Every avionics company you have heard of, and some you may have not, is showing new ADS-B equipment here at Oshkosh.
ADS-B is the technology that broadcasts your identify, position, altitude and velocity automatically to all other airplanes and a network of FAA ground stations. ADS-B will replace air traffic control radar for aircraft surveillance under the coming NextGen airspace system. This is called the “out” component of ADS-B.
ADS-B has a second element called “in” because very useful information is automatically transmitted subscription free to equipped airplanes.
The issue for airplane owners is that we will all be required to install certified ADS-B “out” equipment by the end of 2020 to be authorized to fly in the airspace that now requires a Mode C transponder.
To complicate matters further, ADS-B “out” signals can be sent on either of two different frequencies. One “out” signal is on the 1090 MHz transponder frequency. All airplanes flying above 18,000 feet must use this channel. The other signal is called UAT for universal access transceiver.
Nearby traffic, weather radar, text weather, locations of TFRs, and all sorts of other very important real time information will come “in” only over UAT. So you want UAT “in.” But you can have UAT “in” but 1090 MHZ “out.” Got that?
And you will still need to have your Mode C transponder installed, turned on and recertified every other year after 2020 just as we do now. Got that, too?
So, to comply with the new rules you need something to transmit the “out” signal on one of the two channels, plus an approved position source to know where you are. The approved source is a WAAS enabled GPS navigator.
If you have a WAAS GPS already, you probably have an approved position source. If you have a transponder with ES (extended squitter) it can send the ADS-B “out” signal on 1090 MHz. But you need wires and software to connect the two boxes. Got that? And all brands may not play with the other.
I can’t calculate all of the possible combinations of ways to comply with the ADS-B rules, but it must be in the dozens, if not the hundreds. ADS-B “in” is not a requirement, but it’s the only useful part so you sure don’t want to leave it out. So you want some sort of UAT receiver, but do you want a UAT “out” transmitter? Maybe.
There is also the question of how to display all of that really nice and useful data coming up for free on the UAT “in” channel. If you have some sort of multifunction display in your panel already, that may work. But maybe not. It depends on the age of your display, who made it, and how much memory or operating capacity it has.
A better way to see the data coming “in” may be on a tablet such as an iPad. The tablet can connect wirelessly to the UAT “in” receiver if you buy the right equipment.
Then there are the portable UAT “in” receivers that cost from around $500 to $800 that can show you the weather and other information on a tablet without installing anything. But they don’t meet the “out” requirement of 2020. Got that?
ADS-B may be one of the most confusing FAA equipment requirements ever because there are so many options, and so many hardware solutions.
If there is any good news about ADS-B it is that the avionics companies are now paying close attention and developing a whole range of solutions. And most importantly a range of prices. Every ADS-B maker that I know of is here at Oshkosh and you can stop by and chat with them.
This is your chance to learn what you will need to meet the rule if you fly in regulated airspace, and learn about the almost endless options you have. Even if you put off the buying decision for another year or two, take advantage of the ADS-B equipment makers here to learn as much as you can. There is no simple solution because we are offered so many choices.
I remember hearing that having endless options is really a curse. For many airplane owners that curse is spelled ADS-B.