uAvionix skyBeacon ADSB-OUT Installation and Review

uAvionix has recently introduced the "skyBeacon," a FAA-approved (meets 2020 mandate requirements), wing-tip mounted ADSB-OUT transmitter with an internal WAAS GPS that features a simple, 2-wire installation using existing nav light wiring and no additional antenna installation or cabling - and it only weighs 90 grams!.  uAvionix sent me a pre-production sample to beta-test. I just received it yesterday and finished the installation today.  The following is a description of my installation:

This first picture shows you what's in the box:  The skyBeacon, "Click-Bond" nut plates, miscellaneous installation hardware, and instructions. The instructions are not very detailed, nor do they need to be, since the installation is so simple!

My installation is a bit different from usual since there was slight curvature in the Zenith STOL 750 wing-tip necessitating a base mounting plate with a rubber gasket underneath to accommodate the  wing-tip curvature and provide a flat mounting plate for my AveoLED nav/strobe.  I made the mounting plate a bit oversize so it could also act as a reflector:

I removed the light and mounting plate and used the skyBeacon as a template to mark new mounting holes with a 1/8" drill bit.  A similar technique could be used to mark holes if attaching directly to a wing-tip.

After drilling 1/8" holes at the marked locations, I mixed the Click-Bond adhesive, applied it to the nut plates, and used the blue fixtures to align the nutplate against the hole and hold tension while the adhesive cures.  There are excellent videos on YouTube explaining the Click-Bond process, but the important things to remember is that you only have about a 3 min working time once the adhesive is mixed and need to have a squeeze-out of a bead of adhesive around the periphery of the nut plate.  It reaches 75% of strength in less than an hour but full strength takes 24 hrs.  I let them cure overnight before removing the fixtures and almost 24 hrs before I installed the 6/32 machine screws.

After the nut plates cured, I re-mounted my aluminum mounting base, connected the skyBeacon's red power wire to the nav light power wire and the black ground wire to my nav light's ground wire.  (Sealed heat-shrink connectors are included with the skyBeacon.)

I then powered up the skyBeacon with the nav light switch - the red nav light is quite bright!

Then, using the skyBeacon app on my smartphone, I configured the skyBeacon via wifi and then switched to the monitor page on the app to verify it was broadcasting the correct data.  You can also use this app in-flight to verify the system is working properly.

I found the skyBeacon to be very easy to install.  It would be perfect for someone who already has an ADSB-IN receiver and wants ADSB-OUT to enhance their safety and meet the 2020 ADSB mandate.  Also, the ADSB-OUT assures you'll get the "puck" of TIS traffic data centered on your plane (+/- 3500' and 15 nm radius).  Everything is included for the installation and there is nothing else to buy.  The only negative I see is the lack of a strobe and rear position light, but uAvionix says this is in development and will be available soon.  Also, the unit I installed was a pre-production beta and uAvionix says there will be some upgraded sealing on the production units and also an additional reflector for the red nav light - although it seems very bright as-is!



(No commercial or business relationship with uAvionix.)

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Comment by Joe Hopwood on October 31, 2017 at 8:07pm

Sorry Ricky.  I misunderstood that you were just building.  I have been building for 10 years.  But finally getting close.  Owning two other airplanes after I started building sure slowed me down.

Comment by Ricky Smith on October 31, 2017 at 7:09pm
"First several hours (normally 25 or 40 depending on engine) is required to be solo."
Not sure we are both talking about the same thing here.
And sorry I am now taking way of the thread topic.
The plane I am talking about has been flying since 1991.
Only I haven't yet put daylight under the wheels. My 2 year delay is mostly caused by wife and kids. Lol
I only get at most 5 hours a week to work on it. I wanted new rubber, less dead end wires under the dash from changes that have been made over the years, dents repaired, dirt removed, all glass replaced, chipped paint fixed, door air vents updated, the list goes on and on. But not making any changes that should require a new fly off. I am sure the next condition inspection will take a long time though.
Comment by Joe Hopwood on October 31, 2017 at 9:53am

Ricky, I think you should  look into requirements for obtaining a license (really a certificate).  I don't think training in your own experimental plane is a good way to go.  First several hours (normally 25 or 40 depending on engine) is required to be solo.  And of course you would need to be certificated to fly solo.  FAA has recently allowed someone in airplane to help with transition training but I doubt that would cover initial pilot training.

Comment by Ricky Smith on October 31, 2017 at 9:05am
Since I live near open airspace and can wait on doing my ADS-B installation, I should just wait until they come out with an integrated ADSB/Mode C "all-in-one" with greatly simplified installation similar to the skyBeacon. As of yet I haven't put daylight under my wheels, but i am coming to the end of my 2 year project, and haven't gotten my license yet. I planned to get my license in my own plane. I could just fly my plane locally and build experience while technology improves and prices drop. At least now I have a better idea what I will be installing later, before I plan any long trips.
Comment by John Austin on October 31, 2017 at 8:07am
The SkyBeacon makes the aircraft not only UAT ADS-B Out compliant, but includes an integrated WAAS GPS, a wireless connection to any Mode C transponder, support for autonomous mode

Ricky - I believe that was a typo!  I'm not aware of any "autonomous" mode, but the skyBeacon (and many others) supports anonymous mode.  Anonymous mode is the ability to automatically suppress your tail number (and therefore you're "anonymous") in your ADSB data when flying VFR/squawking 1200 to protect your privacy. Normally, it is user-selectable as to whether this feature is enabled/disabled.

Does this mean, I can use this without a Mode C transponder? I hope so.

As far as I know, there are no ADSB-out transmitters that don't either require at least a Mode C transponder that is either physically connected, "sniffed" wirelessly by monitoring the transponder's squawk, or have a transponder integrated inside the ADSB unit (sometimes called an "all-in-one").  The reason for this is that one of the parameters of data the ADSB-out unit transmits is the barometric altitude ("Baro Alt" on the FAA Public ADSB Performance Report or PAPR).  There are many other parameters being transmitted, also, such as the GPS altitude, position, velocity - and that's just to name a few!  All of this data must agree within limits to verify it is accurate, so the barometric altitude has to agree with the transponder's altitude squawk.  Therefore, (and it is only my speculation!), it is simplest and cheapest for the ADSB to simply utilize and echo the transponder's barometric altitude data.  If you don't have a transponder, you could buy an "all-in-one" certified ADSB/Transponder, such as the Sandia "STX Sentinel 360,"  but it is $3200 and you still have the wiring, antenna, and cabling to deal with.

Since you already have an ADSB receiver, likely you'd come out at the least expense to buy an ADSB-out transmitter and a used Mode C transponder, but there's no way to get around the transponder installation.  I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future companies like uAvionix don't come out with an integrated ADSB/Mode C "all-in-one" with greatly simplified installation similar to the skyBeacon.

Comment by Joe Hopwood on October 31, 2017 at 7:01am

Hi Ricky.  It is my understanding the requirement for ADS-B Out did not remove requirement for the Mode C transponder.

Comment by Ricky Smith on October 31, 2017 at 4:03am

"The SkyBeacon makes the aircraft not only UAT ADS-B Out compliant, but includes an integrated WAAS GPS, a wireless connection to any Mode C transponder, support for autonomous mode"

What does this mean? "support for autonomous mode"

Does this mean, I can use this without a Mode C transponder? I hope so.

I have built a Stratux ADS-B receiver and have a dash mounted tablet display now showing Weather and whatever ADS-B info it gets without ADS-B OUT installed. I was just hoping an ADS-B out solution could get its elevation from its own GPS info and not be depend on a separate Mode C transponder system simply for elevation information.

K.I.S.S. is what I want to achieve here, a nice simple machine. I don't want to add more wires under my dash with a whole Mode C transponder system if there is a way to avoid it.

Comment by John Austin on October 30, 2017 at 4:44pm

If transmitter is disabled does the FAA really care about the receiver?

While it is true that receivers don't have to be "FAA approved," the NavWorx AD clearly includes the ADS600-EXP as affected by the AD.  It also clearly says that come January, the ADS600-EXP must be removed, or disabled by pulling its circuit breaker and disconnecting its antenna - rendering it totally unusable, obviously!  I think a "reasonable person" would wink and say, "Sure, if the transmitter is disabled, then what's the problem?"  HOWEVER, if one of those aggressive inspectors found the unit installed, powered, and cabled after January next year. they could reasonably argue that you're in violation of the AD!  To me, I'd rather have it in writing that it's OK to retain it and use it as a receiver!  I will grant you, however, that a remotely-mounted receiver is virtually undetectable! ;>)

Comment by Joe Hopwood on October 30, 2017 at 4:33pm

Hi John,  If transmitter is disabled does the FAA really care about the receiver?

Comment by John Austin on October 30, 2017 at 3:47pm

 I am living with the Navworx in/out system and waiting to see how we resolve the AD.  

I have the NavWorx ADS600-EXP.  Since NavWorx has folded, there doesn't appear there will be a solution that will let one continue to use the system after January (there's no way to attach an approved external GPS -  only the certified units have a provision for an external GPS).  I have, however, applied to the FAA for an AMOC (alternative means of compliance) to allow the UAT transmitter to be disabled and continue to use the ADS600-EXP as a receive-only system.  If that is approved, then the skyBeacon will be perfect since it will provide the ADSB-OUT and I can use the NavWorx for the ADSB-IN.

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