I always seem to be in the market for a good DIY project. I’ve been eyeballing the Stratux ADS-B receiver for some time, but finally pulled the trigger this past December.
After you’re done collecting the basic parts and putting everything together, you’ll have an ADS-B receiver capable of overlaying traffic and weather in your favorite electronic flight bag app. And you really can’t beat the price: $130.
Luckily, this is a DIY project with quite a bit of guidance available. The first step is to stop by http://www.stratux.me and grab the parts, all of which are available from Amazon.
For my build, I purchased the “Dual Band” parts, which appears to be the most common. You can choose the option of adding a GPS component to your unit, or choose from some other pre-built options, too. This is all your call, but this how-to focuses on using the basic parts for the dual band build in an effort to keep costs down.
After ordering the parts, just wait for your friendly UPS delivery truck and get some space cleared to put things together.
Assembly & First Test
Putting the Stratux together is straightforward if you’ve ordered the kit pieces I mentioned above. The Raspberry Pi is, of course, a complete unit and the memory card comes with the custom operating system pre-installed, so a lot of hardware and software steps are done for you. Just plug the micro-SD card into the slot.
The majority of the hardware assembly involves plugging in the USB components (for each antenna) and connecting the antennas. Be sure to follow the included instructions identifying where to physically plug in each USB component. Placement will matter later when using the case.
For my project, I assembled everything without the case first. This allowed me to boot up the Stratux and make sure everything worked before putting it into the tight case. Turning the Stratux on is as simple as plugging in the battery. Like magic, your little creation should come to life.
If everything is working properly, you’ll see a red light and a blinking green light on the Raspberry Pi. The green light indicates data activity.
The Stratux connects to your phone or tablet via a self-created wifi network named “stratux.” You should see this in your available networks on your device and be able to connect.
Finally, jump into your favorite aviation app (I used both ForeFlight and WingX) to see if ADS-B data is being utilized.
Tidying Up & Using the Case
Once everything is verified and functional, you can go about installing everything in the case. The case makes it easy to bring the Stratux along and makes the project look less “DIY.” It’s a tight fit, to be sure, but it all works if you follow the included instructions and exercise some patience.
Be sure to work carefully with all components. It shouldn’t be too fragile, but it takes some work to get everything to fit nicely in the case and you don’t want to damage anything in the process.
To attach the battery to the Stratux, I used some rubber bands to strap the battery to the case. This makes it easy to remove the battery for charging, etc.
Flying With Stratux
Once everything is assembled and tested at home, it’s time for the ultimate test. Time to go flying!
For the flight, I just brought the Stratux along on a normal mission for me. I wanted to see how it would blend into my normal procedures and how it worked sitting inside the airplane.
The verdict? No problem! The Stratux connected to my iPad as expected and was showing various traffic targets (mostly airliners this day). Upon returning to my home airport, a Cessna 172 was departing for the practice area. It was nothing normal radio procedures couldn’t handle, but look who showed up:
While it wasn’t a critical situation, it was still great to watch him on the screen and verify his location. Success!
Note: I’ve also tested my Stratux in WingX. It also worked fine. In fact, WingX explicitly supports Stratux and projects like it, while ForeFlight might be a little less open to the idea. I digress.
Next Steps / Getting Help
If you’re looking for a simple project that delivers high value, Stratux should be your next project for a rainy day. It’s affordable enough to tinker with and seems to work just fine, especially as a supplement to other equipment. I’ll be flying with mine regularly.