Flight test: WingX Pro 7 and Dual XGPS170 ADS-B Receiver

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The Dual XGPS 170 ADS-B receiver includes a soft rubber and dash mount and fits nicely on the glareshield.
The Dual XGPS 170 ADS-B receiver includes a soft rubber dash mount and fits nicely on the glareshield.

WingX Pro 7 users have a new wireless ADS-B receiver option, the Dual XGPS170. Developed by the same company that makes the popular Dual XGPS150 GPS receiver, the 170 uses Bluetooth to wirelessly send GPS position data and ADS-B weather and traffic data to an iPad or Android tablet running a compatible app. Right now Dual lists compatibility with WingX Pro 7, EFB from Global Nav Source and Reader Plates, though they say more apps will be added soon.

Portable ADS-B receivers are relatively new to general aviation, and are an inexpensive way to receive subscription-free weather in the cockpit on iPads and Android tablets. They receive the free ground-based ADS-B data broadcast, which contains local and national NEXRAD radar imagery, text weather reports, TFRs and in some circumstances nearby traffic. We took the XGPS170 on a flight today to test out its features and compare it to Stratus, the wireless ADS-B receiver for ForeFlight. Let’s first look at the  XGPS170 features and how it works.

Dual XGPS170 ADS-B Receiver

The XGPS170 was announced at Oshkosh earlier this summer, and is now available just before the holidays. The device is fairly compact, and includes a rubber dash mount that rests nicely on the glareshield of most airplanes. The mount also includes some suction capability, so you can place it vertically on a side window to keep the sun from baking it on a dark glareshield. It includes a small external flip-up antenna that can be adjusted to any angle, and can be removed if you want to add a remote wired antenna (one of these antenna options is required). The receiver uses Bluetooth for wireless data transfer, and can connect up to 2 devices simultaneously.

A physical switch is used to turn the device on into one of two modes: GPS or GPS/ADS-B. The GPS-only mode can be used when all you need is navigation data, conserving battery life. There are 4 indicator lights on the top/front of the receiver to indicate the status of the battery, Bluetooth, GPS and ADS-B reception. One thing that’s slightly confusing is that the ADS-B light will be on anytime the unit is turned on in ADS-B mode, regardless of whether you’re actually receiving ADS-B data or not. When receiving an ADS-B signal this status light pulses, though this is tough to see in bright conditions.

Dual advertises battery life of the unit as 5 hours, and the results from our flight test proved this to be fairly accurate. It includes a standard USB charging adapter with 12-28v cigarette lighter, and you can charge it at home from any standard USB wall charger.

In addition to receiving the standard FIS-B weather products, the Dual XGPS170 also receives limited traffic information. It includes a single-band 978Mhz receiver, so you’ll only get traffic information rebroadcast from ground stations or directly from other 978Mhz Out aircraft. And remember that traffic information is not continuously transmitted like weather; rather your aircraft (or one in close proximity) needs to be equipped with a certified ADS-B Out system to “ping” the ground station, which will then send you a customized traffic report. In other words, if you don’t have ADS-B Out in your aircraft, you probably won’t see any traffic with this box.

WingX shows external hardware information, including the status of ADS-B reception.
WingX shows external hardware information, including the status of ADS-B reception.

Flying with WingX Pro 7 and the Dual XGPS170

As mentioned earlier, the Dual ADS-B receiver is compatible with several apps, but the one most are probably familiar with is WingX Pro 7. This app was just updated a few days ago to version 6.9, which added support for the XGPS170 and a new SmartTaxi surface warning system. ADS-B weather display is not new to WingX, as it has supported the SkyRadar ADS-B receiver for awhile now.

To gauge performance we flew the XGPS170 paired with WingX Pro side-by-side with another iPad connected to the Stratus ADS-B receiver and ForeFlight. We flew locally in the Cincinnati area, where ADS-B coverage is excellent. Just after takeoff both systems indicated reception from two ADS-B ground towers at about 300′ AGL, just as expected. WingX includes a nice feature in the bottom left corner of the map that indicates the Dual’s battery life and how many towers it’s receiving from. At about 1,000′ AGL the Dual picked up 6 towers, while ForeFlight/Stratus indicated reception from 3 stations. While one tower is all you need, it did appear the 170 has slightly better ADS-B reception.

After about 5 minutes both systems displayed text weather and color-coded airport symbols on the map for airport VFR/IFR status, but WingX only showed METARs and AIRMETs on the text report display and did not display TAFs, while ForeFlight/Stratus showed us all text weather products. One confusing item when viewing text weather in WingX is that it alerts you in red at the top of the text display that “Internet Weather is 2 Hours Old,” though it’s actually current (updated by ADS-B).

The performance of the radar imagery in WingX was not up to par, showing significant gaps in the white shaded areas.
The performance of the radar imagery in WingX was not up to par, showing significant gaps in the white shaded areas.

The real disappointment with the system came with the radar display. The first thing to be aware of is that WingX defaults the overlay of areas not receiving ADS-B weather to OFF, so there’s no way for you to know if there is missing data or simply no precipitation in the area. Once we turned this setting on (called “Fade No ADS-B Areas”) we were surprised to see significant gaps in the radar display, showing limited local and national radar coverage. As a point of comparison the iPad with Stratus/ForeFlight was simultaneously showing the complete radar picture for the entire U.S.

Another problem with WingX is that the app crashed 4 separate times during the 60 minute flight on an iPad 3. In addition to the safety issues of relying on this for chart and navigation information, it became frustrating to have to wait 5-10 minutes after each crash for the next cycle of weather products to be received and displayed.

So what about traffic with the Dual? We flew for about an hour near the Cincinnati Class B and didn’t see a single traffic target. Our aircraft was not equipped with ADS-B Out so the only way we would have seen traffic is if we passed near another aircraft with a 978 MHz ADS-B Out transponder. As a point of comparison, the Garmin GDL-39 ADS-B receiver for iPad has a dual-band 978/1090 MHz receiver, so with that system you will typically see ADS-B Out-equipped airliners. And it’s fair to say at this point that the number of airliners with 1090 MHz systems far outnumber GA aircraft with 978 MHz ADS-B Out.

The Dual XGPS170 is available now for $799.
The Dual XGPS170 is available now for $799.

Conclusion

While there is room for improvement in WingX’s display of ADS-B weather, we really like the construction and features of the Dual XGPS170. The controls are intuitive and its compact size fits well in the cockpit. The battery life is just over half of that of Stratus at 5 hours, but that’s not really an issue since you can plug it in to a 12v outlet with a standard USB charger. Dual-band traffic would be a nice addition to pick up a more complete traffic picture, but honestly portable ADS-B traffic systems really won’t be of much value until more aircraft are equipped with certified ADS-B Out equipment.

The real weakness with this ADS-B system is on the software side, though. The radar picture was consistently incomplete in WingX, and the app was unstable. This is brand new and bugs are inevitable, but we hope to see improvements in WingX soon.

The Dual XGPS170 is available now for immediate delivery and retails for $799.

45 COMMENTS

  1. I just posted this in another thread on this site. Note that what we are seeing explains the crashes the Sportys folks are seeing and probably also explains the missing NEXRAD returns. As I say below, we’ll know more shortly:

    We must have sent gigabytes through the ADS-B system and never saw an issue – we do a lot of performance and memory testing on our ADS-B code since it is handling a lot of data. Not sure why at this time but we are seeing data that is causing this crash when using the XGPS170. We know exactly where this is happening and need to figure out what is causing this; e.g. is it a valid ADS-B data stream, is WingX Pro7 handling it correctly etc. Shouldn’t take us more than a day or so to fix, but the Apple folks are going on vacation for the next 8 days so don’t expect any app update until they get back.

    Hilton

    • I can definitely say that the problem is the XGPS170. I recently ran the 170 using FlyQ on a iPad mini and running Naviator on a Samsung Tab2 and experienced the same gaps in radar coverage that you describe. If there is a firmware update for the 170 I sure would like to know how to find it.

      Thanks.
      Larry Hunt

  2. The problem with reviews like this from Sporty’s is that because of their affiliation with Foreflight and Stratus, can we trust them to give us the straight scoop?

    • J, Sporty’s sells the Dual XGPS170 side by side with Stratus in the catalog and on the website. Unfortunately the WingX app needs some work still to properly display the ADS-B weather. We’re not alone on these conclusions, others have reported seeing the same thing in the comments at the bottom here:

      http://ipadpilotnews.com/2012/08/navigation-app-showdown-foreflight-vs-garmin-pilot-vs-wingx/

      Hilton Software has acknowledged problems with the current version of the app and is working on an update.

      • Bret wrote: “Unfortunately the WingX app needs some work still to properly display the ADS-B weather.”

        Without going into the gory details, this is not necessarily correct.

        Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, everyone.

        Hilton

        • In your previous comment you suggested a problem with either invalid ADS-B data or WingX handling incorrectly. So are you now hinting that it might be a problem with Dual and not WingX?

          • Chris,

            Our engineering teams are working on the solution. Once that is complete, whatever update is required will be made available.

            We have made several changes to the WingX Pro7 ADS-B code – these changes will be included in the next WingX Pro7 update (planned for January). These changes include: adding additional robustness (i.e. preventing crashes when processing ADS-B data), an improved ADS-B Status page. These changes will be accompanied by other improvements and new features in WingX Pro7.

            Thanks,

            Hilton

      • While it is true Sportys sells both ADSB receivers. To the best of my knowledge, Sportys does not sell WingX. There in lies the credibility question. Regardless of the merits of either app, you have a conflict of interest that was very obvious when you did the “side-by-side comparison” of Foreflight, Garmin, and WingX. It was full of holes and inaccuracies that weighted the end result towards Foreflight. In my book, until I see something different, you will always be suspect.

        • Relax, JP. Just because they knocked your favorite app doesn’t mean Sportys is biased. I for one appreciate their honesty. I’m sick of all the aviation media whitewashing things, as if every product is flawless. It’s nice to read some honest comments based on really flying with the thing.

  3. The article is running next to a paid advertisement for ForeFlight. I think most pilots can figure these things out by themselves.

  4. I have a few comments: 1) I can imagine why these ADS-B devices are so proprietary right now, but I don’t really want to buy any of them until they become more generic, i.e. the ability to use one ADS-B device with WingX, OR ForeFlight, OR FlyQ, etc. 2) There are some known issues with Stratus as well, primarily overheating. 3) Stratus has NO Traffic info–I personally like the idea of having traffic info available. At least the DUAL device has traffic, albeit limited. Better limited than none, IMHO. 4) Finally, there’s a size issue. The DUAL device is far more compact than the Stratus, better for what is usually a crowded cabin. I think waiting is the best decision for now; more time to work the bugs out, and more time to see if a given device will have more “universal” application with EFB software.

  5. I have the skyradar and just ordered two of these. This device will eliminate the issues I had with skyradar as well as working with muliple apps. In my year of experiene with the WingX developers, I am sure that the referenced issues will be resolved proply as was the initial Levil issues were fixed a year ago.

  6. I have been using WingX for over a year. It seems to have updates and improvements constantly. How can you criticize such a reasonably priced application that does so much. I have flown for 50 years, used many kind of avionics that sometime are ridiculously priced and they almost always filled with bugs when introduced.

  7. It’s been a few weeks. Has anyone been able to get the Dual ADS-B receiver to work with WingX yet? I’m looking to buy but don’t want a paperweight.

    • Bruce,

      We have updated WingX Pro7 to no longer crash under these circumstances. We have also improved the ADS-B Status page useful for both pilots and other hardware OEMs. We have also added some new goodies unrelated to ADS-B. The coding is done, we are now testing including running MBs (perhaps GBs?) of data through our ADS-B engine. We are planning to submit this update to Apple within the next few days.

      We have been working with Dual closely to resolve this. I cannot speak for Dual as to whether or not or when new firmware will be released, but it is not uncommon for newly released hardware to have firmware updates. FWIW: When I work with hardware manufacturers I stress the importance of having field-upgradable firmware.

      Thanks,

      Hilton

  8. My suspicion grows that there is more needed than just an update for WingX. If there is a firmware update needed for the Dual 170 I would like to know.
    So far I am not overly impressed by the ADS-B performance of both products.

    • Keith,

      WingX Pro7 has worked just fine with the Skyradar receiver now for almost two years (released in March 2011).

      Firmware updates aren’t that scary – Stratus has had firmware updates. I have updated the firmware on the XGPS170 and it is about a 5 minute process. So if/when Dual send out a firmware update to fix any issues and/or to add new functionality, just follow their installation instructions and a few minutes later you have an updated device.

      Hilton

  9. I just returned from a 6 hour round trip over the weekend running the Dual 170 and Wing X. My experience was almost exactly like the review, saw no traffic, had limited radar coverage, and had the app close every 2 to 5 minutes. I’ve been using ForeFlight for the past two years, so this set up is new to me. I like it for the most part, but the above issues need to be corrected.

    • Jim,

      I cannot speak for Dual, I assume they will have more information soon, but I can tell you that we found and prevented the crash from occurring in WingX Pro7. Earlier today I ran at least an hour’s worth of XGPS170 data through our ADS-B Engine with no crashes. We are working with Dual and speaking (almost) daily.

      Our goal is to support many ADS-B receivers to give you choices. We do a lot of work to support the various ADS-B receivers, but at the end of the day, the hardware manufacturers are responsible for the hardware. We are also working closely with Levil Technology to support their new iLevil device (ADS-B and AHRS). Here is a great screenshot of why ADS-B traffic is important – http://hiltonsoftware.com/images/ADSB-Traffic.jpg.

      Hope this helps,

      Hilton

      • Pretty messy traffic display there–doesn’t add much valuable data to me unless its got some type of declutter function.

        • Oh, I forgot to mention, WingX Pro7 does have a declutter function that only shows aircraft at or near your altitude (a user option) although it can be fun watching a jet fly over at 37,000′. 🙂

          Hilton

        • If you’re looking for ADS-B traffic go with Garmin and their ADS-B receiver. Garmin’s app filtering controls are based on their GTN panel mount systems and are much more refined than Wingx. You can display dedicated traffic pages, and it has a pretty slick vector trend feature to help make sense of the traffic targets and how they are moving relative to you.

  10. In its present state the DualX170 is almost useless for ADS-B weather and traffic.
    On December 20th 2012 Hilton wrote “Should not take us more than a day or so to fix”.
    A month later there is still no WingX update available.Is this mainly a Dual hardware issue?

  11. I just spoke with Dual AV support, and learned a few tidbits to add:

    The “adjustable brightness LEDs for day and night flying” on the XGPS170 will be implemented via an updated version of the Dual’s “Bluetooth GPS Status Tool” app, “available soon”.

    Firmware updates are indeed supported on the XGPS170. When released, any firmware update will be available from their website.

    The Dual AV people are working with application developers other than Hilton Software (including ForeFlight) to enable use of the XGPS170 with those apps. As of right now,WingX is the only app that supports the XGPS170.

    Hope this sheds some light on things.

    Now if we could just get the updated version of WingX that won’t crash… (me, too; on a 2.6 hour IFR flight a few days ago, WingX was crashing so often that I couldn’t get approach charts loaded long enough to read. I took a hold and turned off the XGPS170, after which WingX no longer crashed. The XGPS170 is staying at home until the updated version of WingX is available.)

    Bobby

    • I made the same decision and stopped using the
      Dual X170 for now.
      But it gets more and more annoying to have to fly
      without NexRad and TFR info.
      If WingX and Dual cannot fix the problem and need a couple of months, please let me know and I will look for other options.

      • We have submitted WingX Pro7 Version 6.9.1.0 to the Apple App Store. Hopefully it won’t be more than a few days for them to approve it. This version adds some new goodies but also stops the crash we’re seeing when using the XGPS170.

        Hilton

  12. Brief update from yesterdays 1.5h flight:
    Version 6.9.1 seems to fix the crashes with the use of Dual XGPS 170.
    But from what I saw, the “significant gaps in the radar display” (as mentioned in the december 15 2012 flight test) are still there. So one of the really important features of ADS-B can still not be used with the Dual XGPS170. I would guess only a firmware update from Dual is going to fix that.
    By the way no error reports noted in the WingX
    ADS-B diagnostics window.
    Would also be interested to know if WingX saw the same NEXRAD proplem when testing version 6.9.1 with the Dual box.

  13. I have had the single and then the dual band ADS-B receiver from Skyradar and no issues with receiving the weather data or traffic. I second though the opinion that the WingX traffic display is cluttering the display. In all three modes: Just ADS-B, just Zaon and both ADS-B and Zaon (possible by setting Zaon Wifi to same SSID as Skyradar).
    WingX should switch to the standardized, minimalistic traffic icons along with the relative altitude in 100 ft and the direction of movement.
    Right now ADS-B icons are showing absolute and Zaon relative altitude.

  14. It is now march 24, 2013. What is the current status of Dual and WingX Pro? I want to purchase the device that works best with Wing X Pro since that software is my preferred aviation app. Thanks.

  15. I did the firmware update on the Dual XGPS170 a couple weeks ago, and now I’m seeing better updates from the receiver into WingX. The crashes of WingX stopped with the app update before that by a couple weeks or so.

    On a flight this past Friday afternoon, I was seeing several traffic returns around the Louisville (Ky.) area, and when I zoomed out, I could see some radar returns. Unfortunately, it was a very busy flight, and I didn’t have much time to look for more radar returns. In my experience, that’s been a weak point of the XGPS170; gaps in the radar information.

    OTOH, the ADS-B delivered FIS-B data has always been very solid, and is clearly indicated in WingX with a blue box in the WX info pages and dialogs that you can pop up on the maps.

    One thing I don’t particularly like is the way altitude is reported in WingX (MSL instead of relative for each return; I’m busy enough already, so don’t make me do the math, please!). It would be so much better, IMHO, if the hits were shown with altitudes relative to my altitude (even if GPS altitude instead of calibrated/indicated).

    So that’s been my experience. I think there’s still some work to be done by either Dual, Hilton, or both, to get things to meet the potential. Unfortunately, we don’t have much way as “normal users” to know who to ask for help.

    Best wishes,

    Bobby

  16. Made a couple of test flights with the Dual XGPS170 paired with WingX. After talking to Hilton Software, I’m convinced the early problems have been resolved. Last weekend, while flying with both the XGPS170 and XM weather on a handheld GPS, both depictions were comparable and highly accurate. Both were highly reliable as I was able to pick a course between showers while returning IFR from Knoxville, TN to Lexington, KY. The XM display may have been crisper, but may just be a matter of time to get accustomed to the digital depiction of ADS-B images on the iPad.

  17. I had an iPad 2 installed in my RV6a with the $100 Dual GPS and WingX pro. The whole setup is magnificent! Are the $35,000 systems
    Really worth it?

    When I was a software engineer for Sun Microsystems our database software (Sybase) claims and realities between us and Oracle bounced back and forth. Good old competition!

    Hal

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