Good news. The test was a resounding success!
We did two flights. On the first, I went up in the paramotor while Tim watched on an aircraft’s traffic display in the hangar. During the entire flight I appeared like any other traffic. Selecting details showed the paramotor as a generic Ultralight, and “VFR” (Visual Flight Rules). Certified aircraft show up with their registration number and other details.
On the second flight Tim flew the paramotor while I flew “Bubba,” a Beechcraft Bonanza. It’s equipped with a typical ADS-B transponder that receives and transmits traffic signals. Paramotor Tim showed up on the display from engine start to shut down.
We had a protocol worked out to eliminate collision risk where I stayed east of an identifiable highway and above his altitude. Plus we were in radio communications the whole time.
Trigger Collision Warnings
The most important capability we were testing was whether the airplane would “see” the paramotor as traffic. It did. Had I put myself on a collision course with Tim it would have given me an audible warning and displayed his position.
There was concern that at some angles the signal may drop but it never did. Range was a question, too, so I flew away from the field several miles. The little ping2020i device appears to pack quite a punch because it never dropped out.
What About ATC?
Another test item was to see if the paramotor would show up on air traffic controller (ATC) displays. As best we can tell, it did not.
We weren’t talking to controllers but used FlightAware’s app as a stand-in. It gets traffic information from at least two sources, one being the FAA’s ATC receivers. So if the paramotor’s signal was making it one of their towers, it should show up on FlightAware. But we don’t know if FlightAware treats the Ultralight category differently. It’s present in the ADS-B specification, but not presently used.
FlightAware and FlightRadar also use a private network of citizens with ADS-B receivers, so even if we did show up there, it’s no guarantee we’re on ATC displays.
Most of the flight Time was around 500 feet so it’s likely he wasn’t high enough. The nearest ATC receiver is about 20 miles away at Lakeland Linder airport. To really know I need to fly it It high enough while talking with ATC but I don’t know if my portable aviation radio will reach that far. That may be the next test.