(October 2011) If you've ever wished you could create a flight plan on your iPad and then somehow automatically beam it to the avionics in your airplane, you’re in luck. Aspen Avionics has introduced a Wi-Fi-based technology called Connected Panel that will let pilots do just that — and a whole lot more.
The first software app designed for the technology will enable users to create a flight plan using the popular ForeFlight Mobile app on their iPad and then wirelessly transmit it to their Aspen Evolution or Bendix/King KSN 770 multifunction display. Once it’s loaded, the pilot presses a button on the avionics to accept the flight plan and it becomes active.
The heart of the technology is the CG100, a $2,500 communications gateway device mounted behind the panel that communicates wirelessly between the pilot’s handheld device and the avionics while also controlling what data are sent over the link. Aspen has partnered with Jeppesen, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, PS Engineering and others for the creation of other apps, which are due out in time for Connected Panel’s market introduction later this year.
It remains to be seen whether the FAA will have any qualms about allowing iPads and Android tablets to interface with installed cockpit systems, but because the pilot must always accept any Connected Panel input, convincing the agency to sign off on the technology shouldn’t be a problem, Brad Hayden, vice president of marketing for Aspen Avionics, said.
Aspen said it will allow third parties to create iPad and Android apps for Connected Panel at no charge, opening up nearly endless possibilities for what can be done with the technology. Already in the works for the Connected Pilot app, for example, is the ability to tune radios using the iPad by touching the desired frequency from a list. When the pilot touches the frequency, it immediately appears in the radio standby box on the KSN 770 navigator.
Another app in the works for Connected Panel, called AvConnect, will automatically record pilot and flight data and store it on a cloud-based Internet network. Flight data can also be sent from the avionics to an iPad in flight, Aspen said, allowing apps to display real-time heading, altitude and attitude information. “We probably haven’t even thought of everything app developers will do with the technology,” Hayden said. “That’s what makes this so exciting.”