Stratus ESG - Finally ADS-B for the Masses?

We've written here a lot about the looming mandate that starting in 2020, any aircraft flying in Classes A, B, C, D airspace, or Class E above 10,000 must be equipped with an ADS-B Out transponder. There's good and bad to this system, but one of the biggest problems has been a lack of affordable ADS-B transponders on the market. The Stratus ESG and ESGi from AppAero may have finally solved that problem for the masses!

If the name "Stratus" sounds familiar to you, it's because AppAero has been offering a family of Stratus devices that provide ADS-B In functionality for several years. The Stratus devices started as just a source of GPS data for mobile apps like ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, and WingX Pro. Stratus eventually added ADS-B In functionality and even a backup AHRS. The aviation apps evolved with it and now you can have a display on your iPad that does pretty much everything (and more in some areas) that you get with the Global Vision flight deck on Bombardier's $78M Global 6000. (I can say that because I have 600 hours in the Global, and as impressive as it is, it doesn't have much on the iPad.)

So, the original Stratus is (still) a great product. At $800 it's a little pricey, but it offers a lot of capability. Many of us have been wishing for years that AppAero could come up with something like the Stratus 2S that could also provide ADS-B Out functionality mandated for 2020 by the FAA. The Stratus ESG and ESGi are the fulfillment of our wishes. The ESG gives you TSO'd ADS-B Out - meaning you can use it to replace the transponder in your certified aircraft. The ESGi goes a step further by offering everything the Stratus 2S gives you, for just $500 extra. This includes GPS position, ADS-B In, and a backup AHRS. The price for the ESGi is $3,495. (If you choose to forego the ADS-B In, GPS input and AHRS features the plain ESG model is only $2,995.) That certainly isn't cheap, but let's take a quick look at some of our other options:

  • Garmin's GTX345 offers ADS-B In and Out for certified aircraft. It'll broadcast the ADS-B In data wirelessly to your iPad. However, it doesn't give you a backup AHRS.

    Price: $4,995.

  • Avidyne's APX340 is ADS-B Out only. You have to buy a separate box to get the ADS-B In functionality.

    Price: $3,499. (If you consider the $500 rebate I wrote about yesterday, it costs about the same as the Stratus ESG with similar functionality.)

  • L3's NGT-9000 Lynx is another option that offers some cool built-in features not available from the other units I've mentioned. If includes ADS-B In, but no AHRS backup.

    Price: $5,490 promo pricing right now (MSRP is $7,860.)

I like all of these companies and I'm sure that each of these products would serve you well. However, when it comes to installing ADS-B in a lot of GA aircraft, price and the features you get for that price become important. An older Cessna or Piper can be a great flying airplane, but it might only be worth $30,000. When you factor in installation costs, complying with the FAA's ADS-B could cost you a third of your aircraft's value or more. In many cases, that'll just be unacceptable. However, AppAero's Stratus ESG/ESGi seem to hit a sweet spot on features and price. If you consider the fact that buying an ESGi could save you from having to buy a Stratus 2S that you might have wanted otherwise, it looks like an even better deal.

I hope the other manufacturers take notice of what AppAero is offering at this price. I hope it drives prices down and features up on some of the other offerings. However, for the time being, I think it'd be tough to beat the AppAero Stratus ESGi for an ADS-B solution in a certified aircraft.