A portable heads-up display is one of those technological breakthroughs that feels like it’s one year away—and always will be. We’ve lost count of all the models we have flown with and walked away from feeling disappointed. While they all have helpful features, most of them suffer from high power consumption, too many wires, complicated user interfaces, and high price tags. It just feels like they aren’t ready for the cockpit yet.
After flying with ever more expensive models, we recently tried the other end of the spectrum: an inexpensive, totally portable HUD that simply reflects a smartphone screen. It certainly isn’t an F-35 HUD—not even close—but that might be why we liked it.
The device itself is quite simple. Simply place the non-slip base on the dash, then place the HUD on the base and flip the screen up. The screen is really a semi-transparent mirror, designed to reflect your smartphone screen, which sits flat on top of the base. Anything that’s on the phone screen will be reflected, and the HUD angle can be adjusted to get the best view.
Since the HUD is passive, there is no need for batteries or a power cord; it’s lightweight and completely wireless. However, the display will only be as good as the app running on the phone. Because it’s a mirror, regular apps will appear “backwards” on the HUD.
Fortunately, Appareo has a free app that works with Stratus portable ADS-B receivers and includes a special HUD mode. Stratus Horizon Pro allows you to adjust Stratus settings, update firmware, and even record cockpit audio. For use with the HUD, it also shows a backup attitude indicator when connected to a Stratus 2, 2S or 3.
Here’s how to set it up:
- Place Stratus on the dash and turn it on.
- Connect your phone to the Stratus WiFi network.
- Open the Stratus Horizon Pro app and tap the settings symbol at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap Display Options, then Mirror Display. This will flip the screen so the HUD reflection is correct (see picture below).
- You can also choose HUD Mode, which changes the display to a black and green, de-cluttered view.
- Place the phone on the HUD base and adjust the angle of the screen.
We tried this on a number of test flights and were pleasantly surprised. For basic backup attitude, it was effective and easy to use. There is some glare on the screen, but we found even on a sunny day that it was quite manageable. The HUD stayed in place on the dash and provided valuable situational awareness. We would suggest, however, you remove it for takeoff and landing.
To get even more value out of this HUD, more apps will need to support a mirror display or HUD mode option. For example, you can display synthetic vision in ForeFlight, but the view is fairly confusing with everything flipped.
Still, for only $19.95 we found this HUD to be a good value. It allowed us to keep our iPad on full-screen maps and approach charts, while having a full-time backup attitude indicator directly in our line of sight. Sometimes less is more.