Free Weather From Sporty's, ForeFlight, and Appareo
Sporty's new Stratus is the first completely wire-free weather receiver for the iPad, and it requires no monthly subscription.
March 29, 2012 - Sporty's announced that it will be selling a small portable receiver that will allow pilots to see free flight deck weather, including Nexrad radar, using the UAT component of ADS-B. The receiver, built by Appareo, will use Wi-Fi to send the data to an iPad running ForeFlight's chart and navigation app. The system, called Stratus, is priced at $799 and there are no subscription fees for the weather data.
The FAA has created two versions of ADS-B, the system that will replace traffic controller radar starting in 2020. The system intended for GA aircraft flying below 18,000 feet is called UAT for universal access transceiver. The FAA is sending up free weather and TFR data over UAT.
The battery-powered Stratus receiver collects the weather data over UAT and uses Wi-Fi to send the info to your iPad so there are no wires in the flight deck as are required with conventional portable satellite weather data receivers. The data is configured to be displayed by the ForeFlight app so the information appears on the screen just as it does when using the iPad and ForeFlight connected to Wi-Fi on the ground.
The Stratus box also contains a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver so your own airplane's position is accurately displayed on the ForeFlight charts on the iPad. The rechargeable battery in Stratus lasts about nine hours, but it is possible to supply aircraft power to the system.
The weather data is called FIS-B for flight information system-broadcast. The other component of ADS-B is a display of traffic, but that information requires a transmitter and specific certification approval for installation in each airplane. Without the transmitter it's possible that not all traffic will be displayed because the host airplane is not broadcasting its position, so Stratus will not display traffic information.
The UAT ground stations that transmit UAT are being installed across the country at a rapid pace and already a majority of the airspace has coverage. By early next year the lower 48 states should have UAT and free weather coverage from altitudes as low as a few hundred feet. The weather data sent up over UAT compares favorably to that sent down by the familiar satellite services. One difference is that the UAT radar display changes to a lower resolution at distances greater than 250 miles from your present position, but radar coverage for the lower 48 is always available.
Sporty's will begin shipping the Stratus system on April 23. You will, of course, need an iPad and a subscription to ForeFlight to complete the system. More information is available at the Sporty's website or the ForeFlight website.