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Live from AOPA/ Next Generation Summit Summary

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Another day at the AOPA expo has come and gone and it has been a busy morning and afternoon. I wanted to get as much done as I could in the one day had available. Quite a bit to see and do and more than I can cover in just one post, so I will focus on the morning summit first.

Since I was early, I had a good opportunity to attend the Next Gen summit meeting in the morning. It was hosted by AOPA President Craig Fuller and Chairman Bill Trimble. Their guests for the summit were: Bill Stone, Tim Taylor, and David Vos, all experts in their respective fields of next generation avionics and aircraft technology.

The discussion first centered around the implementation of Synthetic vision discussed by Mr. Stone of Garmin. He remarked how a past shuttle mission has mapped the earth to help in the implimentation of the system, though its been under development for nearly 50 years. Only now has the computing power available (and size) caught up to the technology. A quick video of the Garmin synthetic vision in action was also shown and its accuracy on the Primary Flight Display with real world terrain and obstacles.

Things then progressed to Infrared or EVS systems also known as “Free Flight”. Mr. Taylor discussed the use of the technology and how it is now available to the general aviation community in the Cirrus aircraft for low visibility operations. There was also a quick video of the EVS system in use on approach and landing  and discussion of the inevitable fusion of both EVS and Synthetic aviation systems for general aviation into one integrated package.

Mr. Taylor also discussed the use of ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance) and how it is now benefiting general aviation and airline pilots in FL and the Gulf Coast. He remarked in the next year or so “full service” ADS-B will soon be available to 2/3 of the U.S. There was also talk of what the “D” in ADS-B meant. Basically the D, stands for “dependant”. That is dependent of certain government infrastructure (Navigation guarantee).  Basically ADS-B is able to tell you and ATC where everyone else is in the airspace, plus the capability to receive information with a universal receiver like weather and other data.

Obviously of concern was how much all this new technology will cost the general aviation. It appears that there will be a choice of ADSB “out” or ADS-B “in”. Basically for those pilots with Mode-C only transponders, they would be compliant for new future ADS-B rules as long as they have a WAAS (Wide Are Augmentation System) approved avionics, a Mode -C transponder and a data radio, which would be much less expensive than a new Mode-S transponder and universal receiver. This setup will allow the use of ADS-B “out”, telling ATC and other aircraft where you are, but not the access to the data or weather portion of the system. The use of the universal receiver would give you the ADS-B “In” option to gain the other services such as weather and data which provides valuable information to all pilots and even could be configured to use bluetooth for XM weather.

The best however, was set for last. David Vos, a flight control systems expert, talked about the use of fully integrated flight controls for manned and unmanned aircraft in the future and the ability to have a “digital parachute” or “panic button.” He cited, several incidents where pilots have become incapacitated endangering the crew and passengers and how this technology can benefit safety and augment the pilot, but NOT be a replacement for the crew. A video was shown with an unmanned fighter drone  flying autonomously (not ground controlled) where 60 percent of one of the wings was intentionally sheared off.  Instead of crashing, the integrated flight control system was able, not only to maintain full control of the aircraft, but bring the drone in for a safe landing. Quite the amazing video and a little disturbing since Im starting to think that there may come a day when we pilots might become obsolete.

Its is truly stunning how much technology in general aviation has changed just in the last 20 years and I was glad to see what is coming to the GA community in the very near future.

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Written by tdwnds1

November 7, 2009 at 4:26 am

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