Aspen Avionics, a new company based in Albuquerque, introduced its line of Evolution Flight Displays at Oshkosh in July. The compact new flat glass displays include an electronic gyro package called attitude-heading reference system (AHRS) and digital air data computer. The EFD1000 would fit in the space of the three-inch attitude and directional gyros it replaces so installation complexity will be minimal. And the price for a full-up IFR system is about $10,000, less than half of any competing system announced so far.
The key to the savings in cost and size is the AHRS system that replaces the spinning metal rotors in the attitude and directional gyros. The AHRS Aspen is using has considerable experience guiding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) but has not yet been certified by the FAA for use in conventional airplanes. Aspen expects that approval this fall, and it will be crucial to the success of the system.
The other unusual design feature is that Aspen elected to use no more than the standard three-inch width of a conventional gyro. When you remove the attitude and directional gyros, the "cans" on the back of the EFD1000 display that contain the AHRS and other electronics protrude through the holes left by the missing gyros so there is no need to make a new instrument panel. The flat glass display has attitude, altitude, airspeed and vertical speed on the top, and compass rose with course information on the bottom, all conforming to standard display formats used in many new jets and piston airplanes.
Aspen plans to offer a basic model it calls the Pilot PFD that has a simple slaved compass card but no HSI functions, and that unit will be priced at $5,995. It expects the Pilot to be popular with those who fly mostly VFR. The Pro PFD has all HSI functions. All units have a built-in battery that will keep the AHRS, display and other functions operating for at least 30 minutes after all normal aircraft power is lost.
Aspen has been flight-testing the sensors, and was near finalizing the various display colors and formats when it announced the system. However, no TSO approval had been granted by the FAA yet for any part of the system, so there are many questions yet to be answered. Also, the EFD1000 will need to be certified to work with popular autopilot families before it is an acceptable replacement in most airplanes, and that may be a daunting certification task. Aspen's goal of certification and deliveries yet this year is very ambitious. For more information, see firstname.lastname@example.org.