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ADS-B: On DeckADS-B: On Deck

More hardware solutions emerge

We’re just a little more than two years from the effective date of the FAA’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast-Out mandate, the FAA’s $500 ADS-B rebate has wound down—and avionics manufacturers are continuing to innovate in ADS-B hardware offerings. The FAA will require ADS-B Out equipage after January 1, 2020, for flight in airspace where a transponder is required today.
EAA AirVenture 2017. Photo by Mike Collins.
uAvionix, which makes miniature ADS-B equipment for unmanned aircraft, is working with the FAA to certify its SkyBeacon—a compact ADS-B Out product, including GPS position source, that would be mounted in place of the left wingtip position light. It is designed to minimize installation cost.

What makes these coming new products different? To be clear, they’re not yet all certified—and noncertified hardware can be installed only on Experimental and Light Sport aircraft. But each offers a unique approach to design that simplifies installation, potentially shaving hundreds of dollars from the cost of a traditional ADS-B datalink. All three are universal access transceivers, providing ADS-B Out on 978 MHz in conjunction with the aircraft’s existing transponder. Offering Out only helps to reduce cost, although aircraft owners won’t enjoy the benefits of ADS-B In unless they use a portable receiver.

Garmin GDL 82

Garmin International’s GDL 82 is a small, lightweight universal access transceiver (UAT) with a built-in WAAS GPS positon source that uniquely integrates with the aircraft’s existing transponder and transponder antenna. The GDL 82 is installed in line between the aircraft’s transponder and transponder antenna—a minimally intrusive ADS-B Out solution that doesn’t require any panel modifications, and should require less shop time than installing traditional ADS-B hardware.

The GDL 82 can be mounted between the transponder and its antenna; just install and connect its GPS antenna, and connect a 14- or 28-volt D.C. power supply. Garmin said the installation design is patent-pending. The GDL 82 contains Garmin’s AutoSquawk interrogation technology, which synchronizes the transponder’s squawk code with the UAT and eliminates the need to install a separate UAT control panel.

“For thousands of aircraft owners, the GDL 82 is a comprehensive solution that meets regulatory requirements and provides pilots with a simple upgrade path to achieve ADS-B Out,” Garmin said.

The GDL 82 is priced at $1,795, and delivery of the certified UAT should begin in the fourth quarter of 2017. The price includes a WAAS antenna and installation kit.

uAvionix SkyBeacon

uAvionix Corporation has taken a different design approach with its SkyBeacon, which combines LED navigation light technology with an ultra-compact, self-contained ADS-B Out-only solution that mounts on the airplane’s wing tip. “The goal here is to get something that’s the lowest cost of equipage,” said Ryan Braun, uAvionix chief operating officer. “We do feel this is a game changer.”

Each product takes a unique approach to design that simplifies installation, potentially shaving hundreds of dollars from the cost of a traditional ADS-B datalink. Prototypes were tried in “all kinds of locations” on the airplane, and the wing tip worked best, he said. “We’re beyond thrilled with the reception, and we’re working hard on the certification. The FAA is thrilled with the innovation. We’re working that certification path with them.”

The UAT will be set up through an app that automatically configures the ICAO address; emitter type; aircraft length, width, and GPS offset; and other required parameters by accessing the aircraft registration information. The automatic configuration is intended to reduce both installation time and the number of system configuration errors.

Braun said he expects certification, with a comprehensive aircraft master list supplemental type certificate, in early 2018. A noncertified product might be available before then, he added. “This time next year, we’ll have a line of A&Ps that can go out and install your ADS-B in 15 minutes,” Braun said at EAA AirVenture in July. Pricing has not been announced.

An optional position light for the opposite wing that provides ADS-B In capability will be offered, according to the company, which develops small, lightweight ADS-B transceivers, transponders, and GPS receivers for the unmanned aircraft system market. It also offers noncertified 978UAT and 1090ES ADS-B Out solutions for the Experimental and Light Sport markets. In July uAvionix announced Scout, an ultraminiature, portable, $199 dual-band ADS-B receiver developed with ForeFlight.

Levil Beacon

Levil Technology chose yet another approach to the design of its Beacon, which integrates all essential components—including an internal GPS receiver, which is optional, and the UAT itself—inside a compact blade-shaped structure that mounts on the aircraft’s belly and serves as the UAT antenna. The design makes for a less invasive installation, minimizing shop time and cost, the company said.

A noncertified Beacon is currently available for Experimental and Light Sport aircraft, and the company is considering a certified version. “We’ve had some very positive meetings here at Oshkosh,” said Michelle Leon, Levil’s operations manager, at EAA AirVenture in July. “We are very happy with all the excitement about the Beacon. We hope to be able to get a lot of planes ready for 2020.”

As this issue of AOPA Pilot went to press, the company was still discussing aspects of certification with the FAA and had not made a final decision about seeking certification. Levil’s noncertified Beacon lists for $1,885 with integral GPS, GPS antenna, and wiring harness.

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Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.

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