Product Spotlight

Advanced Flightsystems ADS-B interface
By now most pilots have heard of ADS-B, the system that will eventually replace ground-based radar as the primary method of controlling air traffic. Another important feature of ADS-B is that it provides in-flight traffic and weather data to cockpit displays. This new technology relies on an array of ground-based transmitters throughout the US, and while complete coverage does not yet exist, the FAA expects the entire national airspace will be covered by 2013.

The traffic and weather data provided by the ADS-B system is free of charge, the pilot only needs to make the one-time purchase of the ADS-B equipment, and install it in the aircraft.  Several manufacturers of flight displays and EFIS systems for experimental aircraft have begun to create interfaces to available ADS-B equipment.  Advanced Flightsystems, Inc. of Canby, OR has announced that their EFIS is now capable of displaying ADS-B weather and traffic when interfaced to the NavWorx ADS600-B transceiver. 

This is the NavWorx ADS600-B transceiver.  This remote box connects to the Advanced Flightsystems EFIS via an RS-232 serial data wire, and also a GPS and transponder antenna.  All equipment is available now.

Once installed,  the ADS-B transceiver provides weather and traffic data to the Advanced Flightsystems moving map display. 

After purchasing the hardware, the data is received and displayed free of charge.

We recently spoke to Rob Hickman, owner of Advanced Flightsystems and Trevor Conroy from Advanced Flightsystems’ Technical Support division about the new interface, and how it compares to some other methods of receiving weather and traffic.  Here’s what they had to say:

How will ADS-B benefit pilots now and in the future?

ADS-B for the first time allows pilots to see what controllers see: other aircraft in the sky around them. Pilots are also able to see – and avoid – bad weather and terrain, and receive flight information such as temporary flight restrictions. The improvement in situational awareness for pilots greatly increases safety.
The improved accuracy, integrity and reliability of satellite signals over radar means controllers will be able to safely reduce the mandatory separation between aircraft. This will increase capacity in the nation’s skies.
ADS-B also provides greater coverage, since ADS-B ground stations are so much easier to place than radar. Remote areas without radar coverage, like the Gulf of Mexico and parts of Alaska, are now covered by ADS-B.

Not only does it cover more area and cost less to implement, the benefits and features are exceptional. Unlike XM, the FIS-B weather uplink provides PIREP's, Wind Shear Alerts, and Special Use Airspaces (SUA's). The TIS-B traffic uplink is even better, showing up to 32 targets at one time, which up until now only a TCAS system could do.

Why did you develop an ADS-B interface for Advanced Flight Systems displays?

 For many pilots who don't fly cross-country often, XM Weather is not a cost effective method of receiving in-flight weather. ADS-B offers a higher upfront equipment cost but has no monthly subscriptions for the TIS-B traffic or FIS-B weather data. Cost was definitely a factor that we knew our customers would be considering when choosing between XM and ADS-B.   Improved traffic capabilities was another factor. Being able to see up to 32 targets around the aircraft is a huge safety improvement and a feature we knew our customers would want.  Since every customer has a different mission for their airplane, it is always in our best interest to integrate with as many pieces of equipment as possible to maximize the potential of all their avionics.

What has been your experience flying with ADS-B?

 Flying with ADS-B has been truly great!  The first time we turned it on at our home airpark we saw several traffic targets that were more than 20 miles away! We are located near a ground station which allows us to receive data while on the ground. Flying with ADS-B is no different than with XM. The same weather data looks the same and all the features we are used to using are still there. The biggest advantage is the TIS-B traffic. It is simply amazing being able to see traffic in the pattern at an airport we are destined for. We feel a lot safer with it onboard and a lot more informed about what is going on around us.

Are there any limitations to ADS-B?

 Yes, there is one specific limitation that may hinder some customers desire to pick ADS-B vs XM for weather uplink. While XM works on the ground, since it is satellite based, ADS-B doesn't start receiving weather data until the aircraft is within line of sight distance from a ground station (typically about 3,000ft AGL). For most pilots this isn't an issue. For the pilots that fly a lot of low IFR and rely on weather information while still on the ground, it may be prohibitive.  This limitation will decrease once more ground stations are in place.

What are the approximate costs involved in equipping an airplane with ADS-B?

  The NavWorx ADS600-B lists for $2495.  A second transponder and GPS antenna must also be purchased separately for the ADS-B transceiver which together cost about $ 250.00. The box mounts remotely in the aircraft and must be wired to the AFS EFIS system. We don't charge for the ability to receive traffic and/or weather. Compared to an XM weather receiver ($799) and the upgrade from a Garmin GTX-327 to GTX-330 transponder ($1854) for TIS traffic, the initial costs are low.  When you factor in the ongoing monthly cost of an XM weather subscription, the ADS-B option for weather and traffic is a bargain.

Rob Hickman made a video of a flight in his ADS-B equipped RV-10 showing ADS-B weather depicted on the Advanced Flight systems map and can be seen here:

The NavWorx ADS-600B transceiver is available now, as is the software from Advanced Flightsystems to display weather and traffic in the cockpit free of charge. For more information contact Rob Hickman or Trevor Conroy at (503) 263-0037.