While ADS-B In receivers have been a popular pilot accessory for years, ADS-B Out products have been slower to gain acceptance. But as the 2020 FAA mandate gets closer, a lot of aircraft owners are starting to install new avionics or at least make a plan. The good news is there have never been more options for ADS-B Out hardware, and prices have never been lower.
The latest entrant into this crowded market is Appareo, a leader in the ADS-B In world with their line of Stratus portable receivers, who is now trying to make the transition to panel-mount products. Their first solution is Stratus ESG, an all-in-one product that combines WAAS GPS, transponder and ADS-B Out. It was introduced last year at the Aircraft Electronics Association show and has now been certified.
Appareo’s stated goal is to make the most affordable ADS-B Out solution, and Stratus ESG more or less delivers. There are two key features that make this claim possible: the inclusion of an internal WAAS GPS and its design as a 1090ES transponder.
The GPS is required because an ADS-B Out transponder isn’t enough to meet the FAA’s 2020 mandate; the transponder has to be tied to an approved position source (almost always a WAAS GPS). After all, the whole point of ADS-B Out is for aircraft to broadcast their precise location. Since thousands of aircraft do not have a WAAS GPS, Stratus ESG has one built-in. This all-in-one design also eliminates the need to connect ADS-B and GPS equipment, simplifying installation. Just remember that this WAAS GPS is strictly for the transponder, and cannot be used to shoot LPV approaches.
The second part of Stratus ESG’s affordable design is the choice of 1090ES instead of 978 Mhz. This simply refers to two different frequencies that can be used for ADS-B Out equipment. While 978 transmitters are usually less expensive to buy, they are remote-mounted so they often cost significantly more to install than a 1090ES product, which replaces a traditional Mode C transponder. In the end, a 1090ES solution is much faster to install and also offers a significant upgrade over an older transponder.
Beyond the low total price, Stratus ESG is also unique in the way it offers ADS-B In functionality. Instead of having a TSO’d version that includes ADS-B In, Appareo offers non-certified add-on options. This allows pilots to view subscription-free weather and traffic on their iPads, using the ForeFlight app, but for significantly less than with a certified receiver. Essentially, Appareo has chosen to certify only the part of the avionics package that must be certified.
The first ADS-B In option is to use an existing Stratus 1S, 2 or 2S portable receiver. With an optional connector kit, these portable receivers can connect to Stratus ESG. This allows the portable to receive full-time power from the aircraft’s electrical system and to use the external GPS and ADS-B antennas for enhanced reception.
Another option is the recently-announced Stratus 2i, a remote-mount version of the Stratus 2S that is specifically made for Stratus ESG. There is no battery or GPS receiver, so it won’t work by itself, but at $500 it’s an affordable way to add ADS-B In capability. These two products together make up a package Appareo calls Stratus ESGi.
Stratus ESG faces stiff competition, especially in the form of Garmin’s excellent GTX 335 and 345 models. However, Appareo is offering very competitive pricing: the base model Stratus ESG is available now for $2,995 (including transponder, GPS antenna and mounting kit), which is roughly $800 less than the comparable GTX 335. The complete Stratus ESGi kit is $3,495, a full $2300 less than the GTX 345.