If you are already using an LTE model iPad with a built-in GPS receiver and can get almost any data you need to make a flight, you might not feel like having an external GPS is necessary or important. However, in-built GPS systems may not be ideal in the air in certain situations, as they may fail or drop offline occasionally. Portable Aviation GPS devices are ultimately more reliable.
That said, with all of the options out there on the market right now, how do you know what to look for?
Certain features are paramount, as is a device’s compatibility with other mobile devices and platforms (i.e. while most GPS systems are compatible with iOS devices, some are compatible with Android, etc.).
You’ll also want to be concerned with the way your GPS connects to other devices – do you want a plug-in or a wireless connection?
And, affordability is a factor as well. This will be dependent on your personal budget and preferred style of flying.
We’ve taken these factors into consideration and present you with a list of the market’s 8 Best Portable Aviation GPS Units:
Garmin Aera660 Touchscreen Aviation GPS Portable
At only 8.6 ounces, and 5.5 x 0.8 x 3.4 inches, this device is light and compact and can easily fit into a flight bag. Navigation is made simple with its sunlight-readable 5” diagonal capacity touchscreen display. Nice design aside, the technology this device sports is admirable. It has a built-in GPS/GLONASS receiver and can acquire satellite constellation easily. It also shows terrain, obstacles, airport environment, optional traffic, and information about nearest airports all in 3D. Cockpit connectivity can be achieved through Connext streams ADS-B weather and advanced traffic from compatible devices. The Garmin Aera660 comes with a single Lithium-ion battery, a yoke mount with power cable, AC adapter, USB cable, and Quick Start manual.
Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Receiver Aviation Weather and Traffic
This device is well-built at a measurement of 5.3 x 1.1 x 2.5 inches. It offers highly accurate Wide Area Augmented (WAAS) GPS in addition to free ADS-B weather and air-to-air traffic. An embedded Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) chip supports ForeFlight Synthetic Vision and other EFBs, including FlightQ EFB, Navigator, Avare EFB, Avplan EFB, AvNav, AerovieReports, iFly GPS, DroidEFB, FltPlan Go, OzRunways EFB, and WingX. The Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADBS-B) provides reliable weather and traffic information to aircraft that has an ADS-B receiver, subscription-free, making it affordable. With the latest Stratux software already loaded on MicroSD, this device is compatible with an array of other devices, such as iPads, iPhones, and Android tablets. It comes with a suction mount, fan controller, SD card adapter, strap, and EasyAcc 6000mAh battery pack.
Black Elf 2200 GPS Pro
This highly compact device can connect with up to 5 iOS devices at the same time, via Bluetooth technology, meaning it can share important information in real-time. It’s equipped with a large LCD screen with backlight that allows the pilot to view critical information about power, location, connectivity, and trip data storage. This device offers up to 100 hours of position storage, and with the Bad Elf Utility App, data can be transferred to handheld devices and tagged. The battery life of the Black Elf 2200 GPS Pro is long and has fast lock times. It comes with a 3ft Mini-USB cable for charging, a 12-24VDC vehicle USB charger, a detachable neck lanyard, and a User’s manual.
Garmin GPSMAP 496 Aviation GPS Receiver
One of the most sophisticated of all navigation GPS units, the Garmin GPSMAP 496 Aviation GPS Receiver has a multi-function display, advanced mapping capabilities, and XM satellite weather information and terrain warning. It comes with a Built-In AOPA Airport Directory, offering a listing of over 7400 US airports, and information on ground transportation, local attractions, and more. Complete locational awareness is easily achieved with its enhanced terrain and aviation databases, which include private airports. All of North America is attainable with preloaded street mapping. And the Smart Airspace feature will streamline your focus by highlighting only the necessary information about your current airspace while deemphasizing ones that are farther out. Pop-up alerts and voice warnings come with the top-notch warning system, ensuring that weather and positional information are able to be conveyed perfectly.
Garmin Glo for Aviation
This portable, affordable unit connects via Bluetooth with other devices, such as iPads, iPhones, and Android, to deliver vast, accurate GPS information. At a measurement of 5.6 x 5.5 x 2.6 inches, and a weight of 12 ounces, it is a well-built, compact device. Its impressive battery can last up to 12 hours of use, and can be charged with its 12/24 volt cigarette lighter adapter. What’s most impressive about this product is that it combines WAAS GPS and GLONASS receivers, making it possible to connect to more than 20 satellite constellation devices that depend only on GPS. This means faster lock time; ideal for even the fastest jets. Updated information can be disseminated and received up to 10 times in any given second.
Furuno GP170 IMO GPS Navigator
This device is often used on ships and commercial vessels on the sea. It is a respected position sensor for Radar, AIS, ECDIS, Autopilot, Echo Sounder, and others. Its antenna enables precise positional information to be delivered. The Furuno GP170 has some advanced features, such as an anti-jamming function and high level of tolerance towards multi-path mitigation. What this means is that it offers optimum noise rejection capacity. This unit also has a number of display options including Plotter, Course, Highway, Data, and Integrity. Other notable features include simplified menu operation, LAN interface for easy network integration into bridge system, Bridge Alert Management, and enhanced route planning and management functions. In essence, the Furuno GP170 is a super Navigator.
Garmin GDL 51 Portable SiriusXM Receiver
This unit measures 8 x 6 x 5 inches, weighs 1.4 lbs, and comes with a single rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. The portable receiver not only provides GPS position data but also serves as a digital audio entertainment system. So, in addition to users being able to access high-res, detailed NEXRAD imagery and METERs weather information, they’ll also be able to tune into over 150 channels of content, from sports to news, to music, and more. This device also makes connecting easy, as it is compatible with a variety of other Garmin devices, such as Aera 660, Aera 796, and Aera 795. Through Garmin’s Connext, you can wirelessly connect the GDL 51 to stream any variety of content from the SiriusXM service, and you can also stream on your iPad and any other mobile device that supports the Garmin Pilot app. All of these factors make this one of the most versatile aviation GPS devices on the market.
Flymaster NAV SD
The Flymaster NAV SD is less for those who are interested in live tracking, and more for those who want a full-feature variometer. This component includes a 3D airspace warning system which even displays restricted areas, thereby helping users to navigate difficult airspace zones and help pilots to reduce the chances of getting caught in airspace. It offers up to 10 readings per second. Another nice feature of this unit is the flexibility it offers through its Designer tool. Users can customize their own configurations so that they’re only receiving information that they want, or need. Finally, the unit has all of the hardware features of a LIVE SD except for the GPRS Module.
There is an entire set of options to wade through when it comes to the Aviation GPS market. It is our hope that this list, having taken performance, design, and other desirable features into account, will help narrow down the field so that you can navigate your way to the device that will work best for your individual piloting needs.