The Best ADS-B receiver for 2020 & 2021

Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology enables aircraft to determine their position using satellite and periodically broadcast this location information. ADS-B receivers can decode this signal and track the position of airplanes. ADS-B technology in the cockpit provides a new level of safety and efficiency for airplanes. Even drones are starting to incorporate ADS-B to detect nearby airplanes for collision avoidance thereby ensuring safer air flight travel. This technology could potentially someday replace radar for controlling aircraft worldwide.

Setting up an ADS-B receiver system can be a fun, educational and very rewarding experience. In this article we look at the best ADS-B receivers in the market today.

Garmin GDL 50 Portable ADS-B Receiver

The GDL 50 is the most sophisticated and feature-rich ADS-B receiver available on the market today. Users have reported very quick GPS and traffic data acquisition. Additionally, the attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) works very well. The GDL 50 also includes Bluetooth connectivity and pairs with Android tablets and Apple iPads with the Garmin Pilot app. All in all this is a well-designed and engineered product. An enhanced version of this product, the Garmin GDL 52 is also available with Sirius XM connectivity.

Pros:

  • Dual band to support signal reception in both 1090 MHz and 978 MHz bands
  • Well engineered and slick design
  • Fast data acquisition
  • Satellite radio option
  • Customer support from Garmin

Cons:

  • Price

Stratux ADS-B Receiver

Stratux ADS-B Receiver

The Stratux ADS-B receiver is dual band and connects effortlessly to tablets and phones through a Wi-Fi Signal. Wide Area Augmentation GPS always ensures that you’re on course with coordinates accurate within 2.5m. The Stratux also has built-in AHRS. Multiple Android and iPad devices can also be synced at the same time. This is a highly portable receiver including a suction mount for window mounting.

One of the biggest pluses of the Stratux in addition to the compelling price point is the product design – open, modular, well-documented and supported by a growing community of SDR and ADS-B enthusiasts. The modular and well-documented aspects mean that you can replace parts like a broken antenna or receiver card at very low cost so you’re not having to purchase extended warranties or sending the hardware to the recycle bin if it doesn’t work.

Pros:

  • Dual band to support signal reception in both 1090 MHz and 978 MHz bands
  • Price
  • Modular and well-documented design
  • Excellent Customer support

Cons:

  • Some users have reported reliability issues with the hardware and software connectivity

FlightAware Pro Stick USB ADS-B Receiver

This is a very popular ADS-B receiver based on the RTL-SDR and used by many in the ADS-B and SDR communities. The biggest plus is the price point. It is a very cost-effective way to get started with ADS-B.

The Pro Stick includes a 20 dB low noise amplifier built into the USB device which improves the sensitivity of the receiver and enables you to capture more aircraft. Users have reported in excess of 50% improvement relative to a conventional RTL-SDR stick. In fact, the Pro Stick can be used for SDR experimentation in other bands as well.

Depending on your operating environment – if there are very strong radio signals around, it may be useful to add a bandpass filter in front of this receiver to limit interference.

This filter will allow both 978 MHz and 1090 MHz signals to pass through.

Alternatively, you can buy the pro-stick with built-in filter and LNA. The only issue with this product is that it is designed only for the 1090 MHz ADS-B band. The built-in filter eliminates the ability to receive signals at 978 MHz.  

The Pro Stick can be used with a Raspberry Pi for a very cost-effective set up. This is an excellent way to get started with ADS-B and setting up your own rig. There is a massive community of users that experiment with various methods to improve range, setup, etc. so you can be sure that you will learn a lot in the process.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Dual band to support signal reception in both 1090 MHz and 978 MHz bands
  • Huge community of users and support forums
  • Great for experimentation

Cons:

  • This is not a shrink-wrapped solution that you can take onto an aircraft. For instance you will have to figure out how to mount it yourself and deal with antennas and other such practical aspects.

Summary

In this article we have presented the best products for ADS-B signal reception. There is increasing interest in monitoring aircraft for a number of different applications. There is also a large and growing community of users working with such products and continuously looking at methods of improving the range of their rig.

Our top 3 ADS-B receivers are:

  • Garmin GDL 50 – a professional grade ADS-B receiver
  • Garmin GDL 52 – a professional grade ADS-B receiver with bells and whistles such as Sirius XM radio
  • Stratux – an excellent, affordable ADS-B receiver
  • Flightaware Pro Stick – affordable ADS-B receiver with excellent community support

Please read our article on the best antennas for ADS-B that can complement your rig nicely.

Mailing List

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.