uAvionix is developing and testing skyBeacon X, a wingtip mounted 1090MHz Mode S ADS-B OUT transponder designed to meet the update rate performance required when used in conjunction with the Aireon satellite-based global ADS-B air traffic surveillance system.
Like the original skyBeacon, skyBeacon X is an LED position light replacement with an integrated 1090MHz transponder, GPS position source, barometric altimeter, and LED position and anti-collision lights. skyBeacon X is expected to be certified and available in 2021.
In January, NAV CANADA announced it will be implementing an ADS-B Performance Requirements mandate in three phases. Phase 1 includes Class A airspace and Class E airspace above FL600 by Jan 1, 2021. Phase 2 includes Class B airspace which in Canada extends from FL125 to FL180, and requires equipage by Jan 1, 2022. Phase 3, to be implemented no sooner than 2023 will have the greatest impact on General Aviation (GA). Phase 3 will require GA aircraft to equip with transponders which employ antenna diversity – an antenna installed on both the bottom and the top of the aircraft – in order to achieve acceptable performance to provide Air Traffic Services (ATS).
Since NAV CANADA will leverage the Aireon space-based ADS-B system for air traffic surveillance, a typical bottom-only antenna will not always achieve the required update rate. This presents an ADS-B equipage challenge for many Canadian and US pilots who fly across the border.
Given that there isn’t a widespread requirement for transponders with diversity for GA, market offerings are limited. Existing diversity-compatible systems today are several thousand dollars more than a non-diversity system, and the installation costs can be much higher due to the installation of the second antenna.
“Clearly there is a technical challenge here that uAvionix is well equipped to solve,” said Christian Ramsey, uAvionix president. “We specifically designed skyBeacon and tailBeacon to target a low cost of installation, and we are doing it again with skyBeacon X. We’ve been approached by Canadian pilots asking if we can help address their needs. uAvionix has all of the right tools and products in our portfolio to give them what they need.”
“Many of our ANSP customers would like to provide air traffic control services at lower altitudes and to all types of aircraft in controlled airspace, including GA,” added Cyriel Kronenburg, Aireon’s VP of aviation services. “We are excited to participate in testing and validation with uAvionix to ensure skyBeacon X meets performance requirements to be used with the Aireon system. We believe these transponders offer an affordable, reliable solution for ADS-B Out equipage that would help many of our international ANSP customers and regulators increase equipage rates for GA aircraft. This will also allow GA to leverage both the safety and operational benefits of a space- based surveillance system.”
skyBeacon X will be uAvionix’s first global GA product operating on 1090MHz. While it will not be available in time for US customers to meet the deadline for the FAA’s mandate, it will be available and TSO certified for the Canadian projected mandate date of 2023.
Bernard Gervais, president and chief executive of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) said:“We certainly see the future of ADS-B devices for GA as being easy to install and confirming to all international specs at a decent price. SkyBeacon X aims to check all those boxes, so this is certainly a step in the right direction!”
Early testing indicates skyBeacon X’s wingtip location provides outstanding reception when received by both ground and satellite-based surveillance systems. skyBeacon X is the world’s first transponder specifically developed for the new era of global ADS-B surveillance from satellite receiver networks.