New flight planner seeks to counter pilot patent concerns

December 24, 2010

Flight planning company Seattle Avionics and DTC DUAT have teamed up to offer pilots concerned about the future of their favorite flight planner a new option.

Pilot concerns regarding flight planning stem from FlightPrep’s recent moves to enforce a patent it was provided a year ago by the U.S. Patent Office for certain online flight planning functions. The FlightPrep patent does not apply to application-based flight planners; the difference being that application-based flight planners conduct flight planning operations and placing of the planned route over maps using data stored on an individual’s computer. Online flight planners cause some of those functions to occur at a remote server, with results delivered to the user via the Internet.

FlightPrep’s actions have caused the shutdown of at least two Internet-based flight planners and stirred up much concern among pilots about the methodology used by FlightPrep and the resulting loss of flight planning options.

Steve Podradchik, CEO of Seattle Avionics, told AOPA that he wanted to offer pilots a flight planner free of concerns about patent infringement. To roll out the free product, Podradchik contacted Bill Young, program manager for DTC DUAT. Young had been seeking a graphical flight planner for his customers. “We think it’s a good match for us,” Young said of the partnership between DTC and Seattle Avionics. “A graphical flight planner is a frequent request from customers and this one doesn’t violate any patents.”

Podradchik described the new DUAT Voyager product as a subset of its Voyager flight planner, which is a feature-rich subscription-based flight planner and electronic flight bag. The free DUAT Voyager version graphically depicts TFRs, airspace, and charts. It includes an autorouting feature for optimized routes and interacts automatically with DTC DUAT to overlay weather products and provide a complete and FAA-approved weather briefing as well as electronic flight plan filing. Users can print kneeboard versions of the route for in-cockpit use. Like the full-featured Voyager product, DUAT Voyager includes Seattle Avionics’ Web Synch feature, which allows pilots to access their stored routes via an Internet-based mobile device. The routes can be updated with the latest weather on the fly. Flight plans can be exported to Google Earth for realistic 3-D flight previews.

Podradchik said DUAT Voyager would be available for download from the Seattle Avionics website on Dec. 24 and shortly thereafter also from the DTC DUAT site.