Portable weather receivers have been essential tools for pilots almost since they were introduced a decade ago. GA pilots in particular were quick to recognize that the ability to view subscription-free weather, ADS-B traffic, and backup attitude on an aviation app can make flying safer and easier. After an initial rush of hardware options, things settled down over time and the Sentry family of ADS-B receivers have become the most popular option. Made by uAvionix exclusively for ForeFlight, Sentry receivers offer native ForeFlight support, unmatched battery life, and unique safety features (including a CO detector).
ForeFlight introduced Sentry Plus last year, a new top-of-the-line option with nearly 20 hours of battery life, a built-in screen, and a powerful flight data recorder. While this is our pick for best overall performer, the original Sentry model, at $599, is still an incredible value and has retained a loyal following. It includes all the essential features—weather, traffic, GPS, AHRS, carbon monoxide detector—but at a size and price that make it a great fit for almost any pilot.
The one knock on Sentry was that, at five and a half years old, it was approaching middle age for technology. It still performed well, but new advances in electronics and charging accessories meant it was due for a refresh. That’s exactly what ForeFlight announced this week: an updated Sentry that doesn’t add major new capabilities, but offers enhanced performance where it counts. In other words, the best selling weather receiver in aviation just got a new lease on life.
The most noticeable upgrade is that Sentry now supports smart chargers, including Power Delivery. More and more plugs, battery packs, and cables now offer some version of this, which quick charges the device with a higher watt input up until about 80%, then slows down. The original Sentry uses the industry standard USB-C charging plug, but it is not compatible with smart chargers—that requires specific hardware and software support. So not only is fast charging not available, but any Power Delivery plug will not work at all (you’ll simply see a charging error). That’s no longer an issue with the latest update, so the new Sentry is almost universally compatible with USB-C cables and plugs. That should make charging easier.
ForeFlight has also added an auto shutdown mode that turns the device off automatically after a period of inactivity. This is will save your battery if you forget to turn the unit off, which definitely comes in handy after a busy flight. Note that this is different from the Sentry Plus Auto Power Mode, which turns the unit on and off when it receives power.
There are also a number of under the hood performance improvements in the latest version of Sentry that, while not visible, should improve performance and reliability. It features an upgraded processor for faster overall operation, plus improved GPS, WiFi, and CO detector performance. There are also a few internal manufacturing upgrades that improve long term durability. Everything ran smoothly in our initial tests, with fast GPS lock and no disconnects. We’re working on a longer term test regimen and will report back with those results.
Overall this is a minor update but one that addresses some important areas and should make Sentry a reliable performer for years to come. The updated Sentry receiver is still just $599 and is now shipping.