Best Aviation GPS for Pilots in 2021 – Handheld, Portable

With the rise of technology in the airspace, GPS systems have also been one of the most critical parts. There are many GPS devices available these days, and the pilots need to pick the best one while flying the aircraft.

Aviation GPS has already made things a lot easier for pilots to navigate the aircraft and attain the necessary GPS data. However, portable aviation GPS devices are the best ones to opt for, especially if they lack new GPS systems.

Aviation GPS has a lot of various features that in-built systems lack. Here are some of the best aviation GPS, be it handheld or portable. These are considered more beneficial than iPads because they won't attain accurate weather or traffic information.

Best Aviation GPS

1. Garmin aera660 Touchscreen Aviation GPS Portable

Garmin aera660 Touchscreen Aviation GPS Portable

In your search for the best portable aviation GPS, the Garmin aera660 touchscreen is the one you could go for. Weighing just 8.6 ounces and with dimensions 5.5 x 0.8 x 3.4 inches, this is a lightweight and compact unit. You can easily carry this unit in your flight bag due to its compact size.

The 5 inches diagonal capacity display is touchscreen and sunlight-readable. This makes it easy to read the navigation even when the pilot uses it in high sunlight exposure. The unit has an in-built GLONASS or GPS receiver and easily acquires satellite constellation.

With the Garmin aera660 portable aircraft GPS, you can check the airport environment, nearest airport information, obstacles, optional traffic, and terrains in 3D. You need to connect the unit with compatible devices, ensuring cockpit connectivity with Connext stream ADS-B weather.

The Garmin aera660 is equipped with a power cable, yoke mount, USB cable, lithium-ion battery, and manual for a quick start.


  • Interfaces with 3D GDL 39
  • Good battery life
  • Great screen
  • Sunlight-readable


  • Cannot download NOTAM
  • Flight plans cannot be filed
  • Very expensive option – more than tablets

2. Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Receiver Aviation Weather and Traffic

Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Receiver Aviation Weather and Traffic

The next on the list is the Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Receiver Aviation Weather and Traffic. With dimensions 5.3 x 1.1 x 2.5 inches, this is a fairly compact and handy unit. This device provides accurate WAAS GPS (Wide Area Augmented) along with air-to-air traffic and ADS-B weather.

Another feature in this unit is the embedded AHRS chip (Attitude and Heading Reference System) that supports different EFBs and ForeFlight Synthetic Vision. Some of the supported EFBs are Navigator, Avplan EFB, AerovieReports, DroidEFB, OzRunways EFB, WingX, FlightQ EFB, Avare EFB, AvNav, iFly GPS, and FltPlan Go.

Equipped with the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, the unit provides reliable traffic and weather information. This is only possible for aircraft that have ADS-B, and the unit does this without any subscription. Due to this, the unit is said to very affordable and full of necessary features.

The unit is compatible with iPhones, Android tablets, and iPads. It is also coupled with a fan controller, strap, suction mount, EasyAcc battery (6000 mAh), and SD card adapter.


  • Affordability
  • Excellent customer service
  • Well-documented and modular design
  • The dual-band that supports 978 MHz and 1090 MHz signal reception


  • Reliability issue

3. Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator

Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator

Another great Garmin aviation portable GPS is the Garmin inReach Explorer+. Though this is an aviation unit and is perfect for pilots, it can also be used by mountain dwellers and boaters. They are adventure units filled with suitable features that make your adventure a smooth one.

One such feature is the detection of altitude, area, and other information related to finding the right way. Equipped with worldwide Iridium satellite inclusion, this unit could provide two-way information from anywhere on this earth. This information is accurate and very necessary for pilots or any other adventurous person.

Another feature of this unit is the SOS furnishing that lets you send messages to centers for search and monitoring 24 x 7. If you have lost your way or are faced with an accident, you can ask for help with this device at any odd hours.


  • Iridium satellite feature helps people connect with their loved ones from anywhere
  • Barometric altimeter provides altitude information, longitude, and scope


  • Most of the preloaded maps in this unit are US-based and would not be helpful for people outside the US

4. Garmin inReach Mini GPS Satellite Communicator

Garmin inReach Mini GPS Satellite Communicator

The next product in the Garmin aviation GPS units is the Garmin inReach mini GPS satellite communicator. From the name of the product itself, you can clearly understand that the unit is very small and compact. Therefore, the first thing that people would notice is that it can easily fit into the pocket.

Despite being a mini Garmin product, there is no shortage of features like the other Garmin units. This is a very reliable unit in terms of message send, durability, and accuracy. Features such as tracking, email messaging, and group texting are present in the unit. Moreover, the unit provides accurate and detailed weather information.

The inReach mini is one of the best performing units of this brand. You can check all the information on the screen display and operate it without using a phone. There is a private and public web interface where other people can track your movements. This is helpful in situations where you need assistance with the route.


  • Small, light, and compact
  • Reliable message send
  • GPS track
  • Downloadable waypoints
  • Public and private web interface for tracking user movement


  • Expensive data plan
  • Confusing user interface
  • Lacks Wi-Fi and cellular messaging

5. Garmin GLO 2 Bluetooth GPS Receiver

Garmin GLO 2 Bluetooth GPS Receiver

Garmin GLO for aviation is another very amazing unit of the brand. The GLO2 is equipped with GLONASS and GPS receivers along with wireless Bluetooth technology. This provides you with accurate information on your Android, iPhone, and iPads. This unit lets you connect a maximum of four Bluetooth devices at one time.

GLO 2 can connect more satellites than single connectivity and has faster satellite locks due to the dual connectivity. Even with such major connectivity, the speed of the connection is not compromised. With Bluetooth technology, you can pair wirelessly with your mobile. Moreover, this connection is very reliable and connects fast.

The battery life of GLO 2 is also a feature that has to be appreciated. Even with so much information derivation and device connectivity, the device can function for almost 13 hours without fail. You can opt for a friction mount that will help keep the unit safely on your dashboard.


  • Compact and lightweight
  • Battery life is good and replaceable battery
  • Functionality is exceptional
  • Connectivity speed is very fast and reliable


  • The unit may be expensive for some users

6. Yaesu FTA750L Handheld VHF Transceiver / GPS

Yaesu FTA750L Handheld VHF Transceiver / GPS

The Yaesu FTA750L handheld VKH transceiver / GPS has many amazing features that make it a favorable GPS device. One of the first noticeable things is the 8.33 kHz at such an affordable price range. That being said, the price of the unit is budget-friendly and can be afforded by most people.

Another feature of the unit is the good quality audio that you may not find in most units in this price range. Though the audio is not high-end, it is clear. This means you can hear the instructions clearly and not hear wrong. Moreover, the unit is equipped with ILS mode, though there is no GPS-derived ground speed in this mode.

A great thing about this unit is that assembling it is not tough. There is an operating manual that is given with the package. However, using the unit is not a very hard thing. However, if this is the first time using it, you may need the manual's assistance. For people who are accustomed to aviation GPS devices, this will be a piece of cake.


  • 8.33 kHz can be achieved in a very budget-friendly manner
  • Good quality audio
  • ILS function


  • ILS mode does not have a ground speed that is GPS derived
  • The screen supports one function at one time

7. Garmin GDL 52 Portable SiriusXM/ADS-B Receiver

Garmin GDL 52 Portable SiriusXM/ADS-B Receiver

If you are looking for a sophisticated Garmin portable aviation GPS, then the Garmin GDL 52 is a great choice. This unit is very rich in features and is one of the most advanced units in current times. Though this is an expensive product, the extensive features justify the price to an extent.

One of the most favorable features of this unit is the Portable SiriusXM connectivity. This was not present in its earlier model, GDL 50. This is not what you can term as a compact unit with dimensions 7.52 x 5.67 x 4.45 inches and 1.45 pounds weight. However, it is also not very heavyweight, giving it mixed reviews from different users.

Equipped with digital audio entertainment and GPS position data, there are other features as well. Some of these features are accessing detailed and high-resolution NEXRAD imagery. You can also check METER weather information and more than 150 channels with different content.


  • Dual-band signal reception of 1090 and 978 MHZ
  • Quick data acquisition
  • Great customer support
  • Sleek and well-engineered design
  • Satellite radio


  • Highly expensive

8. Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro

Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro

Even though the device is listed last in this guide, it is nowhere less than the other products. This handheld aviation GPS can be used as a receiver and a data logger. Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro is compatible with iPod, iPad, and iPhone. The design of the unit is very user-friendly and simple.

You will find some amazing applications in the unit that help you share location with your close people, crew, or anyone with the same device. A big LCD screen is present that measures speed, altitude, GPS lock position, heading, and location. You can lock the coordinates of your destination when you start the journey.

Another amazing thing about the device is that it is waterproof. This makes it a perfect companion for people who love adventures. The display is backlit and lets you see the information even if there is low light in the cockpit. This is very helpful for pilots who are flying at night.


  • Waterproof
  • Backlit LCD for nighttime use
  • Data logger of high capacity
  • Accurate even in high altitude


  • Compatible with only iOS devices
  • Trip data cannot be downloaded into devices that are not iOS
  • Battery status may be incorrect sometimes

Things to Look For When Buying A Portable Aviation GPS

Before you buy the best portable aviation GPS, there are certain things that you need to look for. There are many different brands available in the market; however, not every aviation GPS will be the right fit for you. To find the right aviation GPS for a pilot, some particular features should be present.

Below mentioned are some factors without which a portable aviation GPS will be incomplete. These are not features but considerations that you need to look for in the portable aircraft GPS you are buying. Read on to find out which considerations need to be present.


Compatibility is a huge concern if you are going to use the GPS with other tools and systems. If the GPS and the system do not match, you cannot utilize the GPS for many things. Many GPS units in current times are highly compatible with your iOS device.

Aviation GPS for Pilots

If you are using an Android system, you may need to check since many are not Android compatible. In case you do not check the device compatibility before buying, you may end up with a useless unit. That is why double-checking the unit compatibility is very important.

Ease of Use

When you buy aviation GPS, you need to see that it is easy to use. Since this GPS would be used by pilots, having a complicated usage process will be very problematic. When a pilot is already in the cockpit, they will be handling a lot of different functions. That is why they would never go for any system that they would have a hard time handling.

The pilot should be very clear about the device they are handling. If there is any new process, then they should be aware of it before their flight. Moreover, having a convenient unit would not lead to any frustration for the pilot.


The functionality of each GPS unit would be different, even the ones mentioned in the guide. Since the functionality is different, you may find one unit suitable for you. You need to choose the functionality you are comfortable with to work easily with it.

Aviation GPS for Pilots

Functionality means a unit packed with different features such as weather receivers, traffic receivers, satellite communication, and others. Overall, the functionality depends on a budget of the unit and what your requirement is. You need to check the different features present in the unit and see if they fit your requirement.


The price of the aviation GPS is a very important part of your buying process. You need to see that you buy a unit that has advanced features have good functionality. However, the product does not always have to be a very expensive one. You can find budget-friendly options that have the necessary features.

You could also look for high-end options if you have the budget. No matter what the price is, you need to see that it fits the requirement. The aviation GPS features should be worth the price that you pay and according to your needs.


1. What Map Do Pilots Use?

Pilots use aeronautical charts that have the flight's information on them. These maps are mainly in the form of topography. Those charts also provide information like the route that the aircraft is supposed to fly over, the altitudes, and the places they can land.

The maps used by the pilots are generally called charts. These days, the charts are available as mobile applications on the iPad or tablet.

2. What Does GPS Stand For In Aviation?

The pilots use Global Positioning System to check their position on the map. Moreover, the GPS receiver on the aircraft helps in measuring the distance as well as the time. Along with that, the receiver will be able to calculate the latitude, longitude, and latitude.

Hence, Global Positioning System in aviation will provide proper satellite communication, which is essential for aviation.

3. Do Aircraft Use GPS?

Yes, as mentioned in the previous answers, GPS is an integral system used by pilots. The aircraft's use the system to attain important information with the satellites' help of signals.

With the help of this system, it provides accuracy in terms of the aircraft's location, current position, and speed of the same. Moreover, with the help of GPS, the aircraft's position on the earth is also determined. This is done with the use of triangulation.

The GPS captures the signals sent by the aircraft, and once the satellites receive them, it calculates the distance as well. This is done through three or four GPS satellites. The exact location of the aircraft can be figured out through this.

Portable aviation GPS is used these days by most aircraft, and it has a lot more features along with increased accuracy in terms of the information it provides.

4. How Accurate Are Aviation GPS?

GPS used in various fields varies in terms of its accuracy. However, the signal for aviation is very accurate. The least accurate information sent by the signal could only be a difference of about 140 vertical meters and 100 meters lateral.

Other than that, the GPS in aviation is accurate. They are mainly only to show the position of the aircraft on the charts. However, the same data is not shown or shared when it comes to controlling the air traffic.

The accuracy may also depend on the functioning system because the GPS is most accurate for the military. Hence, there may be some differences in the aircraft's GPS, but there are no cases of the system being inaccurate.

Some of the best portable aviation GPS also offers accuracy, which helps pilots know exactly where they are.

5. Is Aviation Becoming Too Reliant On GPS For Navigation?

With the introduction of GPS in aircraft, the flying experience has improved to a large extent. The routing options have been expanded along with the ability to make more airports. Pilots have also benefitted a lot because of this system, as many burdens are taken down. Portable aircraft GPS has helped navigate the route as well.

However, with time and excessive usage, and dependence on GPS, various drawbacks have also surfaced. The cockpit workload is significantly more due to the frequent use of GPS and the complete reliance on the same.

Moreover, there have been many aircraft distractions, which might be very dangerous for the helicopter, especially landing. Due to those reasons, navigating the aircraft with very little help from the GPS will lessen the workload and distractions from the cockpit.

6. How Do Aviation GPS Navigation Systems Report GPS Accuracy?

The accuracy of the GPS can be reported with the help of the application being used. Some applications provide more accurate GPS than others. Most of the time, the Dilution of Precision or DOP is computed to know whether the GPS is accurate or not.

Other than that, the User Equivalent Ranging Error can also be used to find out the accuracy. However, for this method, various other factors need to be taken into consideration.

The aviation GPS navigation systems can either check the errors in the clock, location of the satellite. It can calculate the errors in the Ionosphere and troposphere through the pseudo-range measurements.

7. Is It Possible to Use GPS While I'm In a Commercial Airliner So I Can See What Land Area I’m Flying over while I'm In the Air?

Since all devices need to be kept on airplane mode, most of them disable the GPS. Due to this reason, the signals on the device can't be received. However, this feature might be only on some phones and not others.

Due to the rule of putting every device on airplane mode while onboard, the location's information cannot be transmitted. Hence, it is impossible to check the current location or land area you are in while flying.

Although some airlines do allow the usage of GPS, radio receivers can't be accessed. So there won't be any possible way of checking the location as a commercial airliner.

Final Verdict

GPS has become an integral part of aviation, and with the rise of portable ones, navigation has become easier for pilots. Apart from in-built GPS in the aircraft, the accuracy while navigating is far better with added features.

The affordability, compatibility, and many more should be considered before moving forward to choose the right GPS for smooth navigating and flying.

With the given options, it might be less overwhelming for pilots to choose the best aviation GPS, keeping in mind the essential functions, design, and above all, their performance.

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