligently to make flight planning software integration announcements in the near future.
One key requirement is to have GPS WAAS location information available for ADS-B location information. ADS-B is not radar-dependent and uses GPS latitude/longitude plus transponder-encoded altimeter information to plot position; you must have either GPS navigator system data or a stand-alone GPS WAAS unit to provide position information.
Jay Shears of BendixKing asks these three questions before recommending a solution to any aircraft owner:
• Do you fly above or
below 18,000 feet?
• Do you have a WAAS-enabled
GPS in your aircraft?
• Do you want to keep
your existing transponder?
Every aircraft owner can use their answers to these questions to help select the best path through all the ADS-B options available.
Ryan Van Kirk, vice president and sales manager at Sarasota Avionics, uses an ADS-B decision diagram to help aircraft owners select which ADS-B installation is right for them. (The diagram on page 27 has been narrowed down to show only the products discussed in this story. —Ed.) There are many questions that the decision tree can answer, and you might wish to reference this chart in discussing ADS-B options with your local avionics shop.
In early October of last year, Avidyne Corp. introduced the MLB100 Datalink Receiver for ADS-B In. The device provides ADS-B traffic and FIS-B weather for display on Avidyne's IFD540 and IFD440 GPS navcoms as well as for its EX series of MFDs.
The MLB100 uses 978 MHz and receives information from other 978 MHz-equipped aircraft; it will indirectly receive information from 1090 MHz-equipped planes via ADS-R. Traffic from aircraft without ADS-B equipment is received from ground stations via TIS-B at 978 MHz.
The MLB100 datalink receiver retails for $2,495 and, according to Avidyne, will be certified in early 2015. The device comes with a mounting tray and connector kit, but the antenna is sold separately.
The Avidyne MLB100 ADS-B system is fully integrated to function with Avidyne GPS navigators and MFDs. There is no Wi-Fi connection for use with iPads or other portable devices for ADS-B Out functions.
BendixKing has four ADS-B products both with and without integral WAAS-enabled GPS receivers. BendixKing offers four models to allow aircraft owners the flexibility to make the best choice for their particular situation.
The company has two transceivers and receivers that connect to either Mode C or Mode SES transponders. Most Piper Flyer readers will fly below 18,000 feet in U.S. airspace, so the 978 MHz UAT protocol would serve their needs and provide traffic and weather information.
If, for example, you already have a Garmin GPS WAAS unit, then you will not need an integral GPS WAAS receiver in your ADS-B transceiver because the onboard signal will be available to the Bendix transceiver. If you have only VOR navigation in your panel, though, then an integral GPS WAAS receiver in the ADS-B transceiver or transmitter will be necessary.
The type of transponder (Mode C or Mode SES) is key to whether you will need a transceiver or receiver only.
The $319 Wi-Fi option will work with a Bendix application on iPad and Android tablets plus any compatible panel-mounted units from BendixKing that may be announced at a later date.
If you have a Mode C transponder, for example a BendixKing KT 76A, then you will need an optional control head to manage the 978 MHz UAT transponder code. With a Mode SES transponder, no control head is necessary.
For an aircraft with a compatible WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and a Mode SES transponder, a Model KGX 130 with no integral GPS WAAS receiver costs $1,838 for the equipment, plus installation.
For a Mode C transponder-equipped aircraft with VOR navigation only, a KGX 150 transceiver with integral WAAS GPS will run $4,413.
All of the BendixKing units will display TIS-B traffic and FIS-B related weather information on UAT configured units.
FreeFlight Systems' RANGR FDL-978-XVR has ADS-B In and Out with an integral WAAS-enabled GPS receiver for $3,995. The transceiver works on 978 MHz UAT mode only, with Mode C or straight Mode S transponders. Older Mode C transponders will require additional options for UAT compatibility.
Output can be to a Garmin MX20/GMX 200 MFD; a GNS 430/530 navcom; an Aspen Evolution flight display; a Chelton Flight Systems PFD; or via Wi-Fi to an iPad or Android tablet.
The unit cost doesn't include any antennas, and may also require an ADS-B control head and other interfaces. Installation costs are also extra.
The GDL 88 ADS-B transceiver is available in two models: with and without internal GPS WAAS receiver. In the Garmin tradition, these units integrate well with the GNS 430/530 and GTN product lines for both UAT and Mode SES output.
Garmin recently announced an iPad interface for its flyGarmin flight planning software where ADS-B In traffic and weather will overlay navigation maps via its Flight Stream 210 Connext Wi-Fi connection.
Connext provides a two-way Wi-Fi interface to Garmin's flyGarmin flight planning software. You can plan your flight on your iPad and then upload the information to the Garmin GPS or GTN navigators. flyGarmin will display in the cockpit a UAT weather overlay on the map display, plus all the UAT traffic overlays.
The GDL 88 ADS-B unit's cost is $3,995 plus installation; with an integral WAAS GPS, the cost is $4,995 plus installation.
The Flight Stream 210 Connext option, available for $999, also includes an AHRS unit that will display a pseudo PFD for attitude and heading. If you have a G500 electronic display, the Connext AHRS will act as a backup for the 500's integrated AHRS unit.
If you already have a Garmin GTX 330 Mode S transponder, the unit you have is upgradable to Mode SES capability for a $1,200 modification at Garmin. (Installation cost for additional external aircraft hardware would be extra.) This modification satisfies the FAA's January 2020 ADS-B Out requirement.
L-3 Avionics Systems
L-3 announced its Lynx MultiLink Surveillance System at EAA AirVenture last summer. There are four planned Lynx models that offer a "one-box solution that meets the FAA ADS-B mandate," according to a press release from the company.
Representatives at Oshkosh told me the basic ADS-B transmitter unit will start at $2,000; as functions on the device increases, so will cost. The top-tier unit from L-3, a Mode SES transponder, will have a typical transponder form factor and include Wi-Fi display capabilities for traffic and weather.
According to the L-3 website, the company is in the final phases of testing and anticipates the product will be unveiled in the next few months. Availability and cost announcements should follow.
NavWorx offers two 978 MHz UAT transceivers. Both units include WAAS GPS receivers and certified ADS-B Out transmitters. These units are capable of connecting to a Garmin GNS 400/500 navigator and via Wi-Fi for tablet applications.
The Model ADS600-B for $2,595 is the least expensive complete unit on the market. However, take time the read the specs: the device currently calls for the use of a noncertified WAAS GPS receiver that cannot be used in ADS mandated airspace after January 2020. NavWorx states it will have a certified upgrade kit by January 2020.
The Model ADS600-BG is a fully certified remote-mounted UAT unit with integral TSO-C145c WAAS GPS available for $3,800. According to the website, the ADS600-BG uses any existing Mode C transponder, and receives ADS-B In information including ADS-B, ADS-R, TIS-B (traffic) and FIS-B (weather). These multiple interfaces, the website states, "allows ADS600-BG to support a variety of panel-mounted EFIS/MFDs and portable displays."
Both the ADS600-B and ADS-600BG require up to $792 of options, antennas and interfaces to be functional.
No extension is likely
Are you thinking that ADS-B implementation will not remain firm for January 2020? In his presentation at Oshkosh on Aug.1, 2014, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta firmly stated the deadline for compliance will not be extended.
If you need confirmation that the FAA means what it says on these types of big changes, you only have to go back a few years to January 2005 to the implementation of Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) for flights between FL290 to FL410.
Many business jet operators attempted to call the FAA's bluff and applied for extensions. All were denied. The result was that many aircraft sat on the ground at avionics shops after the deadline, awaiting RVSM certification.
The best path for you
For ADS-B compliance, hardware prices have settled down to between $2,000 and $5,000. Of course, the least expensive may not be the best solution for your type of flying, and may not offer the most safety enhancements.
An aircraft owner with two navcoms and a Mode C transponder is probably looking for a minimum investment, and I'd suggest they look closely at Free Flight Systems' offerings. Ryan Van Dyke told me that Sarasota Avionics can currently install this ADS-B In and Out solution for approximately $6,000, presuming the existing Mode C transponder is compatible with FreeFlight Systems' interface.
Take time to read through the documentation for the offerings I've described and consult with your avionics shop before deciding the best path.
As for me, I've enjoyed Garmin GDL 69 subscription weather and Mode S TIS-A traffic information for a long time. I cannot say enough about the enhanced safety and peace of mind that these two units bring to my cockpit. I believe that after experiencing ADS-B weather and traffic in your cockpit, you would never want to fly without them, either.
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