Garmin introduces ADS-B weather receiver for iPad, Android and Garmin portables

1 min read

Garmin’s GDL 39 provides subscription-free ADS-B weather, traffic and WAAS GPS navigation data to iPad.

Garmin was first to introduce datalink weather for portable devices over a decade ago, forever changing the way pilots fly. Now Garmin is bringing the benefits of in-flight weather to your iPad or Garmin portable GPS–without a monthly subscription. The new GDL 39 is a compact, portable ADS-B receiver that delivers weather, traffic and GPS information to the cockpit all in one package.

The GDL 39 features ADS-B “In” datalink technology that allows it to receive subscription-free Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B) weather information over the FAA’s 978 MHz Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) uplink. Easily access graphical NEXRAD radar, METARs, TAFs, winds and temperatures aloft, PIREPs, NOTAMs and more right on your compatible Garmin aviation portable or through the Garmin Pilot app on your iPad or Android device.

It can also receive ADS-B position reports directly from other aircraft in your vicinity. Because the FAA permits ADS-B broadcasts on 2 frequencies (978 UAT and 1090ES), the GDL 39 contains both receivers so you can see a comprehensive view of all ADS-B “Out” equipped targets.

The GDL 39 also contains a built-in WAAS GPS that provides precise navigation data to the Garmin Pilot aviation app. The device connects wirelessly to iPad and Android devices via Bluetooth, and can connect to other Garmin GPS portables with a cable. The unit can be powered by aircraft panel power with the included adapter or though an optional 4-hour battery pack.

The Garmin GDL 39 is available for $799 and you can pre-order here: Garmin GDL 39 ADS-B receiver.

48 replies
    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Walter: The GDL-39 is designed to receive weather and traffic only from the U.S. ADS-B ground station network.

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Robin: Most portable GPS receivers are now designed to take advantage of the GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), and this really just means that the devices provide very accurate position and navigation data to your iPad (often with 1 meter accuracy).

      The real benefits from WAAS come from using certified panel-mount GPS receivers like the Garmin 430W or GTN650, which allow you to fly precise GPS/RNAV instrument approaches with both lateral and vertical guidance (like an ILS).

      • robin cooper
        robin cooper says:

        I have a G 1000 but it is not WAAS so wondered if using this I could fly WAAS approaches.

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Rick: The GDL-39 has an integrated WAAS GPS, so you will no longer need to use a Bad Elf or Dual GPS when using this device with the Garmin Pilot app.

  1. Kenny Ensley
    Kenny Ensley says:

    Is this unit compatible with WingX Pro? Does it have a rechargeable battery and if so, what is that battery life? Can it be powered by direct connect to a 12v power source?

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Kenny: The GDL-39 is only compatible with the Garmin Pilot app for iPhone, iPad, Android and select Garmin GPS portables (like the Aera series and 695/696). The system includes a 12v/24v charger, and if you buy one before August 31 Garmin is tossing in a free battery, which has about a 3.5 hour life.

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Eric: Yes, the GDL-39 is only compatible with the Garmin Pilot app on iPhone, iPad or Android. It also works with Garmin’s handheld GPS receivers, including the Garmin Aera 796/795, Garmin Aera 500/510/550/560 and Garmin 396/496 (only provides limited traffic on these models).

  2. Thomas A. Mossie
    Thomas A. Mossie says:

    This says that this GDL 39 will give me subscription-free in flight weather with my Area 510. Is this really true? The XM in-flight weather is great, but $200 +/- a quarter is kinda pricey. Flying is costly enough for us part timers, but we like to fly safely.

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Thomas: Yes, subscription-free weather is now available for all the Garmin Aera series handheld GPSs. Here’s the Garmin model you’ll want: When ordering specify the GPS model, and the GDL-39 will come with a custom cable to connect to your Aera 510.

      You’ll be able to receive NEXRAD and text weather just like XM, but keep in mind this works off the FAA’s ADS-B ground station network, so make sure the area you’re flying in has coverage (there’s an ADS-B coverage map at the bottom of the product page in the link above).

  3. AL Friend
    AL Friend says:

    Will the 39 display weather and traffic with Foreflight and IPad through Bluetooth? Also I have a Garmin 495 will it display traffic there via a cable and will that cable give GPS information to the 495 or do I need the GPS ant. still??

  4. TomG
    TomG says:

    Garmin needs to make this thing work with ForeFlight and Wing-X if they want to sell a lot of them. I’ve done the trial on the Garmin Pilot app, and it has a number of good features, but I use these other apps (ForeFlight and Wing-X) at present – I might switch to Garmin app at some point, but want traffic and wx now with the apps I use regularly now. If Garmin won’t support other app developers, then they’re limiting themselves. Hey Garmin, let the hardware and software products stand alone! These other app developers are what built the market for your hardware! And while your Garmin Pilot app has some fine features. it falls short in a lot of areas that the two leaders have covered quite well.

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Dave: yes, the GDL 39 can simultaneously connect with a wire to your Aera 560 while also connecting to up to 2 iPads over Bluetooth.

  5. charles
    charles says:

    I don’t understand what is meant by “unless you output ADS-B you may not get local traffic on your display…” a comment made in another publication’s review of GDL 39. What is meant by this limitation; Does it display ADS-B traffic or not??

  6. Jay Lawrence
    Jay Lawrence says:

    Bottom line answer requested. Garmin app w/GDL 39 or ForeFlight w/ Stratus? Pro versions. Can only purchase one.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Coke or Pepsi, Jay? Same type decision. I say download the free version of both apps and see which one works for you. Let the app drive the decision, not the hardware.

    • Guy Byars
      Guy Byars says:

      The GDL-39 is good hardware, but the Garmin Pilot App has problems supporting this new hardware. The app crashed frequently and fails to display radar. You should strongly consider the ForeFlight/Stratus option. Maybe soon Garmin will fix the bugs in the GDL-39 interface, but right now I fount it unsuable.

  7. Chip
    Chip says:

    Does anyone know how old the weather radar info is when it’s broadcast – 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or 1 or 2?

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Almost all datalink radar is the same–it’s transmitted about every 5 minutes, but there’s an additional 5-10 minute delay between the time the radar sweep happens and the data is processed and transmitted. As always, datalink weather should be used for strategic weather avoidance, not storm penetration. For this purpose, it’s invaluable.

  8. Guy Byars
    Guy Byars says:

    I purchased a GDL-39 yesterday and flew with it today. The GDL-39 hardware worked well, but the Garmin Pilot Software on the iPad was not up to supporting the ‘39s features.
    I purchased the Garmin Pilot software several months ago and have spent a great deal of time learning how to use it. I have used it with the XM WXWorx-Baron for iPad setup for weather and finally got that working well.
    Yesterday evening I ran the Garmin Pilot software on iPad and paired it up with the GDL-39 via bluetooth. From my back porch, I was not able to receive any ADS-B ground stations, but I was able to receive ADS-B out from aircraft in the local area and I could watch them as they maneuvered and landed at local airports.
    The integration between Garmin Pilot and the ’39 appeared impressive and I was looking forward to my first test flight.
    This morning I took off from Cincinnati Lunken Airport and when I reached 700 agl, the Garmin Pilot software indicated that the ’39 had locked on to an ADS-B ground station and had a strong signal. By the time I turned eastbound and reached 5500 ft, the ‘39 had acquired 7 ground stations and had a strong signal from each. It even graphically displayed the location of those ground stations on a map. That was a very nice feature.
    A few minutes later, I checked the weather status, and the Garmin Pilot said that the ’39 had METARS, TAFs, Regional Radar, and CONUS Radar downloaded and each was just a few minutes old. I then selected the option “FIS-B Radar” as a map option and then I saw some grainy radar over layed on my map. But suddenly the Garmin Pilot App crashed, and the FIS-B option and the radar went away and never came back.
    While burning 10gph through the sky in my Skylane, I tried everything I could think of to get the radar back. I did a hard reset to the iPad, and went to every configuration option I could find in Garmin Pilot, but no luck. I could get no ADS-B radar at all for the rest of the flight. I was able to pull up the status screens for the GDL-39, and I saw that it was green in every possible way. It was showing a good signal from numerous ground stations, but no radar… nada.
    What made matters worse, much worse, was that when the iPad/Garmin Pilot software was paired with the GDL-39, the system became VERY unstable and the Garmin Pilot software crashed repeatedly and had to be restarted numerous times.
    After 45 minutes, I pulled the plug on the GDL-39 and powered up my WXWrox/Baron XM system and within minutes I had a stable Garmin Pilot app with good radar.
    In conclusion, I think the GDL-39 hardware is very good and worked well. However, the Garmin Pilot app needs much more work to improve the stability when connected to the GDL-39. Again, I am not a novice Garmin Pilot user. I have 30+ years of professional software development under my belt and have spent numerous hours becoming familiar with the Garmin Pilot software. I know how it works and I know how to use it and it definitely needs more work.
    One final point to consider. With the XM Satellite weather setup, I could bring the XM receiver home and hook it up to an antenna in my house and display the XM weather on my iPad. I could then experiment, troubleshoot and learn the system while relaxing on the ground. However, with the ADS-B, all experimenting and troubleshooting has to be done above 1000 ft agl when your attention really needs to be outside the cockpit and not playing with the software.
    GDL-39 Hardware: Good++++
    Garmin Pilot app Software: The GDL-39/Garmin Pilot interface is not ready for the cockpit—–

    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      Great review. Thank you for the detailed observation. I’ll just have to wait until it is done right. How did you connect the xm to your ipad at home?

  9. Bill
    Bill says:

    If you take the portable gdl-39/iPad combination on an aircraft that has ads-b out only (built in), will iPad display all traffic?

  10. Val
    Val says:

    @GuyByars, thank you. We are experiencing the same. Once connected to the GDL-39, the Garmin app appears to load but then shuts down. I cannot get it to restart without clearing the weather data through the Utilities and restarting the ipad. And, just as you mentioned, then graphical weather is pixelated.

  11. Guy Byars
    Guy Byars says:

    @Val – I don’t mind the pixelated weather, I assumed that was the CONUS I had picked up temporarly. The BIG problem was the radar stopped working and displayed NOTHING! Then the app became very unstable with numerous crashes and restarts.

    Question: How did you clear the weather through the Utilities?

  12. Mark Timmerman Jr.
    Mark Timmerman Jr. says:

    I am trying to pair the gel 39 to my android tablet. I enter pairing mode (flashing blue light). And my tablet sees the antenna and pairs with it. However, it stays in the paired devices list and does not connect (no solid blue light). Have I missed something?

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Mark, pairing Bluetooth devices like the GDL-39 or Garmin GLO with Android devices take a few extra steps, and you’ll find complete instructions in the Help document in the Garmin Pilot app in the External GPS section. Here’s a shortened version though of what you’ll need to do:

      First you’ll need a third party app to allow the device to pair up correctly with the Garmin GLO or GDL-39. Garmin recommends the app “Bluetooth GPS” by Googoo Android. Go to the Google Play Store on your device and download this free app.

      You must pair your handset or tablet with the GPS device. Follow the instructions provided with the device to establish a pairing. This typically involves going into the Bluetooth settings area and providing a PIN to pair with the device.

      Open the “Bluetooth GPS” app on your device. You must check the Enable Mock GPS Provider for the location data to be visible with Garmin Pilot. This will take you to your device’s settings page. Place a check beside “Allow Mock Locations” then press the “back arrow” to return to the “Bluetooth GPS” app.

      Tap the “Connect” button to establish a connection to the device. After connecting you should see a date/time value and location data if the device has a GPS lock. The location data should be available in Garmin Pilot.

      If the GLO or GDL-39 does not have a steady blue light, go back to the “Bluetooth GPS” app, press MENU then select “Settings” to open the settings screen and make sure that the “Reconnect” and “Use Unsecure Connection” options are checked.

  13. Mark Timmerman Jr,
    Mark Timmerman Jr, says:

    Thanks so much for your prompt reply Bret. I was certain that your instructions would solve the problem. Funny thing though. I went out to try it but as soon as I turned the GDL 39 on, the blue light came on. It was at least the third time I tried turning it off and on again, but this time – blue light. It works perfectly and I can’t wait to try it in flight tomorrow.

    Thanks again.

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      According to Garmin, the operating temperature range for the GDL 39 is -4°F to +140° F, and will not charge the optional battery beyond 32° F & 90° F. Compared to Stratus -4º F to +149º F and 0º F & 95°F. I assume practically they would have similar heat limitations.

  14. Karl-Heinz Zahorsky
    Karl-Heinz Zahorsky says:

    The GDL39 is a wonderful product giving you a nice overview what is flying around you. It is working nicely on iPhone and iPAD. For Europe I wish Garmin would supply aviation charts. Here are certainly a lot of Pilots interested to use the GDL39 enroute! I fly a Piper Malibu (N662TC) and I am looking forward for Garmin to release their software update for ADS-B out for the GTN650 and GNS 480, so my flights can be followed on

  15. Bill Orcutt
    Bill Orcutt says:

    I bought the GDL 39 and Garmin Pilot APP a couple weeks before Christmas….after using Skyradar ADS-B receiver and APP. While the Garmin setup displays ADS-B TRAFFIC very nicely, its display of weather, in flight, is terrible!! Garmin tech reps admit they’re working on the software. No Track UP, almost un-viewable Map overlay in-flight, unless using IFR low charts. Quirky….with great ground station signal strength, Nexrad display is unreliable. Not up to Garmin standards yet!!!!

  16. Lee
    Lee says:

    I purchased a gdl-39 at Sun&Fun, tried it out this afternoon on a 2 hour flight and could not get any weather or anything else on it. It’s plugged in to my 696 operating on ships power. what could be the problem?

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