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tailBeaconX EXP — A Simple Solution to the ADS-B Problem

By Ian Brown, Editor, EAA 657159

May 2020 – The only thing certain about the ADS-B requirement in Canada is that it's coming to us all eventually and that it will require a different solution to the ones available south of our border.

I was fortunate to be selected as one of the beta testers for the tailBeaconX EXP produced by uAvionix. This device is an integration of a GPS, a complete ADS-B Out transponder, Wi-Fi, and an LED tail nav light. I was advised to turn off my existing transponder, and I guess I should remove it someday.

Most importantly, for the Canadian market, tailBeaconX EXP operates on 1090ES (extended squitter) and aims to meet Nav Canada's performance requirements for "antenna diversity." In other words, it has one antenna looking skywards and one pointing to the ground, so it works in worldwide airspace as well as in the U.S. Nav Canada, the major investor in Aireon, the global satellite based ADS-B aircraft tracking system, has a phased mandate for implementing mandatory ADS-B Out equipage, with GA, especially flying below 10,000 feet, being the last class where this is mandatory. The U.S. has already mandated the requirement for ANY aircraft flying through class A, B, or C airspace.


The tailBeaconX EXP installed in rudder.

Being a frequent flyer in U.S. airspace, I was happy to try this device and my experience has been great, though not without some minor hiccups. It is really a very simple device to install and operate.

The device was shipped with an AV-20-E control head, which is a multifunction device with a very readable display in full sunlight. The AV-20-E is capable of the following functions:

  • Transponder/VFR/IDENT/squawk/active/standby
  • Angle-of-attack display (voice alert and peaks)
  • G-meter display (voice alert and peaks)
  • Attitude (Roll/pitch)
  • Slip/skid
  • Clock (GMT/local)
  • Outside air temperature (C/F)
  • Bus voltage display
  • Dual user timers (count up/down)
  • Engine run timer
  • Flight timer
  • Density altitude display
  • True airspeed display (knots/mph)
  • Internal battery operation

The AV-20 with transponder screen displayed.

The unit incorporates a full-color, sunlight-readable display with automatic brightness. As installed, I am not able to take advantage of some of the more advanced features. My main purpose was to check out the ADS-B functionality. In the future, I may decide to incorporate an outside air temperature sensor and pitot and static, but those are already present on my Dynon D10A and not mission-critical to be duplicated.

One slightly unusual choice uAvionix made was to use the same power for the integrated nav light and for the transponder functionality. At first, I thought that it would have been much more logical to use a separate power line for the transponder. After all, I had to pull wires anyway.

The one hiccup I referred to at the start was that I had trouble with the initial configuration from my iPhone. As it turns out, after several aborted trips to the airport, we discovered that the version of software for my phone was incorrect and downloading the app for my iPad solved the problem.

The FAA has a website where you can request a report of your flight(s), and you can also see your flights recorded on FlightRadar24 and FlightAware, and several other apps as reviewed by contributing author Patrick Gilligan in our March issue. Below you'll find an example report.

View Report

Successful FAA report of my flight.

From another perspective, it's really a shame that the U.S. free weather and NOTAM service, offered by FIS-B and TIS-B data services on 978 MHz towers, can't be made available in Canada, but then the logistics of doing that worldwide would be significantly more challenging. Maybe someday. For now, Sentry/Stratus/Stratux and other flavours of ADS-B In receivers can still receive and download to your favourite navigation software when in the U.S. or close to the border. Visit uAvionix for more information on ForeFlight Sentry.

To sum up, it works well out of the box, you don't need to be an avionics technician to install it, and you won't find a better deal for a Canadian ADS-B solution, especially for homebuilt aircraft.

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