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Make Sure Your ADS-B Upgrade Doesn't Cost You in the Long Run

Mar 01, 2018
By: Carey Miller, Director of Business Development

Carey Miller, Director of Business DevelopmentCarey Miller is the Director of Business Development for Universal Avionics Systems Corporation in Tucson, Arizona (USA). He has over 20 years of experience in the Avionics industry and is involved in numerous industry committees such as the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) International Operator Committee (16 years), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Performance-based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) Communications Working Group, FAA Data Communications Implementation Team (DCIT), and Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) SC-214 (Standards for Air Traffic Data Communications Services). Carey has been a pilot for 33 years and is also a Captain on Universal's Cessna Citation VII aircraft. He is an ATP and is type rated in the Bombardier Challenger 604, Cessna Citation 650, and Hawker Beechjet 400A.

ADS-B Out Solutions Research

Operators in the U.S. are taking action to meet the FAA's Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out mandate at the end of 2019. Shops are full and according to the Aircraft Electronics Association's 2017 Avionics Market Report, "the retrofit (avionics) market showed an increase in its percentage of total sales… recording an all-time high… a 20.1% increase over 2016." This growth is likely a result of aircraft equipping for ADS-B Out to meet the FAA's 2020 deadline.

Researching avionics upgrades for your aircraft among a sea of available solutions can be exhausting, especially with "estimated costs" of Flight Management System (FMS) upgrades ranging so widely. What to believe among all the information floating around the industry?

It's never been more important to do your research because choosing the wrong solution now may cause more costs for you later. For example, if an operator of a business jet installs what is commonly known as a "stand-alone" WAAS/SBAS sensor solution today without updating the FMS, there's likely no growth path for data link or Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), providing very little value in the future, especially in the eyes of the next potential buyer of the aircraft. Adding a "stand-alone" WAAS/SBAS sensor makes sense in some cases, but not all, and most definitely not in Business Aviation aircraft.


Let's look at a typical King Air operator with a Universal Avionics UNS-1K Flight FMS installed. There's a very good chance that only the Navigation Computer Unit (NCU) and antenna will need to be replaced in addition to the transponders, while retaining the existing FMS Control Display Unit (CDU). This overall installation cost will be close to a "stand-alone" solution and won't require having to punch another hole in the fuselage for this additional antenna.

Potential costs associated with additional antennas can include:

  • Removal and reinstallation of the interior
  • Addition of a fuselage doubler
  • Damage tolerance assessment
  • Interference with existing radios
  • Additional certification efforts

Furthermore, all of the above will lead to increased project installation downtime and cost.

When the existing FMS's NCU is replaced with a new SBAS-capable unit and antenna, the benefits include:

  • New warranty
  • Increased database memory
  • Decreased downtime
  • Operational familiarity
  • ADS-B failure messaging (eliminating the need for panel annunciators)

Universal Avionics is actively pursuing a Supplemental Type Certification (STC) that pairs our SBAS-FMS with Rockwell Collins' ADS-B Out-compliant transponders. We will provide the pairing data free of charge to Universal Avionics Authorized Dealers and Integrators, further reducing installation cost.

The NextGen Roadmap

Having a path to additional capabilities is where Universal Avionics' solution really stands out. With the addition of a second FMS or FMS monitor, operators are provided with the additional capability of Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (LPV) approaches, a cornerstone of the U.S. NextGen and Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programs.

After adding Universal's UniLink® UL-800/801 Communications Management Unit (CMU), operators can receive Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC)-Departure Clearances (DCL) at busy airports which is much quicker than using voice. While taxiing out, operators can receive digital re-routes due to changing weather, enter it in the FMS, and call ground for a new taxi clearance. The aircraft still using voice will have to park and wait in line to receive their new clearance. The FAA has documented these savings as part of the Data Comm program. As a side benefit, operators of the UL-800/801 can also utilize other traditional data link functionalities such as downloading filed flight plans, text weather, and email.

An optional software version for the UniLink UL-800/801 CMU is also available to provide the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network-Baseline 1 (ATN-B1) message set that is used to meet the European Data Link Services Implementing Rule (DLS-IR).

Universal's "building block" approach provides the equipment to meet mandates today while offering the additional capabilities for tomorrow, adding real value to the aircraft.

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