ADS-B Out - Why not make it a business?

  • Saturday, December 27, 2014 10:07 PM
    Message # 3177349

    I've been hearing about this ADS-B out 2020 requirement and it's something I know little about, but doesn't seem too complicated so far after just reading an article in Sport Aviation tonight.

    Being naive while also thinking all things are possible, which has helped me a lot in entrepreneurial ventures, why can't we just built one of these for a fraction of the cost, get it certified and then sell them to VFR GA pilots?!  By far the most expensive part of the whole process would probably be the certifications required but if we (And by we, if somebody decided to go into a venture on this) target just the VFR GA pilots we wouldn't have to run the gamut of all the possible configurations, right?  Or am I wrong?

    I do happen to know a little about GPS.  In 2005 I bought 2 board level GPS circuits to toy around with and build circuit boards.  I had a handful of RC planes.  At the time I had already stuck a small CCD camera in my planes, programmed a microchip connected to the receiver so I could control it from my transmitter and hooked it up to a transmitter on 2.4GHz and a 9v battery.  My plan for the GPS was to get my plane, within visual line of sight of course, to follow a designated flight pattern.  I never did get around to doing that, but I had it all planned out and all the equipment I would need.

    There's one point I'm not clear on, if ADS-B requires just GPS or both GPS+WAAS.  Here's a little crash course in GPS and WAAS.

    Right now we have 32 GPS satellites in orbit.  In a nutshell, all these things do is transmit their ID, orbit and the current time.  Now, if I leave you a message at 2PM that says I'm 150 miles away heading to Toledo at 50 MPH but you don't get the message until 3PM, you could assume I'm now 100 miles away.  That's all the GPS satellites do.  But they transmit in microseconds and the GPS receiver, sync'd up with the atomic clock, calculates how long ago the message was sent from the satellite.  Once you have at least 3 satellites and you know the distance away each one is, you can triangulate your location.  They say it's accurate to about 37 meters, but I've never seen it more off than 40 feet when I tested my GPS chips on the ground, much less in the air with good signal.

    But just like driving, sometimes there is traffic and detours causing delays.  This is where WAAS comes in.  There's a number of locations around the country on the ground that keep track of the delays and detours.  This would be ionosphere and the clocks in the GPS satellites degrading in accuracy over time.  The ionosphere can slow down the speed of the GPS broadcast, not much, but microseconds count in calculating location when you're going about the speed of light.  So the WAAS collects the corrections and it also broadcasts them from 2 satellites by the equator.  

    So maybe satellite 1 tells you it's 2 PM but the clock is wrong, it's really 2:05 PM, and there's a delay.  So WAAS tells you to add 5 minutes to the time and whatever the other correction is, maybe 1 minute.  Now you can calculate with more accuracy when I'll be to Toledo at 50MPH.

    Anyway, none of that is too important for making an ADS-B.  My question is, why not build one of these suckers, find an investor and take a ADS-B for GA to market?  Hell, it could be a handheld that plugs in.  I think the only requirement really would be that it has to be certified, so that means exact specifications for the hardware used, which would have to be consistent since 1 minor change generally requires recertification.  It wouldn't be too easy to do with a tablet and just writing software because there are so many types of components used in tablets that are always changed.  The most consistent would be an iPad but even iPad's mix and match internal components as long as they were made to spec.

    Picture Below:

    A. Board level GPS receiver.

    B. Circuit board with another board level GPS receiver plugged in.  This will output GPS data in NMEA format to a computer/software.

    C. Microchip programmer, this is what I use to program microchips after I've written the commands/software for what I want the chip to do.

    D. A LCD, an example would be writing a program, burning it to the microchip which reads the GPS long/Lat from the GPS receiver and then displaying it on the LCD.

    So what do we do to add WAAS?  We apply math to the original GPS outputs. 

    Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2014 10:53 PM | Scott Hiser
  • Saturday, December 27, 2014 10:22 PM
    Reply # 3177350 on 3177349

    Correction, we don't even need to worry about WAAS.  I just found board level OEM GPS receivers that already have WAAS built in for $53ea.

    I just don't see these ADS-B out's needing to cost $3,000-5,000.  Let's say certification runs $24,000. (No idea, just guessing based on experience from what other electronics cost to get certified.)

    Let's say there is $150 in parts in each unit.  It would be pretty reasonable to distribute the $24k for certification in volume sales.  There are about 225,000 GA aircraft in service right now according to the FAA.  Just getting 1% of those to purchase this ADS-B unit would put the distributed costs at $10.67 per unit.

    I just don't see not being able to make one of these at an extremely affordable cost.  Not unless putting them in that nice little gold box means that gold is real.

    Okay, now, somebody educate me about all the things I don't know about and why this isn't possible.  I looked into some of the auto pilots that are available for experimental aircraft and I see the guys making them are younger than me and just toyed around with electronics until they made something that got the job done.

    Those guys really don't appear to have too much competition so they can command a pretty high price.  Competition, in my book, is good.

  • Sunday, December 28, 2014 1:13 AM
    Reply # 3177369 on 3177349

    Thanks for bringing this up.  Flying magazine has already raised the white flag.  EAA national pretends they give a crap... but they are far more interested in wine clubs and fences.  AOPA has their head even farther up their butts.

    The 2020 mandate is cast in stone apparently.  The illusion of SAFETY, is far more important than your freedom of movement... in our every-more deserted skies.  Nextgen, our one-way, non-refundable ticket to a police state.  Eat your heart out Toledo red-light cameras.... you got nothing on ADS-B-out / GPS.  We are on our hands an knees begging to be tracked.  Please track our every movement for tax purposes.  After all, we ain't got nothing to hide from the guver-mint... specially since flying the Piet makes us all fat cats.

    But to play along, I have no idea what it takes to get the FAA to approve a new device, but I am guessing you need political connections.  There is a guy we know that got an STC for a modified tailwheel on a certified classic airplane.  I saw the report.  Not trivial... and this was just an STC.  My understanding is that you need a TSO-ed GPS system to comply with this mandate.  That means experimental installations are out of the question.  I love gubermint mandates.  

    The solution?..... never install an engine driven electrical system.  If that is not an option, find another hobby.  Boating if you like dealing with the coast guard.  Speed walking is really big in Europe.  Curling is also harmless fun around these parts.  



    Last modified: Sunday, December 28, 2014 1:27 AM | Andre Abreu
  • Sunday, December 28, 2014 10:23 AM
    Reply # 3177422 on 3177349

    Unless you fly in uncontrolled airspace.  But that would be a headache.

    So I read it applies to Class A, B and C (Above 10,000 feet).

    It looks like there's some kits out there around $1,700 right now that just do basic ADS-B out.  There is a NavWorks ADSB system that would work in a home built that run about $3,300.

    A company called Aspen has ADS-B out starting at $1,700.  These guys, as far as I understand, are new kids on the block.

    I just read more, WAAS isn't required, but it's only a few bucks more to get that built into a GPS receiver chip.

    My focus isn't on retrofitting an old citation, it's on the homebuilts.  If this just needs to transmit on 978MHz (The FAA would prefer this for planes flying under 18,000 ASL) it's not that difficult.  It needs to transmit some basic aircraft information along with the long/lat.  This would be like building a "starter" project to FM circuitry, just stepped up to a 5-25W transmitter.  

    It looks to me like it would only have to be active in class A or B and most of us would never have to worry about class C over 10,000 feet.

    All that being said.  I do happen to have a few connections.  I also know some guys over at ZenTech just outside DC.  They're the only company in the United States 100% building circuit boards for US military use.  I had a contract along with them back in 2008.  They have a full shop.

    I'm just thinking, we could design on of these things, get it TSO'ed and FCC approved then if we didn't create a business to make them here, I bet the guys I know at ZenTech would be willing to assemble it for a slice of the pie.  I'm even willing to bet they would be able to get the components for about 1/3rd published OEM component costs.

    There's nothing to say that an approved, basic TSO'ed device couldn't be sold for non-experimental.  

    City and state agencies are required to buy from a local/state small business for any purchases under $100,000 whenever that is possible.  If they can't find a small business they can start to look elsewhere.  Minority businesses have preference before moving on to a non-minority business.  Heck, I have connections there too.  A friend of mine is a hispanic female business owner and they happen to do light manufacturing and already have some government approved processes. :)

    Now, as far as my opinion of ADS-B.  It seems pretty stupid to me. Sure, on paper it looks good.  Knowing exact location and aircraft information will give tighter tolerances.  But making RADAR secondary and becoming dependent on an aircraft to tell you where it is?

    Hello.  Iran already commandeered one of our drones by hijacking the GPS system.  I'm pretty sure they can get a small aircraft into our airspace broadcasting a pirate signal saying it was somebody that it was not, somewhere that it is not, while it's actually flying into a military / civilian target.  In that sense, I think it's stupid.

    But anyway.  If these things could be built with overhead and certification for a total cost of $500, retail them for $1,000-1,200, I think they'd sell and the volume would be a tidy little profit.  It's a stepping stone into other things, like interfacing with tablet's, ADS-B in, autopilot's, etc.

    We can call the company Hiser Avionics. ;)  My company name is Velocity Technologies, Inc.  I have a lot of people ask me if that's the aviation company.

    Last modified: Sunday, December 28, 2014 10:24 AM | Scott Hiser
  • Sunday, December 28, 2014 12:17 PM
    Reply # 3177451 on 3177349
    My sentiments exactly.  This is too easily spoofed.  Considering I can do this right now from my basement with crap I have laying around...

    I'd even go as far to say that the ground station counter-measures could be tricked.  That's where it gets more involved, but air to air?  Easy peasy. 

    Just cataloging what I find here.  The more I read, the more idiotic this system sounds.

    Anybody have ADS-B in?  I can build a low powered prototype that will only work within 30 feet of a receiver to test it.  I could tell it that it's the Pietenpol at 37,000 ASL doing Mach 1.

  • Sunday, December 28, 2014 9:27 PM
    Reply # 3177591 on 3177349

    Hooked up my board level GPS chips and have them communicating now.  They do not have WAAS capability.  Altitude fluxuates +/- 50 feet and the GPS fix walks NW & SW +/- 50 feet also, but it keeps centerline which is interesting. For the most part, it stays pretty spot on, within 5-10 feet.  It only seems to jump when a new satellite comes into view.

    So I can read out the Latitude, Longitude and Altitude.  The rest would be storing an identifier then transmitting it on 978Mhz.  I found a RF modulator circuit that sells for $5 that can be tuned to 978 MHz.  So far, all the essential components to make ADS-B out are under $100.

  • Tuesday, January 13, 2015 10:41 AM
    Reply # 3196229 on 3177349
  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015 11:21 AM
    Reply # 3200086 on 3177349
    Stephen Cechner (Administrator)

    Okay I have a degree in engineering and I thought I was relatively intelligent, but  this electronic stuff is a little daunting. I'm completely out of my element so any of the following comments should be considered pure "for the sake of posting something" random thoughts.


    There is an article in the February issue of Fyling regarding ADS-B and it seems that there already is a relatively cheap ($1400?? I think) device out there. The problem according to the article is that the FAA currently will not authorize any type of portable device. That means hard wiring and certified installers and all the other mindless bureaucratic nonsense associated with it.


    I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but I doubt any device that is assembled from consumer grade electronic hardware will  ever be certified. Apparently from your previous posts there are GPS circuit boards out there readily available for the average person, but will the FAA ever in a million years certify a device that is assembled from such components?


    I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit. I suspect that as the date draws nearer, there will be companies out there that come up with "cheap" options. Hopefully it will be someone I know so I can say "I knew them when" ;)



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