Firmware version 6.40 has been released for all FLARM devices. It introduces intuitive obstacle warning behavior, full antenna diversity, a redesigned range analyzer, and a supplementary privacy option. These features have been requested by pilots and improve both the user experience and flight safety. The firmware is available for all PowerFLARM, Classic FLARM, and FLARM-interoperable devices, and can be downloaded for free from the website of the device manufacturer. For end-user devices built by FLARM Technology, it’s available here.
Fixed obstacles like power lines and cable cars receive a lateral buffer, adding width to the object similar to antennas. Flying parallel to such objects now yields more consistent warning behavior. Alarms are now suppressed better when circling or turning in proximity of an obstacle. The data port now transmits a unique obstacle ID for improved future processing by smart displays, e.g. to suppress repetitive alarms. These features are available on PowerFLARM products only, and operate with any valid obstacle database. The latest database including an interactive visualization is available here.
PowerFLARM devices contain two radio antenna ports: “FLARM A” and “FLARM B”, with the latter being activated by applying a license (RFB). This update adds full symmetric diversity (transmit and receive) to “FLARM B” when the RFB license is active (does not apply to North America). This increases the protection around the aircraft in all directions. The RFB license for PowerFLARM Core devices can be purchased in the webshop. Existing RFB licenses automatically enable the new behavior. PowerFLARM Portable devices do not require a license.
The online Range Analyzer tool has been completely redesigned. It now features a side view for 3D assessment of installation performance. Simultaneous upload of multiple files now allows for a more comprehensive and reliable analysis. Full independent receiver diagnostics of both radio channels is now possible for dual antenna setups, helping to verify and optimize installations. Also refer to Section “Safety Equipment Requires Care and Maintenance”.
To accommodate increased privacy needs, the random radio ID option is introduced on all devices (except first-generation F4). It can be selected by setting the ICAO 24-bit address to “0” (zero) in the online configuration tool. With this option set, the characteristic ID used for message broadcasting is randomly generated at each power-up, i.e. typically once per day. Enabling this setting is however discouraged, as it renders Search and Rescue (SAR) and other functionality impractical. It is not possible to activate random ID if the aircraft has a Mode-S transponder (which already transmits the ICAO address of the aircraft).
Downloading or using firmware 6.40 is subject to the updated End-User License Agreement. Additional information can be found in the Release Notes on the firmware download page.
For years, there has been a big debate about UAV safety. We have delivered the solution: TBS FLARM. Drones are now visible to aircraft, and drones are enabled to see and avoid aircraft. The system is designed in a way to handle also these new participants in an efficient and safe manner.
We are proud of the first broadly used global traffic information, collision avoidance, and remote identification system for UAV, fully interoperable with 35k+ manned aircraft globally. Different to ADS-B or any other solution, FLARM is truly cooperative, widely used in light aircraft, and dominates the lower airspace outside major airports.
With TBS’s FLARM software update, tens of thousands of UAV’s will in the next weeks join the already large FLARM ecosystem. Hongkong-based company TBS has its largest market stake in the USA, but is also widely present in Asia and Europe.
FLARM Product Selector
A new firmware update has been released for all FLARM devices. The new firmware improves the Alert Zone (AZN) alarm behavior, adds a new test for audio out (for installers), and increases the maximum allowed supply voltage to 32 V in PowerFLARM Core, to support additional aircraft types.
Make sure that your FLARM device is updated at least every 365 days as part of the aircraft continuing airworthiness. Failure to do so might render the device inoperable (until it’s updated).
The new firmware, together with the release notes, can be downloaded here.
The aviation magazine AeroRevue has published an overview on the many cockpit display instruments available (PFD, MFD, EFIS), including the comment: “The widely used FLARM has become a must-have in cockpit displays (EFIS). Several EFIS manufacturers now offer an RS-232-interface to overlay FLARM-data on displays. FLARM can also be used as a passive kind of TCAS (known as PCAS) indicating traffic equipped with transponders only, as well as ADS-B.” The article can be read here (in German).
Following a mid-air collision between two Canadian light aircraft that were not FLARM equipped, Transport Canada recommends PowerFLARM in its latest Aviation Safety Letter.
Both Transport Canada (TC) and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) point out that “if the see-and-avoid principle is relied upon as the sole means of collision avoidance when operating in visual flight rules [VFR] conditions, then there is a continued risk of collision”. They recommend all aircraft to install a collision avoidance system and their article examines the functions and benefits of PowerFLARM.
Recently, a person claiming to be a “Herbert Khum” or “Herbert Khun” has been sending unsolicited email messages to several recipients. The email messages have been sent from different email addresses, assumed to be fake. The messages have also been posted in forums. Mr. Khum claims to be an employee of ABB Germany. Some messages have also listed a phone number pointing to ABB Switzerland, contradicting above statement. The phone extension listed does however not exist and ABB does not have any person working for them with that name.
The message contains unsubstantiated, dubious, and false claims about the FLARM system. Mr. Khum has unfortunately not contacted us directly in any form to discuss the alleged issues to work towards a quick resolution. Each firmware version of FLARM is thoroughly tested to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of the system. This is the case with the current firmware version, just as with previous versions.
FLARM Technology has also published a white paper which explains the compatibility considerations for a safe and effective system. The white paper can be found here.
We remain committed to improving safety in aviation and are thus very much interested in learning about defects in any of our products. We therefore invite Mr. Khum to provide a means to reproduce his findings unambiguously.
Together with RAMI, one of the largest aviation antenna manufacturers, we have developed a new professional FLARM antenna for external mounting. The new antenna replaces all different “FLARM antennas” of different quality that have circulated. The antenna (called AV-75) is similar to RAMI’s successful AV-74 SSR/DME antenna, but designed for the FLARM frequency (both EU and US frequencies).
The antenna exists in two versions for top and bottom mounting. It is especially recommended for metal aircraft, where the fuselage would otherwise interfere with the FLARM signal and reduce range.
To purchase the new antennas, please contact your local FLARM dealer.
The European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, has formally approved PowerFLARM to be installed in gliders and powered airplanes. The installation of FLARM is considered a minor change to the type certificate of the aircraft. The approval is formally called EASA Minor Change Approval, or MCA for short. FLARM Technology was granted the approval after considerable investment in developing a new Aircraft Flight Manual Supplement (AFMS), amended airworthiness procedures, and other required documents.
Normally, an MCA is applied for by each installer. In addition to developing the documents listed above, it requires assessing the equipment and its installation against the applicable certification specifications (CS-22 for gliders and CS-23 for powered airplanes). Because this entails considerable effort, we created this MCA to cover most airplanes (gliders and powered airplanes) below 2.000 kg.
Installation of FLARM can also be carried out as a standard change; however, in that case limited to day VFR. It requires essentially the same documents as the MCA, but can be approved by the installer without involving EASA. It thus decreases the administrative burden for installers who wish to pursue their own MCA. The documents included in our MCA are adequate also for a standard change installation.
The MCA furthermore includes approval for installation of external antennas (including the new external FLARM antenna) as well as compatible FLARM displays.
To read more or to purchase the MCA, please visit the MCA product page.
Clued Up, the biannual safety magazine from the UK CAA, has published an article about the importance of technical assistance to see-and-avoid in General Aviation. The article focuses mainly on state funded ADS-B projects, but also mentions the success of FLARM.
The whole issue can be read here.