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All posts by Daniel Hoffmann

ADS-R and TIS-B now in PowerFLARM!

The US having two ADS-B Out standards (1090ES and UAT) creates all kinds of problems for pilots. Collision avoidance systems not being able to see most aircraft is a major factor in the absence of collision warnings. To mitigate this, we are now introducing ADS-R and TIS-B reception in PowerFLARM Fusion as well as in PowerFLARM Core and Portable.

ADS-R and TIS-B are rebroadcast services offered by the FAA in the US. Aircraft with ADS-B Out equipment using the “wrong” standard as well as transponder-only aircraft are rebroadcast on “your” ADS-B frequency.

This new feature is included with PowerFLARM Fusion from firmware version 7.03 and offered as an option for PowerFLARM Core and PowerFLARM Portable.

More information about the ADS-R and TIS-B reception is available here.

Obstacle Databases 2021 released

The new obstacle databases for 2021 have now been released. New for this year is Norway and Slovenia. In addition, tens of thousands of new obstacles have been added to all covered areas.

More information about the obstacle warning system is available here. The obstacle databases can be purchased here.

UK Department for Transport, CAA funding FLARM installations

To encourage the adoption of Electronic Conspicuity (EC) in the UK, the Department for Transport (DfT) via the UK CAA has started funding installations of EC devices in UK aircraft. Funding is available for systems that transmit, but not for systems that only receive (e.g. ADS-B In). FLARM, which is the most widely used EC and collision-avoidance system not only in the UK but in the whole of Europe, is expected to be the main beneficiary.

PowerFLARM devices do not only communicate (transmit and receive) position and collision-avoidance data with other FLARM-equipped aircraft but also receive ADS-B Out and transponder equipped aircraft. These aircraft are also included in the collision warning algorithms.

The problem with most ADS-B Out systems is that, contrary to what many people believe, they are not allowed to be shown by certified ADS-B In systems (the SIL and SDA values have to be above certain limits). In addition, there are very few ATC providers that can see ADS-B Out aircraft. The accuracy of the FLARM GNSS system and collision algorithms is also higher than most ADS-B Out systems (ADS-B was designed for ATC separation, not tactical collision avoidance). PowerFLARM will process and show all ADS-B Out aircraft independently of the SIL and SDA values but will prioritize the FLARM data because of the higher accuracy.

The funding scheme is open until 31 March 2021 (or until all funding has been used). The funding is applicable to both installed and portable devices and for both manned and unmanned aircraft. Those meeting the requirements can claim a 50% rebate of the purchase cost to a maximum of £250.00 (including VAT), per applicant. The UK CAA anticipates that up to 10,000 rebates will be available.

More information is available on the CAA Electronic Conspicuity page.

Tour de France 2020 helicopter protected by FLARM

The Tour de France 2020 helicopter, an Aérospatiale AS-350 BA Ecureuil with tail number F-GKMB, has been equipped with a PowerFLARM collision avoidance system (in French) to protect it from mid-air collisions with the many aircraft in the area. The PowerFLARM can warn not only about collisions with other FLARM equipped aircraft but also with ADS-B Out and transponder equipped aircraft.

FLARM is already mandatory in France for gliders and a mandate for other GA aircraft is under investigation.

Electric World Record Flight protected and tracked by FLARM

7 world records in one blow!

From the Alps to the North Sea with an electric-powered plane. At the end of August, electric mobility enthusiasts set off from Zurich to the North Sea island Norderney.

If Morell, Malik, Marco, Tobi, and Tom were a boy band, “Crazy Visionaries” would fit as a band name. Because that describes pretty good what the five of them are up to: At the end of August they are going on a hunt for several records with an electric airplane.

Among other things, it should become the lowest energy consumption (kWh/100 km) and the highest average speed of a small aircraft. In total, the pioneers want to set seven new world records on these 700 kilometers.

Climate-friendly, quiet and a little bit crazy

When Charles Lindbergh successfully crossed the Atlantic in his plane in 1927, he was certainly also attracted by the 25,000-dollar prize money. “Flying Fool” was what the press called him before his flight, as several aviation pioneers had already died before him in the attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone. After he had made it, Lindbergh was a hero.

It will probably not be quite that dramatic with the upcoming trans-Germany flight. On the one hand, the task is not quite as risky and on the other hand, there is no prize money to gain. “Unfortunately,” says Malik Aziz, “because the electric flight from Zurich to Norderney is regrettably not for free. But after all, electric flying is four times more efficient than with fossil fuel,” the graduate designer from Aachen explains. Malik is one of five and responsible for the media in the team. He also looks after the sponsors, which include FLARM.

How everything began

During the shooting of the video project “The Future of Aviation”, Malik twittered a few pictures from Switzerland. There he and Morell Westermann met Marco Buholzer, who flies the only certified electric training aircraft. The Pipistrel’s Velis Electro has a 60 kW motor and state-of-the-art battery technology. Morell and Malik are electro fans and know each other from the podcast “Cleanelectric”, the largest German-language podcast about electro-mobility. Malik is part of the Cleanelectric podcast team and Morell is a welcome guest there.

Tobi Pape lives as a beer brewer on the North Sea island Norderney and is a long-time listener of the podcast. He has been driving electric cars for 20 years and is also interested in electric planes: “Electric planes would be ideal here for island hopping with short distances.” When he sees the pictures on Twitter, he contacted Morell and Malik straightaway. “I spontaneously had the idea whether it would be possible to take an electric flight from Switzerland to Norderney,” as Tobi remembers.

Visionary idea needs supporters

The idea was born when Tobi and Morell were talking on the phone the same evening. “The electric plane only manages about 100 kilometers in one go. But it’s exactly the same as with the cars, you can recharge them,” explains Morell. He asks Marco if he would like to fly to the North Sea with his Pipistrel. He wanted to. Morell called Malik: “We would need a professional video documentation of an extraordinary flying safari across Germany.” Malik also agreed immediately, his partner Tom Albrecht from the joint video production company “shapes” completed the team. He is also an electromobilist and thought that the project is crazy enough to join it.

The five electro-friends clarified the feasibility and checked the finances, they looked for routes and verified if anyone has ever tried it before. They noticed: “If we make it, we’ll set seven world records at once,” says Morell, “the highest average speed over 700 kilometers as well as the highest altitude ever reached by an electric plane, the lowest energy consumption per kilometer per person, the longest distance flown electrically, etc.”

The aircraft is protected against mid-air collisions by the onboard FLARM collision avoidance system. This also makes it possible to track the world record flight online.

Flying is not necessarily harmful to the climate

Marco explains why the friends are undertaking the electric flying expedition: “Flying with kerosene is extremely harmful to the climate. Aviation currently accounts for around five percent of global warming, and the trend is increasing. The emissions at high altitude are a particular problem that arise from air traffic. We want to show that there are alternatives, even if we don’t manage the whole route in one go, CO₂-neutral flying is already possible today!”

“Most small planes fly distances shorter than 200 kilometers anyway, you could do that electrically,” Tobi points out. “I also wonder why on such a small island all mobility is not electric anyway, but that’s another matter.”

Even though the aviation industry is currently not doing well, it has been benefiting from direct and indirect grants for decades. As a result, there is no fair competition between conventional and electric aircraft. According to the German Bundesumweltamt (Federal Environment Agency), flights in Germany are subsidized to an amount of 12 billion euros per year, mainly through exemption from VAT on tickets and energy tax on kerosene.

“On August 30th we will prove with our extraordinary flight that the time of electric planes has come”, Marco emphasizes. The landing is scheduled for September 1st.

Map

Scheduled start: 30.08.2020 Zurich Airport (LSZH)

Scheduled landing: 01.09.2020 Norderney Airport (EDWY)

7 world records in one blow:

  • Lowest energy consumption (kWh/100 km) over 700km
  • Highest average speed over 700 km (km/h)
  • Highest altitude ever reached by an electric aircraft (meters above main sea level)
  • Fastest climb performance from 0-1000m / 1000-2000m / 2000-3000m (m/s)
  • Fastest average speed over 100km (km/h)
  • Lowest number of intermediate stops on 700km distance (number of stops)
  • Longest electrically flown distance in 24 / 48 / 56 hours (km)

World record website:

https://elektro-weltrekordflug.eu/

Tracking:

https://elektro-weltrekordflug.eu/route/

Aerobits releases combined ADS-B and FLARM collision avoidance system for drones

Aerobits, the manufacturer of miniature radio technology for civil and military UAVs, has released a combined ADS-B 1090ES and FLARM collision avoidance device weighing only 14 grams. The TR-1F combines a 1090ES squitter (ADS-B Out) with a FLARM system that can detect not only FLARM-equipped aircraft but also other aircraft thanks to its ADS-B In receiver.

The device does not require external devices to operate. It is equipped with a high-quality multi-GNSS receiver and a pressure sensor. The aluminum housing and ESD protection guarantee high resistance of the device to work in difficult conditions. TR­1F opens the way to the safe integration of UAS into non-segregated airspace. Implementation of the Detect and Avoid algorithms facilitates the operation under BVLOS.

This release makes Aerobits the fifth manufacturer to integrate FLARM collision avoidance technology in their UAV-specific products. There are now 38 avionics manufacturers in total that offer FLARM products, all of which can be seen in the Product Selector.

Link to Aerobits TR-1F

Alps Obstacle Database Update Available

Since 2019, we are releasing multiple versions of our acclaimed obstacle database. High-resolution regional databases provide a maximum level of detail for helicopter aerial work and HEMS/MEDEVAC operators. The European Alps database has also been updated in this process with new, critical objects.

As the storage capacity on FLARM devices is constrained, the quantity of obstacles in each database needs to be actively managed. Particularly in the Alps database – which spans several regions – some classes of objects are ignored. We omit objects that are highly visible or do not normally pose a threat to recreational flying. See the original post for details.

One example is power lines. These are not in the Alps database. There are, however, some power lines in mountainous terrain that – having a low height above ground – are hugged by terrain and thus extra hard to spot. This was unfortunately made clear by a recent collision of a glider with such an obstacle (the pilot survived, thankfully).

We are committed to improving our products, also by learning from unfortunate events like these. In many countries, flying is only resuming now after the lockdowns, so it is a great time to introduce an update. The new European Alps database (Alps 2020-5) got an additional handful of power lines that may be useful when flying close to the terrain. The decision of what to include is based on a restrictive heuristic (the storage capacity is limited), so only few power lines are included.

The update is available now in the webshop. It is free of charge to those who have already purchased the Alps 2020(-1) database. If this applies to you and you would like to update, you can access it by going to the “Devices” tab on the “My Account” page (you need to be logged in). In the rightmost column under “Licenses”, you will find the new item “OBSALPS2020-5”. Click on this link to download the new database for each of your devices. The old version is still visible and called “OBSALPS2020”.

Fire and Rescue Services equip UAVs with FLARM

An increasing number of Fire and Rescue departments are strengthening their equipment fleets with FLARM-equipped UAVs. The newest addition to the list is “Schutz und Rettung Zürich” (“Fire and Rescue Zurich”). They now operate two DJI Matrice 210 with a FLARM traffic information and collision avoidance system from the company Remote Vision. This makes it possible for them to fly close to airports and in restricted areas where drone traffic is otherwise not allowed.

The UAVs are equipped with thermal imaging cameras to be able to assess fire temperatures, find missing persons, as well as other use cases.

The Swiss magazine “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” has published a story about the drones (in German).

New 2020 Obstacle Databases Released

Today, we released the annual update of the obstacle databases. As communicated last year, obstacle databases are now available for several new areas. In addition to the Alps database, the following areas are now available:

  • Austria & Slovenia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Northwest Italy
  • Northeast Italy
  • Switzerland
  • UK & Ireland

The new obstacle databases come with a 1-year license and include many new obstacles. Make sure to update before your next flight.