Google producing low-cost ADSB transponders for drones

(representative DIY version shown, not Google's)

"Google’s quest to introduce small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into low altitude airspace within a “few years” has driven the company to launch an unexpected foray into the avionics market, says Dave Vos, head of the Internet company’s Project Wing.
Two companies – L-3 Aviation Products and FreeFlight – have recently unveiled automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transceivers for general aviation priced under $2,000, hoping to entice aircraft owners to install the mandated precision-locating equipment.

Google’s unmanned aviation venture now plans to beat that price and produce thousands of ultra-low-cost ADS-B Out transceivers for the manned and unmanned aviation market, Vos said 23 March at the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Summit hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“We think that – and we are going to do this – we will head-down the trajectory of putting into the marketplace really, really low-cost ADS-B solutions,” Vos told the ICAO audience.

Asked in an interview later if that meant beating the $2,000 threshold, Vos indicated that was possible.

“We have to answer the question: What does the market find palatable in order to really transform? And that’s where we’re going,” Vos says. “Think about it: Would you spend $2,000? We have to make it happen.”

Driving Google’s strategy is a fundamental obstacle to its plan of launching a UAS-based drone delivery service in a few years. Google’s unmanned vehicles need to operate in airspace below 500ft that is currently used by tens of thousands of general aviation aircraft. Some of those aircraft owners have been reluctant to spend money to equip their aircraft with an ADS-B Out system.

Google is also looking deeper at software algorithms for traffic collision avoidance systems, says Vos, a former executive at Rockwell Collins. If Google’s vision is realised, the skies above urban centers could be filled without thousands of ADS-B-equipped UAVs. That could overwhelm current pilot displays showing potential collision threats.

“We think there are some good solutions to make it not so cumbersome,” Vos says.

Those efforts are part of Google’s effort to be “respectful” to manned aircraft using the airspace today, he says. As an internet company, Google is used to fixing software bugs after rolling out new products for customers. That culture had to be changed after Vos arrived at Project Wing, he says.

“Really bad things happen if there is a bug and we didn’t figure it out,” Vos says. “We don’t just get to stop and check under the hood when we’re flying things. I’m super, super-excited to say the team at Project Wing has pretty much done a 180 in only about 3-4 months and really has embraced the [aviation] culture.”

From Flight Global:

Views: 22923

Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 25, 2015 at 1:57am

I know from a contact at the CAA in the UK that they are testing sub $500 units for approval....

Comment by Joshua on March 25, 2015 at 4:44am

I'm imagining the day when even the future versions of Phantoms and AR Drones have network connectivity and ADS-B transponders, allowing sense and avoid just through real-time broadcasted flight / location data.

Comment by mP1 on March 25, 2015 at 5:21am

@Gary, does they mean Google or somebody else ?

Comment by JB on March 25, 2015 at 6:04am

Um possible and available now for $300 including ADS-B, RTK, passive radar, full duplex comms with telemetry and HD video link, and 4G picocell repeater for self deployed mesh networking. There's a full digital solution (no analog circuitry) in the tubes that will bring it down to around $50. I hope that's what Google is working on. :-)

BTW the RTL2832 on the picture will only receive RF like ADS-B, DVB, FM etc...but can also be used to listen, or spectrum analyse HopeRF based radios etc for $20. Sadly there's no such low cost TX yet though. :-(

What we need is a DIYDrones for UAV comms to get it mainstream. Anyone interested?

Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 25, 2015 at 9:35am

@mP1 somebody else, UK based. @JB RPAS C2 links will fast become a big issue if its not approved it won't get through.

Comment by Martin on March 25, 2015 at 9:44am

I have that $20 unit and it works darn good. Only large aircraft use the system. What we need is for small planes and heli's to use it and show us where they are.

Comment by JB on March 25, 2015 at 9:48am

Sorry Gary I don't quite understand what you mean. Can you rephrase that pls? Thx.

Comment by Peter Seddon on March 25, 2015 at 10:06am
Comment by George Kelly on March 25, 2015 at 10:20am

From Canada:

"As ADS-B does not have the ability to detect non-cooperative aircraft, it is not an approved strategy, in and of itself, for mitigating the UAV sense-and-avoid requirements." (Transport Canada regs)

Not that it won't be a step in the right direction.


Comment by JB on March 25, 2015 at 10:44am

Hey Peter

I tried googoolee, even google translate, but I still couldn't figure out what Gary wrote about RPSA C2 has to do with what I said. Command and control protocols and systems are only a portion of what I was suggesting could be done. How about drones not just being able to safely operate, what about they increase the safety of people carrying aircraft, as well as provide the communication and intelligence through a self healing and deployable drone sensor networks? 


I'd say its more important "people planes" know where your UAV is. One could also say knowing where people planes are is a potential security risk that allows them to be targeted, plus what happens if you know that you're on a crash course but can't do anything about it because you have lost control or are too busy making pictures? It needs to be two way. BTW I like my Android RTL SDR too! Crazy what $20 of gear can do nowadays. The tech is there we just need the will to make it.


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