Mobile Link Brings XM WX to iPad

 - February 1, 2012, 6:00 AM
During a recent flight near Long Beach, the moving map shows the IFR en route chart and jet-A prices at area airports.

The long-awaited marriage of Apple’s iPad and XM WX satellite-delivered weather data is finally here, and the system, offered by Baron Services, the XM WX provider to aviation, works as advertised.

To view XM WX on your iPad, you’ll need an XM WX receiver as well as the new Baron Mobile Link transmitter. Some pilots already have an XM receiver, which works with other portable navigators such as Honeywell’s AV8OR series, and that will work with Mobile Link too. The Heads Up Technologies MD-075-01 receiver will also work. Otherwise, a complete package, not including the iPad and an app that can display the XM weather data, is available for $1,124. Mobile Link by itself costs $199.99.

The complete kit includes the WxWorx WR-10 receiver, XM antenna, GPS antenna, Mobile Link box, Wi-Fi antenna, power cable and mounting hardware.

Setting up the system is simple. The WR-10 receiver plugs into the Mobile Link box using a USB cable. The XM antenna must be attached to the WR-10 and placed somewhere where it can see the sky, such as on the aircraft’s glareshield. The power cable connects the receiver to a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter. For 24-volt systems, a converter is needed.

A subscription to XM WX is also required. Most of the weather data in the $54.99 Aviator package is available via Mobile Link, although it’s up to the individual iPad app developers to decide what data to display.

ForeFlight was first to come out with an app update to display XM WX, and I tested ForeFlight Mobile Version 4.3.2 (it needs 4.2 or later) during a local flight from Long Beach, Calif. Once the WR-10 receiver and Mobile Link transmitter were cabled together and plugged into power, it was a simple matter to select the Mobile Link from the Wi-Fi choices in the iPad’s settings menu. I placed the XM antenna on the airplane’s glareshield and the Mobile Link and XM receiver on the back seat. Mobile Link communicates with the iPad via Wi-Fi, which is handy because the units can be placed somewhere convenient so wires aren’t clogging the cockpit. However, the XM antenna still needs to be up front, so there is one wire there, and there is also the power supply wire to the XM receiver. I didn’t use the GPS antenna to the XM receiver because I use an XPS-150 external GPS for the iPad, which works via Bluetooth and eliminates one more wire in the cockpit.

ForeFlight offers a variety of menu options on the map page for displaying weather. It was easy to pull up Nexrad radar images for the entire U.S., current TFRs, Metars and Tafs at airports, airmets, sigmets, winds aloft and even fuel prices. I tried to see if two iPads could access the Mobile Link connection, but it works with only one device at a time.

Overall, it was handy to be able to pull up XM WX on the iPad, while using ForeFlight. The iPad is a useful cockpit chart display device, document viewer and supplemental moving-map navigator. Many pilots carry a dedicated GPS navigator such as Garmin’s 696 or aera 796, which come with a built-in XM receiver, but these also include external GPS and XM antennas, so there are wires involved.

The GlobalNavSource iPad app can also display XM WX. Other iPad app developers are busy prepping their products for XM WX, including popular apps such as WingX Pro, Pilot My-Cast (by Garmin-owned Digital Cyclone), Airguide’s Flight Guide iEFB and more. Android app developers are also working on offering XM WX using Mobile Link.

This evaluation was done in a single-engine Cessna; results may vary in aircraft with heated windshields.