The Best GPS Receivers for Aviation in 2023

Without an understanding of just how much aeroplanes relied on radio navigation less than a generation ago, it’s difficult to imagine aviation today without the aid of satellite navigation systems like GPS.

Satellite navigation provides aircraft with the three-dimensional positional accuracy that radio navigation systems can’t, and whose availability isn’t susceptible to interference, or dependent on favourable atmospherics or proximity to a transmitter. With satellite navigation, an agricultural pilot with a mobile GPS receiver flying an Air Tractor over Esperance has the same rock-solid level of positional integrity as a commercial pilot flying a brand-new Airbus into Sydney using certified instrumentation.

Bad Elf and Garmin are two of the leading developers of solutions for pairing the convenience of their mobile GPS receivers with approved Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) devices. Their receivers are renowned for precision; and with the use of Bluetooth technology, they’re capable of putting some of the most advanced augmented awareness features available at every pilot’s fingertips.

Versatile GPS Receivers That Work in and Out the Cockpit



As true innovators of navigational systems, Bad Elf and Garmin were among the first to recognize the value in creating combined coverage commercial, civilian, and military GPS devices and apps that could be compatible with pilot EFBs. For pilots, that meant having the ability to use their own agency-approved mobile electronic devices with situational awareness hardware and software that’s fully supported by navigating companies that they know and trust.

With combined access to over 50 GPS and GLONASS constellation satellites, and accuracy up to 2.5m between 1,000 and 60,000ft, these mobile aircraft GPS systems and receivers are capable of providing pinpoint positional information on crucial calculations such as:

  •  Longitude;
  •  Latitude;
  •  Altitude;
  •  Air speed; and,
  •  GPS track.

Depending on the model, these aviation GPS receivers can refresh up to 10 times per second providing both real-time coordinates in the air and, when authorized, own-ship AMM (Area Moving Map) movements on the ground. Those coordinates can then easily be relayed via Bluetooth to as many as 5 handheld devices simultaneously through app support, or directly to a computer through a USB port to access trip position data logs.

In short, while Bad Elf and Garmin have their roots in different aspects of navigation, they’ve still succeeded in producing high-quality Bluetooth GPS receivers that are capable of satisfying critical EFB augmentation requirements for commercial operators, or PED (Portable Electronic Device) requirements for private and corporate operators. And it only takes a quick look at their product lines to see just how versatile their devices are, both inside and outside the cockpit.

Trust Bad Elf for Tough, Dependable GPS Receivers

Bad Elf is best known for rugged, no-nonsense GIS and mapping devices that work straight from the box. That’s why it’s no surprise that the same degree of positioning expertise is present in their superior lineup of Bluetooth enable GPS devices for aviation and marine navigation.

Bad Elf’s Easy-to-Use Surveyor


Although Bad Elf’s IPX4-rated, GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Surveyor was designed primarily for agriculture and survey activities, it’s still one of the lightest and most effective aircraft-compatible Bluetooth GPS device receivers and data loggers on the market. You can read your coordinates directly from the Surveyor, and it features:

  •  GPS, GLONASS, and QZSS constellation connectivity;
  •  Global SBAS (Satellite Based Augmentation System) ground-based overlay referencing; and,
  •  RINEX (Receiver Independent Exchange Format) satellite navigation post-processing.

With as little as 1m stationary, and 2.5m kinematic accuracy, as well as iOS, Android, and Windows compatibility, the Surveyor is one of the most impressive portable aircraft GPS units available today.

Go Anywhere With Bad Elf’s GPS Pro Series

Bad Elf’s Pro and Pro+ aeronautical GPS receivers are highly accurate, durable devices that are just as effective in the air as they are on the ground or on water. This is Bad Elf’s original family of worldwide GPS receivers, and they feature:

  •  Real-time GPS, or GPS + GLONASS constellation connectivity;
  •  Global SBAS (Satellite Based Augmentation System) ground-based overlay referencing; and,
  •  Compliance with NMEA (Nation Marine Electronic Association) standards for marine communications, gyrocompasses and GPS receivers.

A Bad Elf Pro Series aviation receiver can give you an accuracy of up to 2.5m at a maximum operating velocity of up 800kts, and are also compatible with a full range of iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices.

Staying Informed With Data-Rich Garmin GPS Receivers

With more than 30 years in the business of designing and building portable navigational devices, Garmin’s experience with aviation GPS systems comes through in their GDL® and GLO® Bluetooth receivers.

Get Technical with GDL® 5X Series Portable Receivers



The GDL® 5X series is a family of portable, dual-band Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) uplink receivers for aviation traffic and weather updates. These full-function devices can be connected via Bluetooth to other Garmin aviation portables and aviation mobile apps, and are part of one of the most comprehensive situational awareness suites in the market, which includes:

  •  TrendTarget™ relative motion technology for displaying dynamic, velocity-based overviews of ADS-B-equipped in-flight traffic in your vicinity;
  •  TerminalTraffic™ technology for displaying ADS-B equipped traffic on runways, taxiways, and other ground-situated vehicles and aircraft that can be distinguished from in-flight traffic; and,
  •  ADS-B weather data (where available), along with SVX™ display visibility of virtual features such as terrain, obstacles, runways, and horizon cues.

The 5X series receivers come in both portable (Model 50) and remote-mount (Model 50R) versions, and boast an effective operating altitude of 55,000ft at a maximum operating velocity of 800kts.

The High-Speed GLO® Series of Aviation Mobile Devices

The GLO® series is a pure, fast-locking portable GPS Bluetooth receiver for iOS, Android, and Windows devices that feature:

  •  GPS and GLONASS constellation connectivity;
  •  WAAS North American (Wide Area Augmentation System) ground-based referencing; and,
  •  Bluetooth connectivity with up to 4 devices.

Regardless of the mobile device or mapping app you use, a GLO® Bluetooth GPS receiver will always give you an accuracy of up to 3m at a maximum operating velocity of 800kts.

The Final Word

At the end of the day, GPS gives you the kind of precise heading and relative positioning data that you need to maintain situational awareness at all times. And while a lot of EFB-approved mobile devices have their own built-in GPS receivers, they simply aren’t as reliable as dedicated GPS receivers that have the broader benefit of Bluetooth connectivity.

Bad Elf and Garmin make premium quality commercial, civilian, and military GPS devices and apps that you can take anywhere and trust every time. They understand just how important accurate GPS data is, and they have the devices that every pilot needs for primary or augmented positioning.

Author: Christina Stone

Share This Post On