The Nexrad images and other real-time graphical and text weather that pilots flying over the United States have come to depend on has not been available to the rest of the world, especially Europe, until now. The problem is that the very powerful XM and Sirius satellite signals are restricted to the United States, but Avidyne is now offering a receiver that uses signals from the global Iridium network of satellites to transmit weather information into the cockpits of pilots flying over Europe.
The new Avidyne MLX770 communicates with the Iridium constellation and displays the real-time weather it receives on Avidyne's multifunction displays. More than 600 Avidyne Entegra-equipped Cirrus singles are in Europe, and the company has also delivered hundreds of its FlightMax multifunction displays for installation in other airplanes.
The Iridium data "pipe" is much smaller than the high-speed broadcast signals from XM and Sirius, so the MLX770 will request only the weather that is pertinent to the route of flight. For example, in a piston single such as the Cirrus you may only be interested in the radar picture and other weather information 100 nm either side of your route, and that's what the MLX770 will request and display. In a faster airplane you may want to broaden the picture, but in any case, you don't waste satellite time -- and money -- receiving information you don't need.
Avidyne developed this request type of weather transmission several years ago when it was first to offer a satellite-based weather link using the Orbcom system. The Orbcom network proved to be unreliable, but the "narrowcasting" of weather was a success. The 66 satellites in the Iridium constellation have demonstrated reliability so the weak link has been removed. Pilots will pay by the amount of information sent down on the Iridium signal, and Avidyne expects that the cost will be 50 to 80 euros per month for a typical airplane owner. Since you only pay when you want weather information, there will be no costs on good weather days.
Prices for the MLX770 compact receiver start at 7,995 euros. A typical GPS style "patch" antenna is used. Avidyne expects to make initial deliveries later this year.