The Bad Elf GPS accessory is one of the most popular add-ons for the iPad, allowing you you to add accurate, reliable GPS information to your favorite aviation apps. This small WAAS GPS plugs directly into the bottom of your iPad and requires no further setup. The Bad Elf GPS is a great addition for those who want to add GPS to a WiFi-only iPad, or for those who want more reliable GPS than the one built into the 3G/4G iPad model (read more about the benefits of using an external GPS here).
Additionally, Bad Elf offers a free iPad app available in the iTunes App Store that allows you to see satellite reception and location status information, and update the firmware on the GPS chip. While the Bad Elf GPS will work just fine without the app installed, this information can be useful when figuring out the best place to position your iPad in the cockpit.
Yesterday Bad Elf released an update to this app, adding several new features:
- Checklist screen to check the health of the Bad Elf GPS hardware, verify Location Services are enabled on your device, and download/install firmware updates.
- Map screen with high-level world/country maps to show the GPS position being reported by the hardware.
- GPS details screen showing the GPS data being reported by the hardware, including latitude, longitude, horizontal/vertical accuracy, GPS heading, speed, altitude, and UTC timestamp.
- Added view to show satellites in view and use. Includes sky location and a graph with signal strength (SNR) values.
- Includes detailed help content and links to the Bad Elf website to find compatible apps, get help, and more.
- Added background tracking and calculation of distance traveled.
After installing the app the first thing you’ll want to do is connect the Bad Elf to the iPad and launch the app. On the opening Checklist screen, you’ll see an accessory firmware option about halfway down the page. Press the “Check Internet for Update” button, and you’ll likely see that a firmware update is available. Press the “Update Firmware” button, and the app will automatically install the latest firmware to the Bad Elf (this takes just a minute or two).
In addition to the satellite status page, you’ll find the GPS tab pretty useful. It displays a moving heading indicator (based on track across the ground of course), along with groundspeed, GPS altitude, lat/long coordinates and the accuracy of your current position. The map page shows a basic image of your position on a high-level world map, but unfortunately doesn’t allow for panning or zooming.
The Bad Elf GPS app is not a substitute for a dedicated aviation app, but provides useful supplemental information when using the GPS with popular apps like ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot or WingX. The app is available for download here.