The cost and hassle of complying with the FAA’s 2020 ADS-B Out mandate is vexing many aircraft owners, but quite a few of us are already enjoying the benefits of ADS-B In: real-time weather, Nexrad radar and traffic information, all for free. There are a number of feature-rich portable receivers on the market, like the Appareo Stratus, Garmin GDL 39 and Dual XGPS170. And for do-it-yourself types or die-hard cheapskates, now there’s an open-source homebuilt option for under $100: Stratux.
Stratux consists of a Linux-based microcomputer called Raspberry Pi and a software-defined radio (SDR) antenna. Its inventor, software engineer and pilot Christopher Young, originally posted instructions and code to aggregator website Reddit, and since then he’s simplified the process considerably. Today you can even purchase all the parts and preloaded software as a kit online at stratux.me.
I built my own Stratux last fall and have since used it with WingX Pro7 for over 50 hours of cross-country flight. I’ve had to tweak it a bit and still consider it an experimental system (note that it won’t work at all with Garmin or Jeppesen’s proprietary EFB programs), but overall it’s been a huge upgrade of capability for very little money.
Do It Yourself:
Using the Vilros Raspberry Pi kit with the NooElec SDR, assembly is quite simple. Ensure you are properly grounded, stick the two silver heat sinks onto the processor chips and mount the motherboard in the clear snap-together case. Insert the blue NooElec dongle into one USB port and the small Edimax Wi-Fi antenna into another, and then plug the external antenna into the NooElec dongle.
If you purchased the kit with Stratux software preloaded, simply insert the included microSD card into its slot on the Raspberry Pi. Otherwise, download the software at stratux.me and flash it onto the microSD card. The Raspberry Pi comes with an AC power adapter, but for airplane use you’ll need a 1-amp USB-to-micro-USB power cord. You can either pair this with a 12-volt adapter plugged into your airplane’s cigarette lighter or use a lithium-ion battery pack. Once plugged into an appropriate power source, the box will automatically boot up. Simply connect your tablet to the Stratux Wi-Fi network, start your EFB program, and you’ll receive updated weather, radar and traffic as soon as you’re within range of an ADS-B station (usually 500 to 3,000 feet agl).