Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a flight plan using your iPad and then automatically load it into the avionics in your airplane? Aspen Avionics has created 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, called Connected Pilot, will enable users to create a flight plan using the popular ForeFlight Mobile app on their iPad and then wirelessly beam 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.
Aspen says it will allow third parties to create iPad and Android apps for Connected Panel, 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.
“Mobile devices have revolutionized how pilots use flight data, but until now these smart devices have been unable to communicate with onboard systems in real time,” said Brad Hayden, vice president of marketing for Aspen Avionics. “Connected Panel creates a wireless bridge between smart devices and the aircraft’s certified avionics, increasing the pilot’s access to data and enhancing the utility of their mobile devices.”
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 is sent over the link. Aspen has partnered with Jeppesen, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, PS Engineering and others for the creation of additional 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, Hayden said.
Apsen says it won’t charge app developers who create software for Connected Panel, a move designed to speed app development. Another app currently 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 says, 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.”