About this project
ADS-B For Everyone
If you’re a pilot, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard about ADS-B. You probably know that an ADS-B receiver can make flying safer and more efficient by providing real-time weather, traffic, TFRs, and other flight data to your Apple or Android tablet. You probably also know that all of the ADS-B receivers on the market are really expensive. That’s about to change.
FlightBox is an ADS-B receiver based on the incredibly popular Stratux open source project. FlightBox is built from off-the-shelf hardware and free software, making it much less expensive than proprietary ADS-B receivers. FlightBox costs as little as $150 and offers the same features as competing products costing as much as $1000.
FlightBox is offered as a “quick-build” kit. The kit can be assembled in less than five minutes using nothing more than a phillips screwdriver and a pair of pliers. The software comes pre-loaded - no computer required. You simply make a few connections, put the cover on, and you’re ready to fly.
Supported Aviation Apps
FlightBox supports all of the most popular aviation apps. So far we have confirmed operation with:
- ForeFlight (iOS)
- WingX Pro (iOS, Android)
- FlyQ EFB (iOS)
- DroidEFB (Android)
- iFlyGPS (iOS, Android)
- Avare (Android)
- Naviator (Android)
- AvNav (Android)
If you have a favorite EFB or navigation app that’s not listed, let us know.
Subscription-Free In-Flight Weather
FlightBox receives continuous, free weather updates from ADS-B ground stations. In-flight weather gives you a huge edge in aeronautical decision making by providing you with a near real-time view of conditions in your area and across the nation.
Current weather products include:
- NEXRAD radar
- Winds / Temps Aloft
Additionally, ADS-B’s FIS-B service also gives you:
- SUA (Special Use Airspace) activity
Future enhancements to the ADS-B weather system are expected to add lightning, turbulence, icing, cloud tops, and AWOS.
FlightBox is available as either a single-band or dual-band system. The single-band version is able to receive traffic data directly from aircraft equipped with 978 MHz (UAT) ADS-B Out, and also re-broadcast traffic provided by ADS-B ground stations. Dual-band systems add the ability to receive traffic data directly from aircraft equipped with 1090-ES transponders. Traffic data includes the identity (call sign or tail number) of the target, their location, distance, heading, and speed.
It’s important to understand that ADS-B traffic is advisory only and will be limited if your aircraft does not have ADS-B Out. For a full review of the requirements and limitations of ADS-B traffic, please see this article on the FAA website.
While many modern tablets and smartphones include GPS capabilities, they generally lack the precision of a separate WAAS-capable GPS receiver and significantly increase the drain on your battery. FlightBox incorporates a high precision WAAS GPS module with a 10 Hz update rate. This provides your app with a highly accurate position - typically between 10 and 30 feet. It also provides GPS altitude, ground speed, and ground track data.
FlightBox will include rubber-duck ADS-B antennas but it's designed to give you options. You can use the included SMA connectors to link to an external antenna. You can add SMA extension cables to reposition the rubber ducks. Or, you can connect directly to the MCX couplers on the radio modules. We've done testing with several antenna designs, including an innovative J-Pole antenna that can be affixed to a window, windshield, or (for composite aircraft) sidewall.
Built To Last
Most electronics spend their lives in comfort. Portable ADS-B receivers don't. They live on a glareshield that gets up to 160°F - on a cool day. That's why we're building FlightBox to withstand temperatures that would melt most enclosures into slag. The production case will be made from Boltaron - a space age plastic that's engineered to withstand years of heat, UV, vibration and just about any other abuse you and your airplane can dish out.
We've also gone the extra mile with the components. The radio receiver modules, wifi module, and GPS have all been extensively tested. We're sourcing the parts from reputable suppliers and testing each component prior to shipping it out.
Easy To Assemble
The FlightBox kits are made up of between 8 and 10 parts (plus a few screws) and typically take less than five minutes to assemble. The software comes pre-loaded so you DO NOT need a computer to get running.
Easy To Use
FlightBox is even easier to use. The software comes preconfigured so all you need to do is:
Step 1: Connect FlightBox to power.
Step 2: Connect your tablet or phone to the "FlightBox-XXX" WiFi network.
Step 3: Launch your favorite EFB aviation application.
That's it. FlightBox will immediately start listening for ADS-B and GPS signals.
FlightBox is built on the power of open source. Open source is a collaborative development method that leverages the expertise of a community of volunteers to create software or hardware. Open source has a number of advantages over proprietary development. Cost is the most obvious, but others include community support, faster bug fixes, and fewer flaws due to a much broader review of the code.
Open Flight Solutions is dedicated to the idea that open source and open standards can reduce the cost of aviation while enhancing safety. We are actively participating in the Stratux project and will continue to do so. We have budgeted $10 from each FlightBox sale for reinvestment in the Stratux project. This will go towards continued development, testing, and project infrastructure.
In The Box
Each FlightBox kit will include:
- Custom rugged case
- Raspberry Pi Model 2 B computer
- Pre-loaded Class 10 data card
- Edimax Wifi interface module
- NooElec SDR receiver module(s)
- WAAS GPS module
- Antenna adapter cables (aka pigtails)
- Custom ADS-B whip antenna(s)
- High power USB cable
- Assembly and user's guide
Please note that FlightBox does not include an internal battery. For users who want a completely portable system, we have tested and highly recommend the Anker E3 10,000 mAh battery pack. We've also tested and can recommend Anker's PowerDrive2 adapter.
One of the challenges of open source hardware / software is support. Open Flight Solutions stands behind FlightBox. We're including free email and web support with every FlightBox. If you have questions or issues, let us know and we will do everything we can to help.
If you choose to back the single-band version of FlightBox and later decide you want the additional traffic data provided by a dual-band version, fear not. We plan to offer an upgrade kit. The case is designed to work for either version, so installation of the upgrade will just take a few minutes with the screwdriver and pliers.
The Stratux community is hard at work on additional features, including AHRS (attitude / heading sensors used for virtual instruments and synthetic vision). FlightBox is designed to make hardware upgrades simple and inexpensive. Simply remove the cover and replace it with a new one that incorporates the additional hardware. Work on AHRS is already under way and should be available soon. We hope to eventually add support for:
- Pressure Altitude
- Carbon Monoxide Detection
- Magnetic Heading
(Note that some of these enhancements will only be available for use in experimental aircraft.)
The Stratux software is continually improving. To make it simple to upgrade, FlightBox incorporates a simple software upgrade process. Just download the update to your computer, connect to the FlightBox’s wifi network, point your browser to the update screen and drop the update. FlightBox takes care of the rest.
Kickstarter is the perfect way to launch a product like FlightBox. By backing this project you're helping to cover the up-front cost of design and production for the custom case. You're giving back to the open source project. You're also helping to launch what we expect to be a revolution in cost-effective DIY avionics - something that can truly help make GA safer and more affordable.
Open Flight Solutions is a different kind of startup. We're not venture funded. We're not looking for an exit. We believe that the future of general aviation - more specifically, "personal aviation" - will depend on innovation and collaboration. Our mission is to help more people enjoy the thrill of flight by offering affordable solutions to traditionally expensive problems. We believe in open source, open standards, freedom, and passion.
Risks and challenges
FlightBox is based on the Stratux open source software which has been tested by hundreds of users around the country since the summer of 2015. That eliminates the biggest hurdle. Development is ongoing but the basics - ADS-B weather and traffic - are tested and working.
As with any hardware product, we're at the mercy of our suppliers. We've found multiple sources for most components and do not expect any major supply-chain issues.
The developers of many popular aviation apps have expressed support for the Stratux open source project. Some have actively participated. However, there is no guarantee that any particular app vendor will continue to support the Stratux software on which FlightBox is based. We're doing our best to ensure compatibility, but we can't guarantee it.
As with all things aviation there is always the chance that our regulatory friends at the FAA could add complications. At this point non-installed advisory systems like FlightBox have been tolerated (even grudgingly promoted) by the Feds, but there is no guarantee that they will not change their policy at some point in the future.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
AHRS* is a goal of the Stratux project but is not yet ready for prime time. The project team has been working towards that goal but has recently made the decision to select a newer, better sensor package. The hardware we originally planned on using proved to be less than optimal.
Fortunately, FlightBox is upgradable. The current plan is to offer an upgrade kit that adds AHRS and perhaps several other additional features.
*AHRS stands for Attitude and Heading Reference System - digital sensors that provide attitude and magnetic heading data to an EFIS or app.
The main feature of FlightBox is weather and traffic data provided over the 978 MHz UAT datalink - a service available only in the USA and along the US/CA border. In the future we may offer a 1090-ES-only system if there is significant demand.
The ADS-B data uplink system is built to provide in-flight, rather than pre-flight, data. As such, the antennas are configured to send the signal up and out, not down. If there is an ADS-B tower at your airport, you may receive data on the ground, but in most of the country you have to be at least 500' AGL to pick up a reliable signal from a tower.
No. The FAA's 2020 mandate requires ADS-B Out. FlightBox only handles ADS-B In. If you fly in airspace covered by the ADS-B rules you will need a separate ADS-B out solution - either a UAT transmitter or a 1090-ES transponder with an approved position source.
After the Kickstarter campaign ends, we will set up a web store offering the complete kits and components including the case. Pricing is TBD - we need to see what the volume is based on the campaign.
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