We have seen lots of innovations in Aviation, but nothing eliminates the need for GPS. With the invention of smartphones and tablets, pilots quickly realized that there are several possibilities with these devices. The built-in GPS receiver in these gadgets enables pilots to get almost every data they need to make a flight.
The truth, however, is that though the in-built GPS works perfectly fine in most situations, it may not be ideal in the air and in certain situations. There is need for every pilot to have a dedicated aviation GPS for so many reasons. One of the key reasons is that they are mostly reliable and will not fail or drop offline occasionally like the in-built ones in smartphones or tablets.
If you want to invest in a good and reliable GPS for aviation, here’s our selection of the 8 best portable aviation gps units you should definitely consider.
Top 8 Best Aviation GPS Units
1. Garmin aera660 Portable Aviation GPS
This is a beautifully designed aviation GPS that gives pilots the best of Garmin technology. The device is quite compact and light. It measures 5.5 X 0.8 X 3.4 inches and weighs 8.6 ounces. It can easily fit into your flight bag and is very convenient to use. It has a sunlight-readable 5-inch diagonal capacity touchscreen display that helps to make navigation as simple as it can be. The display is just too easy and nice, thanks to the intuitive, simple touchscreen operation and single power button.
Besides the amazing design, this wonderful piece of technology boasts of several capabilities that will make the experience easier for the pilot. It has a built-in GPS/GLONASS receiver and can acquire satellite constellation easily. It also combines advanced navigation tools for the complete experience. It ultimately shows terrain, obstacles, airport environment, optional traffic, and information about nearest airports all in 3D.
The Garmin Aera660 also offers a number of connectivity options. Cockpit connectivity can be achieved through Connext streams ADS-B weather and advanced traffic from compatible devices. The device comes with a single Lithium ion batteries. In addition to that, there are also yoke mount with power cable, AC adopter, USB cable, Quick start manual and some other important documentation.
2. Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Aviation Receiver
This is a unique offering that can conveniently turn your tablet to the perfect flight tool. It offers Wide Area Augmented (WAAS) GPS in addition to free ADS-B weather and air-to-air traffic. WAAS GPS is highly accurate with an embedded Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) chip that 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.
In terms of design, the Stratux Dual Band receiver is properly built. It also includes a suction mount that makes window mounting possible. It measures 5.3 X 1.1 X 2.5 inches.
The Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADBS-B) has been around for sometime, providing reliable weather and traffic information to aircraft that has ADS-B receiver like this device subscription-free. This makes the device an affordable and portable receiver that provides so many key information that helps the pilot to navigate smoothly.
With the latest Stratux software (v1.4r5) already loaded on MicroSD, this handy device is compatible with multiple devices including iPads, iPhones, and Android tablets. Connection can be achieved through Wi-Fi.
In addition to the EFB and the suction mount, the device also comes with fan controller, SD card adapter, strap, and EasyAcc 6000mAh battery pack.
3. Black Elf 2200 GPS Pro
This is a highly compact device that can serve as an efficient navigation tool that can connect with up to 5 iOS device at the same time via Bluetooth technology. It is equipped with large LCD screen with backlight that enables the pilot view important and critical information about location, power, connectivity, and trip data storage.
With the Black Elf GPS Pro, it is possible to feed 5 different devices including iPad touch, iPhone, iPad mini, and iPod touch 5th generation with GPS data. The device operates independently from the iOS devices, connected only through Bluetooth for the purpose of sharing information while walking, running, cycling, boating, driving, or flying.
The best thing about this device is the ability to share important information in real time. The multi-connectivity means that different people will have such information available at their palms. The device can share updates up to 10 times in a second.
The GPS Pro offers up to 100 hours of position storage. With the Bad Elf Utility App, datalog can be transferred to handheld devices and tagged accordingly. There is no point trying to guess GPS status, it accurately gives you reliable info in the LCD. It also has long battery life and fast lock times in normal operations. In the pack, you will get the device and 3ft Mini-USB cable for charging, 12-24VDC vehicle USB charger, Detachable Neck Lanyard, and User’s manual.
4. Garmin GPSMAP 496 Aviation GPS
Garmin is a reliable name in Aviation GPS and this is one of those devices that have found their ways into various airports. It is definitely one of the most sophisticated of all Navigation GPS and will make a great tool in any flight bag. With its multi-function display and a couple of other advanced features including advanced mapping capabilities and XM satellite weather information and terrain warning, the device is a winner in terms of functionality and safety.
One of the most important features of the Garmin 496 is the Built-in AOPA Airport Directory that offers listing of more than 7,400 US airports and a lot of other information about ground transportation, local attraction, and more. It also has an enhanced terrain and aviation databases that includes private airports to give users complete locational awareness. The preloaded street mapping for all of North America is another important feature that anyone going to that region will enjoy. Smart Airspace is another feature Pilots in certain situations will enjoy: it automatically highlight the necessary information about current airspace while deemphasizing ones that are far.
Weather information is equally conveyed perfectly with the positional information in this device. Pop-up alert and voice warning are a part of the warning system that ensures that experience with this device in terms of navigation is top-notch.
5. Garmin Glo 2 GPS Receiver
This is a portable and affordable device that combines well with other devices to like iPads, iPhones, and Android devices to deliver vast and accurate GPS information. It can be connected to these devices via Bluetooth.
In terms of design, this is a well-built compact product. It measures 3 X 1.3 X 0.4 inches and weighs about 1.4 ounces. It also has an impressive battery that will stay alive for 13 hours while being used. Charging the device is also very simple and is done with the 12/24 volt cigarette lighter adapter.
One of the most significant things about the Garmin Glo 2 is the fact that it combines WAAS GPS and GLONASS receivers. It is possible to connect to more than 24 more satellite constellation that devices that depend only on GPS. This makes for faster lock time that will be ideal for even the fastest jets. Updated information can be received up to 10 times in any given second which is 10 times more often than the GPS receivers in many mobile devices. As has been mentioned earlier, connectivity is achieved through Bluetooth technology and you can view the important information received by the device in your favorite mobile device with ease.
6. Furuno GP170 GPS Navigator
This is one of the super Navigators on the list. It is a reliable GPS device that is often used in the sea most often. It is probably the best GPS device you will see in ships, large yatchs, and commercial vessels. It is equally a respected position sensor for Radar, AIS, ECDIS, Autopilot, Echo Sounder and others. Thanks to its antenna, there is precision in its delivery of positional information.
As a multi-functional Navigator, the Furuno GP170 has several advanced features that makes it one of the very best GPS Navigators. There is an anti-jamming function and high level of tolerance towards multi-path mitigation. This makes sure that the noise rejection capacity of the device is optimum.
The Furuno GP170 IMO also has a number of display options including Plotter, Course, Highway, Data, and Integrity. Other notable features include enhanced route planning and management function, simplified menu operation, LAN interface for easy network integration into bridge system, and Bridge Alert Management. It is a highly optimized device for navigation.
7. Garmin GDL 51 Portable GPS Receiver
This is one of the most versatile aviation devices you can get. In addition to providing GPS position data, this portable receiver also serves as a digital audio entertainment for pilots. It is a well-built device, measuring 8 X 6 X 5 inches and weighs 1.4 pounds. It also has a single rechargeable Lithium ion battery that it works with.
With the GDL 51, users can access detailed and high-resolution NEXRAD imagery and METERs weather information. They will also have access to a variety of entertainment, sports, and news contents through top quality channels numbering over 150.
Another great thing about this device is its compatibility with different devices and the ease of connectivity. You can wirelessly connect the GDL 51 through Garmin’s Connext and streams your favourite contents from the SiriusXM services on such compatible devices as aera 660, aera796, and aera 795 (all Garmin Aviation Portables). You can equally stream on your iPad and other mobile devices that supports the Garmin Pilot app.
8. Flymaster NAV SD
This is one of the simplest navigation systems in the list. The NAV SD is a well-built navigation tool that can easily become a pilot’s favourite tool. It can comfortably fit into a flight bag. It is also very convenient to use. It is for those that are not too interested in live tracking but wants a full feature variometer. You can easily notice that the device has all the hardware features of a LIVE SD except for the GPRS Module.
With this variometer, pilots can reduce the chances of getting caught in airspace. It features a 3D airspace warning system that can provide the right amount of information that can help any users to navigate difficult airspace zones as it can display even restricted areas in map. It offers up to 10 readings per second and 10 cm resolution.
Another great feature of this item is the degree of flexibility it offers. It is possible for users to configure what they get based on what they need. Your flight screen will have just the data you need when you understand how to make adequate use of the Flymaster’s unique Designer. There is a great chance that the pilot can get exactly what will suit his/her unique style of flying.
While looking for the best Aviation GPS units, there are certain features you need to look out for. We considered them all in our selection of our best devices. Here are some of the factors you need to look out for before buying one.
Compatibility with other devices
It is very likely that you will like to use your GPS device with some of your favorite mobile devices and the compatibility of your GPS will be the key factor here. While most GPS are compatible with iOS devices, some are compatible with other mobile devices on the Android platform. Consider the devices you prefer to fly with and make sure the GPS you will buy will be compatible with it.
The way you connect your GPS to other devices also matters a lot. There are some devices that are connected by plug in while others can be connected wirelessly. Based on your individual need, select the device that suit you. There are equally some devices that can be connected to more than one device at a time (wireless devices mostly).
While there are some deluxe GPS that you may love for some advanced features and aesthetic appeal, there are others that are simply designed and cost much cheaper. Your budget and style of flying will determine whether you will love a deluxe option or will stick to the basic ones that are as useful as the expensive options.
Flying has never been an easy endeavour but with an Aviation GPS, the experience can be made quite easier. There are lots of Aviation GPS in the market but the products considered above are definitely some of the very best ones in the market in terms of performance and other desirable features. Having at least one of them in your flight bag will be an excellent way to enjoy your career as a pilot.