What’s one of your least favorite things about being a pilot? If you said, “Keeping current with changing regulations,” you’re not alone, and an industry re-defining set of regulations is about to go into effect.

The FAA bills ADS-B as, “an environmentally friendly technology that enhances safety and efficiency, and directly benefits pilots, controllers, airports, airlines, and the public.” [1]

On the other side of the fence are those who see ADS-B as a complex, confusing, and expensive alternative to standard radar.

The important thing is this: whatever your personal opinion on the matter, effective January 1, 2020, if you are a pilot flying in ADS-B rule airspace, your aircraft must comply with the new regulations. This means that if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to act.

Now you probably have a few questions like, “What is ADS-B airspace?” or “What type of device do I need to install to meet ADS-B requirements?” You may be wondering, “How much will it cost to make my aircraft ADS-B compliant?”

Keep reading for these answers and more, plus we will share our recommendation for an easy, low cost product solution that will have you ADS-B compliant in time for January.

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is ADS-B?

Are you ready to memorize another acronym? ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast.

That is the fancy way of saying that the positions, altitude and velocity of aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out transmitters (more on those later) and a WAAS GPS will be automatically reported and broadcast at regular intervals to other ADS-B enabled aircraft and ATC.

Put simply, ADS-B provides an updated way for pilots to view each other’s positions and for ATC to manage air traffic.

Upgrading to ADS-B is an integral part of the ATC’s continuing NextGen program rollout, and the ADS-B Out system will ultimately replace radar as the primary method for separating aircraft.

What regulations contain the ADS-B mandate and when do they go into effect?

Although the ADS-B Out requirement is going into effect on January 1, 2020, the regulations that established the ADS-B Out directive were published in May of 2010.

For those who enjoy a bit of dry reading, Federal Regulations 14 CFR § 91.225 and 14 CFR § 91.227 detail the specifics of ADS-B Out equipment, use, and performance requirements.

Prefer the condensed version for now? Let’s discuss the highlights.

What airspace is ADS-B required for?

What you really want to know is whether the ADS-B Out mandate affects you, right? The answer to that is, “Most likely.” ADS-B requirements apply to most controlled airspace including any airspace that had formerly required aircraft to have a Mode C transponder.

Starting January 1, 2020, ADS-B Out devices will be required on every aircraft with an electrical system that is operating:

  • Within Class A, B and C airspace
  • Above 10,000 ft MSL unless that aircraft is below 2,500 feet AGL
  • In Class E airspace above 3,000 feet MSL over the Gulf of Mexico within 12 NM of the US coastline
  • Within the Mode C veil (30 nautical miles) of a Class B primary airport

Class E airspace below 10,000 feet (other than the Gulf of Mexico exception) will generally not require ADS-B devices.

Want to confirm whether you will need ADS-B for the specific airspace you intend to fly in? Check out the FAA’s guide and interactive airspace map along with their “Do I need to Equip?” flowchart to verify requirement details.

What type of device do I need to meet the ADS-B requirements?

Now that you’ve established your need to meet the ADS-B requirements, it’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that your existing ADS-B In device makes you compliant with the new regulations, but don’t go there.

The ADS-B system includes both ADS-B In and ADS-B Out devices. ADS-B In receivers are very useful and allow you to receive important FIS-B data among other things, but you will still need additional devices to fulfill the new ADS-B Out requirements.

To be compliant, your aircraft will need to be outfitted with both a Version 2 ADS-B Out transmitter and a compatible GPS position source or a single device that fills both those roles.

Your ADS-B Out system can be one of two types (depending on what airspace you operate in): either a 1090ES (Mode S transponder with extended squitter) that operates on the 1090 MHz frequency or a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) on 978 MHz.

A 1090ES system is required if you will be flying at or above Flight Level 180. Below 18,000 feet MSL, either type of system checks the box. Since most other countries operate on 1090 MHz, set your aircraft up with the 1090ES system if you plan to make international flights.

How much will it cost to make my aircraft ADS-B compliant?

The costs of ADS-B devices are coming down and – if you shop strategically – the components are available for less than $2,000 – which leads us to our next question.

Which ADS-B device should I choose?

Here’s the good news you were waiting for: despite all the complexities of the ADS-B program rollout, there is a simple and cost-effective solution that will get you compliant without pricy equipment or a complex installation process.

The skyBeacon by uAvionix is an all-in-one device that integrates an ADS-B UAT Out transmitter, WAAS GPS and LED wingtip position light. The beauty of the skyBeacon is that a single unit provides everything you need to meet the 2020 ADS-B requirements and it does so while eliminating the need for a new transponder and new wiring.

skyBeacon ADS-B Out

The skyBeacon is compatible with your existing Mode C or Mode S transponder and it transmits data using your aircraft’s existing wiring system. You can mount your skyBeacon in just 10 minutes simply by replacing your aircraft position light with the skyBeacon.

Priced at $1,849, the skyBeacon has earned our recommendation for the lowest cost solution for meeting ADS-B Out requirements.


  • The FAA’s ADS-B Out requirements take effect on January 1, 2020.
  • Most pilots will be impacted by the requirements and will need to install the appropriate systems on their aircraft.
  • To meet the new standards, aircraft will be required to have a Version 2 ADS-B Out transmitter and a compatible GPS position source or a multi-functional device that fills both those roles.
  • The skyBeacon by uAvionix is the easiest, fastest, lowest cost solution to get your aircraft compliant with the 2020 ADS-B requirement. 

[1] https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/programs/adsb/faq/

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