ATD-200 gives pilots another pair of eyes
By Jordanna Smida, Associate Editor
As more near and midair collisions find a slot on the nightly news, Monroy Aerospace has developed a new air traffic detection device to aide pilots flying in VFR conditions.
Monroy Aerospace, based in Coral Springs, FL, began its business in 1996 conducting the long range upgrade for the various Mooney airplanes.
Jose Monroy, president of Monroy Aerospace and a pilot of 25 years, recognized a need in the general aviation industry for a low-cost traffic alert device after experiencing a few close encounters with aircraft.
Monroy set out to develop the ATD-200, a traffic alert device targeting piston-engine aircraft. The ATD-200 is portable and detects all transponder-type replies from nearby aircraft. The proximity of the aircraft are indicated on a bright LED display and, simultaneously, a voice provides voice alerts in relation to traffic proximity. A Mode-S indicator also indicates if the traffic may be TCAS equipped. The device can be plugged into a cigarette lighter and the headphone jack.
If one light illluminates, there’s an aircraft within four miles of the pilot’s aircraft. If all five are lit, it’s within a half mile.
The catalyst for this project, according to Monroy, was the fact that many of the piston-engine segment of general aviation fly in VFR conditions with no IFR flight plan.
Monroy says he has found in reviewing midair accident reports that many of the collisions have been in VFR conditions where visibility was good. "When you look at the way airplanes were approaching each other, the pilots could have seen each other if they had looked out the window and avoided collision. We needed something to alarm pilots."
"In that mode of operation you don’t receive the ATC traffic advisory. You need to have something that will provide the pilot with an alert of the traffic that is around you," he says.
The ATD-200 is also compatible with existing transponder technology in aircraft, including Mode-S, Mode-A and Mode-C type transponders, which, according to Monroy, "is what you want to give you the most protection for the most aircraft that are in the area."
The ATD-200 usually won’t detect transponders in an area with no ground radar stations. However, in areas with no ground stations, the device can still detect transponder-emitting aircraft Monroy says, "We have found that even though you might be in an area with no ground radar stations, the transponders can be interrogated by airborne TCAS-equipped airplanes, and in that case it will reply to those airplanes."
Dollars and Sense
Greg Brown, private pilot, instructor, and this year’s FAA/Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year, began investigating collision avoidance technology after an incident at his base airport. He found the least expensive equipment that can be installed in an aircraft would cost around $5,000. He discovered Monroy’s ATD-200 for $789. "While that’s not inexpensive, once you’re nervous about collision it’s affordable," he says. "The most amazing thing about this product is that no one knows about it... Once you get a scare, then anything in your budget seems reasonable."
Husband and wife private pilots Larry and Susan Collins also opted to purchase the ATD-200 after a close encounter with another aircraft. "How much is your life worth?" Larry asks. "It had a 30-day money-back guarantee and the next price was $6 to $7 thousand," he says.
Brown, who notes that the ATD-200 is another set of eyes for pilots, says there is also a learning curve with the device. "It’s very frustrating because you often don’t see aircraft to begin with, but it does get you looking out the window."
Jim Hackman, a pilot and the southwest representative for Cessna Pilot Centers, elected to purchase the ATD-200 and also found there to be a learning curve in using it.
"You need to know what it’s telling you... You see a lot of airline traffic high above you that does not trip the device," he says.
Though it takes some getting used to, the device has been a good investment, say the Collins. "There have been times where we have seen airplanes that I know we wouldn’t have seen. If it goes off, there’s an airplane within 4 miles. If its’ an airliner it might go off sooner because they have stronger transponders," he explains.
"It wakes you up and reminds you to look out the window. Anyone who is flying and has an airplane within four miles needs to know that." Larry says.
Susan adds, " If you are in an area of high traffic you have the option of muting the audio and, by the lights, you can tell quickly what’s out in the distance without having the audio."
She also indicates that the ATD-200 could be a useful tool for flight instructors. "It’s portable," she says, "and their attention is diverted to what the student is doing."
The ATD-200 can also be used in helicopter operations in VFR conditions, such as news crews or police, Monroy says.
NEW ADDITIONS TO COME
Monroy Aerospace has plans in the works for other products similar to the ATD-200 which would include a bearing capability. Monroy says the challenge will be to make it portable.
For information on the ATD-200, contact Monroy Aerospace at www.monroyaero.com or call (954) 294-9006.
Frequency: 1086-1094 Mhz
Signal format: Mode A,C,S
MTL: -60 dBm
20% with ext ant. @+53
dBM traffic power
MRR: 250 r/s
-15 dBM to +20 dBM
Maximum Signal Input:
Antenna Impedance: 50 Ohms
Audio Output Power:
2 Watts @ 8 Ohms
Speaker Output: 8 Ohms
Phone Output: 600 Ohms
Message Rep. Rate:
Every 10 sec.
+11 VDC to +30 VDC
Supply Current: 0.2 Amps
-20 C to + 55 C
-1000 ft to 25,000 ft
Unit Weight: 10 ounces
2.75" W x 0.75" H
x 5.0" D
Installation Depth: 6.5 inches