Evaluating portable GPS/ADS-B receivers
What's the best investment for your mission profile?
By Harold Katinszky
ATP/CFII. Gulfstream series, Dassault Falcon Jet series, Challengers, Learjets, Hawkers.
Captain Harold Katinszky displaying some of the numerous portable GPS/ADS-B receivers examined by him and his circle of 12 professional pilot evaluators.
I love American ingenuity. It seems like whenever someone reflects, "I sure wish someone would invent that," the collective entrepreneurial soul of America springs into action.
Out of necessity, amazing devices are invented, competition is born and competition generates improvements and refinements. This is precisely what we have experienced with the rapid growth of portable GPS/ADS-B receivers.
What is GPS/ADS-B?
While most pilots are familiar with GPS, ADS-B is fairly new to the avionics scene. ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast and will eventually replace our current radar system as the primary means of separating aircraft. Instead of using radar, ADS-B will allow aircraft to use GPS to find its location and automatically share it with ATC and other aircraft equipped with ADS-B In technology.
Why ADS-B? ADS-B is more accurate, consistent and cost-effective than radar. Eventually this technology may allow aircraft to self-separate in areas that previously have been unable to secure radar coverage (over the ocean, for example). This accurate coverage will allow reduced separation and make our air traffic management (ATM) system more efficient.
At higher altitudes with ADS-B much better direct routing is sure to be allowed.
Ahead of the game, the FAA requires that most aircraft be ADS-B Out compliant by 2020. You won't have too much to worry about with your Super Cub on floats. You'll just need to install a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT).
However, if you fly above FL180 or overseas, you will need to comply with FAA's ADS-B Out mandate. This means that ADS-B Out must be installed in your aircraft's panel so that you can report your position to ATC. Many aircraft are ADS-B Out compliant if they carry a Mode S transponder, in which case you are essentially good to go. Techies might what to check out FAA's website for more details.
Unlike ADS-B Out, ADS-B In is portable and is not mandated by FAA. Although it remains optional, it allows pilots the benefit of receiving ADS-B Out transmissions from ground stations and other aircraft independently of ATC. Besides receiving traffic reports, these new portable ADS-B In receivers are also capable of receiving weather reports from further away, giving pilots greater weather avoidance options.
In order to evaluate the many portable ADS-B choices on the market today. I recruited the wisdom and experience of 12 professional pilots in 7 flight depts. These pilots have a lot of knowledge and their combined flight time exceeds 100,000 hrs. All pilot inputs were expressed in roundtable discussions of these studied portable ADS-B devices.
I would like to thank the evaluating pilots who fly for Asia Aviation Co. Singapore, Cinco Air Charter, Jet Edge Intl, Merle Norman Aviation, Threshold Aviation Group, Wolfe Air Aviation and Sierra West Airlines. Aircraft used in this evaluation were 9 Gulfstreams, 4 LearJets, a PC12, a Cessna 337, Piper Cherokee and 2 sailplanes.
Flights were conducted from the Los Angeles area to New York, over Florida, Montana, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, Iceland and Singapore. Each pilot evaluated performance, boot-up time and refresh time during climb, cruise and descent from the surface to FL490.
There is a plethora of software programs available on the market today, each with differing degrees of accuracy, speed, tools and integration with current available ADS-B hardware. After some research, 4 were found to be the most effective: Jeppesen, Garmin, WingX Pro7 and ForeFlight. Garmin has its own integrated proprietary software/hardware apps.
JeppView FD & Jepp TC
Jeppesen Mobile Flight Deck FD and Terminal Charts TC with the Apple iPad makes paper a thing of the past and updates in a breeze.
Most pilots love their Jeppesen approach plates. Jeppesen was the first to come out with revisions on CD that can be downloaded to your computer and has been leading in this evolution of the paperless cockpit. With a few holdouts, pilots immediately embraced the paperless concept. It seemed as if Jeppesen was unstoppable.
Reliability and redundancy were the big concerns but GPS recognition is great on JeppView and pilots can monitor their aircraft on a taxiway chart with amazing accuracy. In some instances, the pilot and his crew have used GPS to navigate in weather when the tower was unable to see aircraft movement in 100 ft indefinite. I have yet to see a professional cockpit without JeppView FD and Jepp TC on board.
Don't rely only on Jeppesen just yet. Their software advancements seem to have slowed to a standstill. JeppView lacks user-friendliness and is incompatible with ADS-B weather, a crucial tool for many. JeppView is also missing numerous overlays and some useful tools available from other vendors.
WingX Pro7 with Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS) at FL430 408 kts. AHRS is in calibration mode with relatively good ground detail.
WingX Pro7 is essentially the most compatible software on the market. It is generally the user's choice when flying below FL180 and with piston and turboprop aircraft. WingX Pro has amazing graphics and permits numerous hardware users to integrate within its system. It's fairly simple to navigate and their webpage provides many resources on how to master the software with relative ease.
Among WingX Pro7's best features are the synthetic vision simulator, the DG compass at the bottom of the screen and the ability to adjust GPS altitude by a single screen touch. WingX Pro7 has one of the quickest response and upload times. Handling traffic data and flight planning is a breeze. GPS recognition was as fast as any other software. Tech support, without compromise, is absolutely the best. A living, breathing person answers the phone. If you want to test WingX Pro7 for yourself, they offer a great 30-day free trial.