The Stratus line of ADS-B receivers has been one of the most popular iPad accessories for pilots since the first one was introduced in 2012. We’ve seen them flying in everything from antique taildraggers to V-22 Ospreys, as the mix of subscription-free weather, traffic, GPS, and backup attitude on ForeFlight found a lot of fans. Now there’s a new top-of-the-line Stratus, with some interesting new features, more app options, and a low introductory price.
That price is the first thing that most pilots will notice. At $699, Stratus 3 is $200 less than the Stratus 2S model it replaces, but without any reduction in features. It still features FIS-B weather reception, dual band ADS-B traffic, WAAS GPS, built-in AHRS, pressure altitude sensor, and flight data recording. The battery life remains 8 hours, and in our testing the ADS-B reception was still excellent.
One mistake we’ve made more than once is leaving Stratus on after a flight. In the busy time after shutting down the engine, it’s easy to forget to push the power button, but that leads to a dead Stratus battery. Stratus 3 will now turn itself off after it senses your flight is over, preventing this mistake. It’s smart enough to stay on during touch and goes or a long taxi, so we haven’t had any issues with it turning off when we didn’t want it to. This option can be selected in the Stratus Status menu, which is accessed from the settings symbol at the top of the Maps page.
Another new feature is called Smart WiFi, which gives pilots with LTE-enabled iPads some extra flexibility. Usually when the iPad senses a WiFi connection it will disable the LTE radio, since it assumes there is a WiFi internet connection. That’s not true with Stratus – the WiFi connection is only a short range data connection, not an internet connection – so the disabled LTE radio isn’t always desirable. With Stratus 3, pilots can connect to Stratus on the ground but still use their LTE connection to send an email or check a weather website. Some additional options may come to EFB apps down the road – perhaps filing an updated flight plan in ForeFlight while the app still looks to Stratus for traffic and weather.
Other updates include an improved WiFi security setting that allows pilots to hide the WiFi network or add a password. Stratus 3 also works with ForeFlight’s new synthetic vision traffic feature and the FAA’s new FIS-B weather products like lightning and cloud tops (coming later this year).
GDL 90 support
The other big change with Stratus 3 is support for additional apps. Stratus has always worked with ForeFlight at a very deep level (Appareo and ForeFlight developed the product together), and that’s still true. Pilots can monitor the status of the Stratus battery, adjust the brightness of the indicator lights on Stratus, and perform firmware updates right in the app. There’s also a handy Stratus Replay feature that allows you to turn off your iPad screen, then receive all the weather data you missed when you turn it back on.
Now there’s another option. Stratus 3 also supports the GDL 90 protocol, an industry standard format for sharing weather, traffic, GPS, and attitude with EFB apps. That means the new model will work with a wide variety of apps, including Fltplan Go, WingX, FlyQ, iFly GPS, and others. Some higher end features like flight data recording and Stratus Replay are not available over GDL 90, but the essential features like weather and traffic are there.
To use Stratus 3 in GDL 90 mode, first download the new Stratus Horizon Pro app from Appareo. It’s a free app that includes backup attitude and settings. There are also some audio recording and playback features, with more coming in this area (stay tuned for a PIREP on this new app). Turn on Stratus, connect it to your iPad, and open the app. From the settings menu, select Open ADS-B Mode. Then you can open your favorite EFB app and use Stratus 3 in flight.
Appareo retained the same case shape and dimensions, so Stratus 2S mounts will still work with Stratus 3. Likewise, the power, GPS, and ADS-B ports are identical, so any existing wiring can be maintained for current Stratus 2S owners. That’s especially nice for pilots who have installed a Stratus ESG transponder and connected their Stratus to it – it’s an easy swap with no wiring changes.
Stratus 3 is available now for a $699 introductory price. That includes the dash mount, charging cable, and wall plug. The change to the dash mount from a suction cup mount is welcome in our opinion. The suction cup mount kept the unit out of sight, but it had a tendency to fail after heavy use. Stratus 3 also has a longer, 2-year warranty, the best in the industry.
For existing Stratus 2S owners, Appareo is offering a $200 trade-in value towards the purchase of Stratus 3. Simply send in your Stratus 2S, the completed upgrade form, and your Stratus 3 receipt to receive credit. There’s also an upgrade option for Stratus 2 owners – click here for details.
Watch our video review below:
You can compare ADS-B receivers below in our updated Buyer’s Guide. We’ll have a PIREP on Sentry next week.