News

Connected, but unplugged

By Sarah Brown

The flight plan from your iPad appears on your multifunction display. A maintenance shop accesses post-flight engine diagnostics instantly. A pilot diverting for weather alerts family waiting at the airport via text messages using the Iridium satellite network, and makes arrangements for pickup at the alternate before touching down.

Representatives of companies that have leveraged the iPad for aviation outlined a future where everything is connected and data flows freely in the presentation “Top Technology Changes You'll Face in the Next 10 Years: Avionics—Unplugged” with AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines at AOPA Aviation Summit.

The industry is already realizing the benefits of the versatile iPad, the focus of the Oct. 13 presentation. Aspen Avionics Marketing Manager Angela Anderson outlined how her company’s Connected Pilot links the iPad and certified avionics, connecting a number of flight planning apps and tools to the panel for “instant flight plan loading—no more twisting knobs.” Aspen has 19 partners in hardware and software development, she said—a sign of Aspen’s foundational philosophy of using an open architecture to integrate with other tools and systems.

AvConnect CEO Erik Murrey described his company’s suite of software tools, which provide maintenance reminders, allow users to manage expense reports and logbooks, capture flight data for postflight analysis, and more. Today we have a tremendous amount of information coming out of the cockpit, he said, but we don’t do anything with it. “Do we just let that drop on the floor, or do we actually capture that?” he asked. AvConnect can gather in-flight data on something like a hot cylinder and notify someone on the ground, he said.

Outside of cellphone range, the iPad can turn into a text messaging device with Delorme’s inReach communications device. DeLorme Director of Sales Steve Wells explained that the device enables two-way text messaging through the Iridium satellite network, a capability that may prove lifesaving. Recently a hiker in the Grand Canyon was able to get a member of the hiking party triaged after a head injury, communicating through inReach before help arrived, he said.

With rapid development for the iPad, pilots can expect to have more information at their fingertips—and to be able to pick which tools work best for them. Anderson stressed that iPad users can choose which tools work best for them and customize how information is presented. “It really is the ability to tie together all of that information into something useful,” she said.

October 18, 2012


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