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uAvionix gets skyBeacon STC

Allows installation of wingtip ADS-B on certified aircraft

Editor's note: This story was updated Nov. 29, 2018, with additional information from uAvionix.

uAvionix announced Nov. 28 that it received an approved model list supplemental type certificate (AML STC) from the FAA, which authorizes installation of its TSOed skyBeacon wingtip-mounted Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) hardware with integral position light and strobe.

skyBeacon image courtesy of uAvionix.

“The day has finally come! A 272-aircraft AML for skyBeacon has been received,” the company said in an email. uAvionix said it is shipping skyBeacons and thanked the FAA's Chicago Aircraft Certification Office for its patience and guidance through the certification process.

“It feels spectacular to have the STC in hand, and provides great validation and motivation to continue our GA investment,” said Ryan Braun, uAvionix chief operating officer.

The skyBeacon received five TSOs on Sept. 4: ADS-B (TSO-C154c, Class B1S); GPS position source (TSO-C145d, Class Beta 1); barometric altitude sensor (TSO-C88b), position light (TSO-C30c, Type I), and anti-collision light (TSO-C96a, Class II). Since then, aircraft owners interested in the skyBeacon’s streamlined installation—uAvionix estimates one hour for many aircraft—have been awaiting an STC to authorize installation. During the STC process, the company made some minor enhancements to the product and also expanded the STC from two aircraft to 272, the company told AOPA.

The skyBeacon is a universal access transceiver that provides ADS-B Out capability on 978 MHz. ADS-B uses satellites instead of ground-based radar to determine aircraft location, and is a key technology behind the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System. The FAA has mandated ADS-B Out for flights after Jan. 1, 2020, in airspace where a transponder is required today. In addition, the FAA brought back its $500 ADS-B Out rebate in October, and the TSOed skyBeacon qualifies for the rebate.

The STC covers a wide array of American Champion, Aviat, Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper, Maule, Mooney, and other models; a complete list is available online. The company will offer wingtip fairing adapters to simplify installation on some specific Cessna models; uAvionix said these will cost $100 each and should be shipping by the end of the year.

“We chose to create a large AML due to customer demand—and, frankly, because we could,” Braun said. “While the installation process without an STC is very simple, many installers gain comfort from having the STC. Our simple installation lends itself to a broad STC, so we opted to ‘go big’ out of the gate.” He said uAvionix plans to expand the AML as it receives feedback on other compatible aircraft models.

For aircraft not covered by the AML STC, the FAA issued a tech paper last year. The referenced "Installation Approval for ADS-B Out Systems" memorandum explains how certified ADS-B hardware can be approved as a follow-on installation, based on a previously approved STC. Because an initial STC exists, uAvionix said, subsequent skyBeacon installations can be performed on any “suitable aircraft”—which is any aircraft allowing installation without airframe modification—as a minor alteration, without an additional or airframe-specific STC.

uAvionix said it is progressing with TSO certification of its tailBeacon product, very similar to the wingtip-mount skyBeacon but intended for installation on the aircraft’s tail. The company still expects to receive the tailBeacon TSO by the end of the year, but said the STC probably will push into the first quarter of 2019. 

In addition, with the skyBeacon STC in hand, uAvionix said it will follow up with starboard-side options for owners who want matching position lights. The company already offers skySensor, a right-side ADS-B In receiver and position/strobe light, for experimental and light sport aircraft. It has decided against producing a certified skySensor, but said it will produce a certified, matching starboard-side position and strobe light during the first quarter of 2019. “We will be offering bundle pricing, but will extend the discount to customers who have already purchased skyBeacon,” uAvionix said. “Reserve your rebate, get skyBeacon installed—don’t wait for skyLight; we’ll get it taken care of for you.”

A lawsuit filed by Garmin International against uAvionix in June, claiming that uAvionix is infringing on a Garmin patent with technology in the skyBeacon and other ADS-B hardware, is winding its way through U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, where multiple motions have been filed and answered; a jury trial currently is scheduled for February 2020. uAvionix disputes the allegation and said in a statement that the suit will not affect its certification or delivery of ADS-B hardware.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.
Topics: Avionics, ADS-B, Technology

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