AVSIM Commercial Hardware Review

AirNav RadarBox Pro

Product Information

Publishers: AirNav Systems

Description: Real time virtual radar .

Download Size:
NA

Format:
Hardware
Simulation Type:
NA
Reviewed by: Marlon Carter AVSIM Staff Reviewer - September 26, 2010

Introduction  

So just what exactly is RadarBox Pro? Well here is a description provided by the developers “AirNav RadarBox is the world's best selling and most advanced Real Time Virtual Radar. Designed by Professional Pilots and the first and only ADS-B receiver with a presence in space."

AirNav RadarBox is the closest you can be to real world aviation without leaving your chair thanks to next generation Radar decoding. By decoding ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast) radar signals, you will be able to see on your computer what real Air Traffic Controllers see on their screens in Real-Time.

Flight number, aircraft type, altitude, heading, speed are all updated each second. Included is the award winning software interface developed by the world's leader in flight tracking and monitoring solutions, AirNav Systems. Though this review is based on the RadarBox Pro, it is important to note that it is also available in a 3D version which was used in the development of the Boeing 787 and can be downloaded as a free trial version if you wish to try before you buy.

The package comes with  

  • RadarBox Hardware Unit
  • USB Cable
  • Antenna
  • Quick Installation Guide
  • Setup CD with Software

What are some of its main features?
- Real-Time Radar ADS-B decoder hardware included
- No need for an external power supply
- Plug-and-play USB connection
- Light weight easy to carry aluminum box
- Track local and network flights in real-time
- Flight ID, registration, altitude, speed,
- heading and vertical speed
- Accurate Aircraft information from the Gatwick Aviation Society
- Navigational Aid information powered by Navigraph
- Based on the award winning 3D multi-window map interface
- Easy plug & play USB connection, no complex time consuming setup
- ACARS Decoder interface
- Generate and share reports automatically
- Share screen shots with your friends
- MyLog: log all and share with your friends all the aircraft you receive
- Alert generation for specific aircraft or in-range flights
- Radar player to review airspace recordings
- Editable 400 thousand callsign database included
- Automatic detection of user location

How does it work?

Well from the moment the package arrived I was amazed at how small and simple the Box and antenna were. I thought, “Is this thing really going to work?” After connecting the antenna to the RadarBox and the Box to my computer via a USB connection, all that was left was to run the installation CD. The installation process is fairly straight forward and it’s good to know that the product is well protected by an activation code which is provided on the CD cover. 

After all was said and done I started up the program and the RadarBox came alive with all its flashing lights. Since I live in the Caribbean, I had to set my “home” to Grenada in the hopes of seeing aircraft that would be passing through the Piarco Airspace. After not being able to see any aircraft after about 10-20 mins of tinkering with the settings I realized that the problem was the positioning of my antenna.

The antenna positioning is very crucial to the effectiveness of the product since it uses line of sight to track aircraft. I strongly suggest putting the antenna at a high point at a window or porch area. This way the signal will not be obstructed by objects such as walls or other houses. As a side note, the receiver is one of the most sensitive available on the ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast) market being designed by top RF engineers.

After repositioning my antenna, the RadarBox started to pickup aircraft that were in my area such as Iberia flights on their way to South America, plus FedEx, American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines and a host of other airlines that commonly fly over and within the Caribbean region. All of this information is presented to you in a clear, easy to view map display that can be filtered and altered to your needs and preferences.

Two of the features I enjoyed with this program is the networking capabilities which is described as revolutionary since it is one of the first worldwide flight radar flight data. This feature allows you to access data from other Radarbox users around the world. While testing this feature I was able to see real time flight data from regions such as the US, UK and Australia to name a few. This certainly makes things a lot more interesting since you are not tied to your home location in terms of what aircraft you are able to see.

What happens when you have to step away from your computer for a while? Well RadarBox also has a feature which allows you to record the data being picked up by your antenna and network. The only downside to the networking function however is that the networking feature is free only for the first 12 months and thereafter you are required to pay 5 Euros per month if you wish to continue using this feature.

Another feature of the product that I enjoyed was the alert function that alerts you whenever aircraft come within your radar range. Here is a list of how comprehensive and flexible the alert system can be.

Alert by Mode S Hex code
Alert by Squawk code
Alert by aircraft type
Alert by aircraft registration
Alert on aircraft within range of a specified geographical point
Alerts can be set for just live aircraft or for live and Network aircraft

Wildcards can be used to detect groups of aircraft, for example A38* or BAW*
All types of alerts can be set at the same time, for example type B77* and company SIA* and squawk 7700
Alerts can be set to give a visual, audio or email notification and can be set to run an .exe file

RadarBox is also able to show real-time weather information in the form of TARs and METARs. This can be extremely useful if you are a real world pilot or simply curious of the weather conditions at particular airports that you plan on travelling to. The best part is that RadarBox does not need an Internet connection to detect live flights using the antenna (Network data, auto-populate and weather information are not available when operating without an Internet connection)

Finally, the ACARS function. What does it do? Well what it does is provide an interface for the separate ACARS software (AirNav ACARS Decoder). The interface allows you too see which aircraft on RadarBox are also being picked up in ACASR Decoder as well a providing a ACARS feed in the RadarBox software. For more information on the ACARS Decoder have a look here http://www.airnavsystems.com/ACARS/

To review every feature and use of this product would be almost impossible. This has many features and options that anyone can use to suit their needs as an aviation enthusiast. If anyone is worried about the small antenna and you may want even more coverage, it is comforting to know that the antenna can be upgraded to a much bigger one by 3rd party providers and NOT from AirNav systems. For more information on AirNav RadarBox

I encourage all to visit their website and forum

Here are some screenshots of RadarBox in action

Antenna setup on my porch facing the Caribbean sea
Iberia 6674 over the Caribbean Sea
View of the UK using the networking function
View of the USA in network mode (Green marks shows areas with aircraft)
View of Brazil airspace with live traffic
Options to move quickly between major cities worldwide
Setting up Alerts for specific aircrafts and flights
Screenshot from the airnavsystems website showing all seconds. Real time network locations worldwide
Establishing my own radio range which takes about 30 seconds
After 30 seconds this shows just how powerful the antenna that comes with RadarBox really is. My range reaches far into the Caribbean sea.

Summary / Closing Remarks

This is my first time using any product of this nature and I have to say that as a pilot and an all around aviation enthusiast, RadarBox is by far one of the best products I have come across since my first introduction to flight simulation many years ago.

RadarBox is not only a useful tool to pilots but also to those of you who are interesting in air traffic control and even if you are neither of the two, I can guarantee that if you love aviation you will enjoy having this product. This is the closest you can get to real world aviation without leaving your living room. It allows you to monitor the movement of aircraft not only at your home location but also worldwide! At what price? Well to have such an innovative product one cannot expect it to be cheap.

AirNav RadarBox - Antenna system (BP-1090-B10) incl. 10m cable will cost you 566.55 USD while the 20m cable options will cost you 665.42 USD. This price does not include the price of real time or delayed networking access. All in all this is a package that is very worthy of your consideration. It is pricey but for a hardcore aviation enthusiast it may be the perfect price for the perfect addition to their addiction.

 

What I Like About Radar Box

  • Innovative and easy to use
  • Very useful to pilots, ATC’s and to any aviation enthusiast
  • With the right positioning, the antenna is able to pick up aircraft within a very far range from all directions.
  • Very well written manual is made available
  • Support forums are also available with a wealth of information
  • The RadarBox and antenna are very small and light weight.

 

What I Don't Like About Radar Box

  • The only thing I did not like is the fact that network access after your first year of owning the product is going to cost you between 7 and 15 Euros monthly or semi annual for delayed or real time networking.
  • Also it would have been a plus if as a default option; you were able to actually listen to ATC transmissions.

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the product producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment as experienced by the reviewer. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any presumed connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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