August 5, 2014
By Jim Moore
Small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and weighing 11 ounces, the Iridium GO! satellite hotspot announced by Sporty’s Pilot Shop at EAA AirVenture connects cell phones and mobile devices to the world, from any location and at any altitude.
Sporty’s is offering the portable device (supplied by Appareo, Iridium’s distribution partner and maker of the Stratus ADS-B and GPS receiver designed for the iPad), for $875, with subscription options starting at $83 per month for a prepaid six-month plan (or $99.95 per month for a monthly plan). The hotspot connects Iridium’s satellite network to mobile devices via Wi-Fi, and Iridium’s application allows phones to place calls, send messages, and browse the Web (mobile sites only due to limited bandwidth), though no other mobile applications are compatible. In effect, the device turns a smart phone (iOS or Android) into a satellite smartphone using Iridium’s software.
All of the subscription plans (there is a $149.95 monthly option that includes unlimited Web and email use, and 20 minutes of included phone calls, $1.15 per minute thereafter) include unlimited emergency messaging to summon help. A dedicated SOS button facilitates that. The hotspot can serve up to five mobile device connections at once, and comes in a waterproof case.
Allowing communication via standard cellular phones at any altitude, the hotspot offers unprecedented connectivity for general aviation pilots and passengers. Calls also can be received, though callers must use the assigned Iridium number (or email address, in the case of email.)
“It’s also an ideal safety device, guaranteeing that a pilot will always be able to communicate and retrieve data even when they are off the cellular grid,” said Sporty’s Vice President John Zimmerman, in a news release.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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