As the FAA is building out the infrastructure for its nationwide automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) surveillance network, avionics manufacturers are beginning to market in earnest the gear that will take advantage of the benefits of this new technology. As this happens, it’s becoming apparent that there are greater challenges to ADS-B and greater potential rewards than anyone had imagined when the concept was hatched more than a decade ago.
The year 2020 might seem a long way away to you, and it is, but only kind of. That is, of course, the year that every airplane operating in the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) is going to have to be ADS-B compliant. Experience with previous mandatory equipage dates, such as that with terrain awareness nearly a decade ago, should tell us that 2020 will come sooner than we’re collectively ready for it to come.
The bottom line is that by Jan. 1, 2020, everybody who flies in what is essentially Mode C airspace will be required to be ADS-B equipped. The scale of the plan is massive, and as a part of that plan, we’ll all be required to have ADS-B Out (the broadcast part). The fully functional ADS-B system depends on that “Out” capability.
Today there’s some benefit to be gotten with ADS-B In only. With that function, we can see some other ADS-B traffic and get free FAA weather products, including Nexrad radar, metars and TAFs, winds aloft and more.
ADS-B is not future tech. It’s already working, and we at Flying have been using the technology in one form or another for a few years now. We recently tested and reported on some of the first ADS-B receivers, including a portable, battery-powered receiver from Appareo, the Stratus, that works great and costs less than a thousand dollars with free weather as part of the deal. Expect to see more innovative ADS-B products roll out — a number of them are already here.
On an ADS-B Mission
While a number of avionics manufacturers have released compelling ADS-B products, one company, Garmin International, has recast itself as an ADS-B company, working to leverage this new technology into every product in which it makes sense. Right now the company is actively developing or has recently launched more than a dozen major products for aviation, and this is counting only the ones of which we’re aware. Many of those actively rely on ADS-B for the advanced functionality of the equipment.
While this sounds great, ADS-B has proved so complex a technology that there will be education and training challenges, both for Garmin and for its customers. The challenge for pilots is in keeping track of what’s going on in the cockpit. The challenge for Garmin is in explaining all of it. After all, before long most pilots will find themselves having to work this equipment, or something like it, in flight. Understanding how it works and what it will and won’t do is critical. Toward that end, looking at what Garmin is doing across its product lineup is instructive.
GDL 88 and GDL 39
Garmin’s two brand-new ADS-B solution boxes are the GDL 88 and GDL 39. The 88, which can be purchased in a variety of ways depending on customer needs, is a remote-mount permanently installed unit that provides ADS-B In, Out or In/Out coverage. With GDL 88 ADS-B Out installation or better, an airplane will meet the FAA 2020 mandate. The 88 will work with a number of displays from a number of manufacturers, but it works its most remarkable magic when paired with the Garmin GTN 750 multifunction display. Prices for the GDL 88 start at $3,995. The price goes up to just under $6,000 for a compliant system with a WAAS receiver if needed. For those prices, the promise of ADS-B is great.