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A word on maintenance

On November 7th, a mid-air collision occurred over Mount Diablo, California, between an ASW-20 and an ASW-27 glider. Both gliders had a PowerFLARM installed, but one was not functioning due to an expired firmware. Luckily, both pilots survived by bailing out.

But why does the firmware expire in the first place?

This is our current approach to managing change in the highly distributed system that is FLARM. Unlike with other IT systems you may know, we cannot gradually update the population of FLARM devices since they all need to talk the same language (the radio protocol) to work. Firmware expiration allows us to change and improve the radio protocol safely, without rendering part of the devices dysfunctional.

Ok, so when does the firmware expire?

This is stated in the Release Notes. The published, most current firmware always has an expiration date of at least 14 months in the future. Hence, simply updating once a year as part of the annual maintenance will be just fine.

We know that maintenance is a tedious chore, especially since we only do it once per year. Remembering and doing the necessary steps each year requires a deliberate mental effort.

To facilitate the process, we have recently released the Instruction for Continued Airworthiness (ICA) document. The ICA is a beefy document that contains a lot of useful information, but the core of it is really small: The annual maintenance checklist, found in Appendix B. It contains the following points:

  1. Verify proper installation and secure mounting of installed parts.
  2. Verify that all antennas are correctly installed/placed and are not damaged.
  3. Verify that antenna cables, wiring, and connectors are  undamaged, unbent, have no corrosion or signs of water, and are correctly installed.
  4. Check if the range has deteriorated by performing a Range Analysis.
  5. Reset the Continuous Analyzer of Radio Performance (CARP)
  6. Update the FLARM firmware
  7. Update the display firmware, if applicable
  8. Check the release notes for changes. Do you need to update the configuration?
  9. Update the obstacle database if installed
  10. Check for errors during the startup sequence.

That’s it, really! Going through these 10 points once a year should be sufficient to keep your FLARM in working condition.

Read all about the accident mentioned above, including a thorough analysis by Ramy Yanetz, in the November PASCO newsletter.

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.

First PowerFLARM Fusion delivered

Today, Patrik Eichenberger and his Flight School based in Buttwil, Switzerland, took delivery of the very first PowerFLARM Fusion with the special serial number 1. It will replace an existing PowerFLARM Core in one of their Cessna 152 trainer airplanes, where it will deliver collision warnings and traffic information on both a dedicated FLARM display and an iPad running the Air Navigation Pro app.

“PowerFLARM Fusion is a clever upgrade of our collision avoidance instrumentation, allowing us to connect the iPad directly. This makes our installation simpler and less error-prone. Honestly, configuration and maintenance of the old PowerFLARM Core was always a challenge since the device is not easily accessible”, said Patrik Eichenberger — while casually updating his first Fusion to the latest firmware on his phone.

Introducing PowerFLARM Fusion — Back to Simple!

Over the years, many features and details have been added to PowerFLARM, making it harder to understand what is going on: Is the configuration correct? What firmware version is installed, and does it need updating? Was the log file written to the flash drive? What does a solid amber light mean again? Oh my.

PowerFLARM Fusion brings simplicity back to FLARM.

An integrated Wi-Fi module hosts the FLARM Hub web application, making configuration and troubleshooting painless. FLARM Hub is a user interface for mortal humans: It runs on any computer or mobile device, offering a clean, modern, and intuitive user interface. Traffic data can be streamed to navigation apps and EFBs over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The range analyzer is built-in — no need to juggle IGC files anymore.

Of course, Fusion integrates the latest PowerFLARM technology, operating worldwide with optimal performance in every region. It comes fully loaded with all the features, no need to deal with options or license files. Upgrading an existing PowerFLARM Core installation is straightforward, as the dimensions are identical.

Also, it is orange.

Please read up on all the details about PowerFLARM Fusion on our product page.

 

 

 

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.

Foca’s Detect-and-Avoid Dilemma

NZZ today published an article citing a recently released report by the Swiss Accident Investigation Board (Sust) on a near-miss between an A319 and a drone. The vertical distance was 10 m – scary stuff! While this was (likely) an intentional action by an irresponsible individual, we will certainly see more of this soon due to the increasing use of drones for useful purposes.

So how do we prevent such disasters from happening?

A Foca spokesperson was further interviewed in the article. TCAS and transponders are quickly ruled out as being too bulky, too power-hungry, and too expensive. Also, TCAS is a safety-critical system that safes lots of lives, today. Can we really risk to introduce many more transmitters to the same frequency band, thereby potentially reducing the effectiveness of TCAS?

The upcoming traffic management system for drones (called U-Space in Europe) will solve the problem eventually, but there is still a very long way to go: The federated, distributed approach that is currently adopted uses the internet as communication backbone. Robust network access is thus required for all participants of U-Space, which is no small feat for an airliner moving through the air at 150 knots. Federation also means that the overall complexity will be much higher compared to a centralized system to achieve the necessary standards for reliability, availability, and safety.

So what else? FLARM is mentioned as a promising technology, but lacking an open standard. But such a standard exists and can be downloaded here. Unlike other standards for Remote ID, our proposal does not use the 2.4 GHz frequency band that is so densely used and limited in achievable range. Based on our standard, Detect & Avoid and Remote Identification applications can be built that provide the performance needed to protect the crews and passengers in airliners. No need to wait for the future.

Kollionsgefahr: Passagierflugzeuge sollen vor Drohnen gewarnt werden
Summarischer Bericht
FLARM UAV eID Standard

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/