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Electronic flight bag applications advance,
including those with NASA’s TASAR
News/ > 2020/ > Electronic flight bag applications advance, including those with NASA’s TASAR/
Electronic flight bag applications advance, including those with NASA’s TASAR
25 November 2020 Advancements in electronic flight bag (EFB) applications are providing pilots and aircraft operators a number of benefits, including the ability to get weather updates to decide how and whether to proceed with a flight, seek re-routes, save fuel and fly more efficiently.

A decade after the introduction of the iPad, pilots are using EFBs to eliminate the onboard portage of heavy flight bags with thousands of pieces of paper for each flight, and EFB apps are allowing pilots to lessen planning time previously spent studying charts and figuring how conditions would affect flights.

Pete Grau, the lead principal engineer for the SAE ITC ARINC Industry Activities Program, who runs SAE’s EFB Users Forum, said that «new and more sophisticated EFB applications continue to be developed.»

«Satellite weather is commonly accessible, and TASAR (Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests) has been successfully tested and is now available..,» he said. «It is adaptable to different aircraft types and can be installed on various EFB architectures.»

The purpose of TASAR is to advise the pilot of possible trajectory changes that would be beneficial to the flight and increase the likelihood of ATC approval of pilot-initiated trajectory change requests, thereby increasing the portion of the flight flown on or near a desired trajectory. Examples of desired trajectories include the most fuel efficient trajectory, a minimum flight time trajectory, a trajectory that meets a desired arrival time, and the lowest turbulence trajectory, while horizontal, vertical, and combination solutions can be selected.

The TASAR software application accesses onboard aircraft systems for real-time flight data, including current position and the active route, to see if more efficient routes are available. The software then connects with the plane’s onboard Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast receiver, and scans the broadcast signals of nearby traffic to make sure there are no potential conflicts in any proposed flight path changes. The information enables air traffic controllers to more easily okay a pilot’s route-change request. The TASAR system also has the capability for airborne Internet access to gather additional airspace information — such as real-time weather conditions and wind forecasts — to help make flight even more efficient. >>>
>>> The main software application of TASAR is Traffic Aware Planner (TAP). It processes the surveillance information and performs conflict probing of possible changes to the ownship trajectory, either pilot-entered or automatically computed. In addition to surveillance information, the TAP application also may process other data as available from onboard sensors and databases or from data links. Information important to in-flight replanning may include convective weather regions, turbulence regions, terrain, wind field predictions, restricted airspace, and sector boundaries.

Using ownship aircraft performance data and pilot preferences, the TAP application computes fuel burn or other desired trajectory attributes, and trajectory request optimization may be performed to minimize or maximize a pilot-specified attribute while avoiding traffic conflicts.

Engility Corporation analysts found, on average, aircraft using the NASA-developed technology saved about one to four minutes of flight time and between 50 and 550 pounds of fuel per operation, depending on a number of different factors including the total length of the flight.

Two operational modes for the TAP application are defined: automated monitoring for opportunities (Auto Mode) and pilot initiated use (Manual Mode).

In Auto Mode, TASAR is a passive capability that requires no ongoing or repetitive pilot action. The TAP application automatically performs a continuous assessment of opportunities for improving the performance of the flight according to any such goals and parameters specified by the pilot prior to or during the flight.

A typical goal would be to maximize fuel efficiency, and the pilot could specify, for instance, a threshold of minimum improvement (e.g., 100 lbs of fuel saved) required to qualify as an identified opportunity worth bringing to the pilot's attention. In addition, the trajectory change must not conflict with known traffic.

Other considerations in the optimization search include avoiding known hazards, such as weather detected onboard or uplinked from a ground service, known turbulence, and terrain. >>>
Example user interface for TAP in Manual Mode, indicating evaluation results of a trajectory change computations are provided to the pilot
>>> The TAP application produces recommendations to the pilot that simultaneously consider the optimization goal, the traffic, the hazards and other constraints, and the ownship performance capabilities and limitations. The TAP application could be configured to produce a single optimal recommendation, a set of several alternatives, or potentially a continuous range of maneuvers. A list of available trajectory change options based on the pilot's pre-entered preferences is continuously available to the pilot for immediate use.

In the Manual Mode, the pilot makes manual use of TASAR capability when a trajectory change is desired or when such a need is anticipated and the pilot wants to be prepared with a request at the opportune moment. The pilot enters a desired trajectory change into the TAP application interface. Alternatively, the TAP application (if sufficiently integrated with onboard systems) could be designed to directly sense trajectory modifications entered by the flight crew into the Flight Management System (FMS) or other normal flight control interfaces.

The entered or sensed trajectory change is probed by the TAP application for potential traffic conflicts. In addition, computations are made on the attributes of the change, for instance fuel burn saved or expended. If the probe entered by the pilot indicates a conflicted route, the TAP application also provides a mechanism to compute a conflict-free modification to the desired trajectory change.

An example of TASAR concept use is shown in Figure right. In the figure, the TAP-equipped aircraft (Aircraft A) was on schedule prior to movement of convective weather into its planned flight path. The aircraft was rerouted around the weather, and the extended path (shown as «initial route») resulted in a delay in its predicted arrival over its next waypoint (Fix B). The weather is slowly clearing out of the way, and the crew of Aircraft A would like to make up as much of this lost time as possible. There is traffic in proximity, and crossing traffic (Aircraft C) constrains a simple direct-to-fix replanning solution. >>>
>>> The flight crew therefore uses TAP to compute a conflict-free, weather avoiding, path that saves flight time. The new path (shown as «new route») also saves fuel, but is optimized to save time based on TAP’s pilot optimization preference inputs. The pilot receives a display of an ATC voice request from TAP in written words as the pilot would speak them.

With the continuous growth of connected aircraft, more and more developers are integrating various aspects of TASAR technology into their EFB apps. Seattle-based APiJET’s TASAR-based EFB app, Digital Winglets, for example, aims to provide fuel and flight time savings. The app incorporates avionics data from onboard navigation equipment, data sharing from airborne and ground sources, communications leveraging IP links with the aircraft, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) IN surveillance data to de-conflict route recommendations for nearby traffic. TJ Horsager, the vice president of business development and sales for APiJET, said that the surveillance data increases Air Traffic Control acceptance rates «translating into more fuel and flight time savings for airlines.»

For a number of EFB app suppliers, aircraft interface devices (AIDs) are key, as they facilitate access to multiple aircraft data and communications channels. With the increased use of EFB apps and the elimination of paper charts and binders, AIDs have become the foundation of most Aircraft Data Management (ADM) systems. Using tablets and computer screens in aircraft, pilots are able to receive all the benefits of EFBs via their AIDs for improved decision-making to bolster situational awareness and safety, minimize errors, monitor aircraft parameters and reduce the workload of the crew.

Horshager said that all of APiJet’s products leverage some type of real-time aircraft data access through an AID or operational server.

«We’re huge advocates of this type of equipment and the value which can be unlocked by real-time aircraft data when combined with intelligent applications such as our Digital Winglets, Turnaround, AHM and Flight Tracking applications,» he said. «APiJET software is built upon an AID/server agnostic, data platform which we call the APiJET Smart Aircraft System.» >>>
>>> In April last year, Alaska Airlines announced a partnership with APiJET to install TASAR technology on its entire fleet, and Horshager said that, while many airline projects remain on hold due to COVID-19, APiJET wants to advance its TASAR technology with Alaska Airlines.

Appareo Aviation’s Stratus Insight EFB app connects to Avidyne Avionics’ IFD440, 540, and 550 navigators and «allows pilots to push and pull flight plans from Stratus Insight into the navigator,» said Kris Garberg, president of Appareo Aviation.

While Stratus Insight does not connect to satellite communications devices yet, the app does connect to many ADS-B receivers other than Stratus receivers, to send TIS-B (Traffic Information Service-Broadcast), FIS-B (Flight Information System-Broadcast), GPS and attitude information to the app. If an aircraft has in-flight WiFi, users would be able to connect to the Internet and utilize Stratus Insight's enhanced weather products, and users would also be able to submit pilot reports of turbulence (PIREPs) over that connection, according to Garberg.

Like other EFB app creators, Boeing’s ForeFlight LLC has taken advantage of the benefits of AIDs to increase functionality.

«When connected to an aircraft interface device that provides inflight Wi-Fi, ForeFlight can stream high-definition weather, both real-time radar and many kinds of forecast data, as well as all other data that is normally only available with an Internet connection on the ground,» said Stephen Newman, executive vice president of sales and marketing at ForeFlight, LLC.

In terms of enhanced capabilities for pilots, Newman said that the ForeFlight Mobile app «offers integrations with a myriad of installed avionics and portable aviation receivers.»

«These integrations can enable pilots to obtain inflight traffic and weather, view aircraft position and attitude information, share flight plans to and from their installed avionics, and much more,» he said. «Together with industry-leading Jeppesen navigation and flight data, ForeFlight’s capabilities drastically increase a pilot’s situational awareness and put critical information at the pilot’s fingertips.» >>>
>>> When connected to most Satcom Direct or Gogo inflight Wi-Fi networks with ForeFlight's Performance Plus or Business Performance subscription plans, the app is also able to receive GPS position, pressure altitude, and attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) derived attitude information from software-defined radio (SDR) and Gogo devices. ForeFlight also provides an option when connected to these devices to disable streaming Internet data to ForeFlight, a disabling which ForeFlight said helps lower bandwidth costs.

Over the past year, ForeFlight has been releasing upgrades for its ForeFlight Mobile app each month to add value for corporate flight departments and pilots.

«One of the most significant threads has been the continual development of ForeFlight's ‘3D View’ capabilities, starting from an interactive airport familiarization tool and greatly expanding in scope to include post-flight debriefing and pre-flight previews of the planned route and approach, all in a three-dimensional environment with high-resolution terrain and aerial imagery,» Newman said.

«Even more significant for flight departments is our new collaborative flight planning tool: ForeFlight Dispatch,» he said. «This online capability is fully integrated with the ForeFlight Mobile app, allowing flight planners and ops centers to release planned and filed flights directly to crew members, along with a detailed briefing package, waypoint-by-waypoint navlog for inflight use, and any other documents needed for the flight.»

For its part, Garmin said that it has been leveraging its acquisition of Flight Plan LLC (FltPlan) in 2018 to enhance the capabilities of the Garmin Pilot app by allowing the app to integrate with the FltPlan.com website. Pilots in the U.S. are able to access Pre-Departure Clearances (PDC) at select airports within the app, and for international flights, pilots are able to access Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) services within the app to upload passenger and crew manifest information for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

«We’ve made additional enhancements to the Garmin Pilot app on a global scale,» Garmin said. «This data includes airport traffic patterns, TMZ/RMZ [transponder mandatory zone/radio mandatory zone] airspaces, airport entry routing lines and more. These additions better support operations for pilots flying VFR [visual flight rules] in Europe.» >>>
>>> As far as an AID, Garmin said that Connext is able to link Garmin Pilot with select Garmin avionics systems to display Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) weather and traffic, Sirius XM Weather, and audio control, and to support bi-directional transfer of flight plans, texts, and voice calls.

Satellite connectivity can further enhance Garmin Pilot app. When the app is connected with a Garmin GSR 56 satellite datalink, the app displays weather received by the GSR 56 «so pilots can easily view and access weather data in-flight in the app,» according to Garmin.

In addition, the GSR 56-connected app allows passengers and crew to communicate by text and voice and track the position of the aircraft.

Among the newest features of Garmin Pilot are navigation capabilities that meld with the Instrument Flight Rules features of Garmin flight decks and avionics systems for areas such as loading and activating instrument approach procedures and departures.

With the Garmin FlightStream 510 multi-media card (MMC), pilots are able to use Database Concierge, the wireless transfer of aviation database information from Garmin Pilot to the avionics systems.

«Flight Stream 510 also supports the wireless transfer of flight plans to/from the app and the avionics, as well as the sharing of traffic, weather and GPS position information with Garmin Pilot,» according to Garmin. «These connectivity features reduce pilot workload and streamline the database update process in the cockpit.» >>>
>>> In addition to the flight efficiency, cost, and pilot workload benefits of EFB apps, some may also provide safety benefits.

The Xavion app by entrepreneur Austin Meyer provides an iPad-powered backup of primary flight instruments to allow pilots to reference if the instrument displays go black.

According to Meyer, when connected to an external GPS unit, the Xavion instrument readings «can rival the ones built into your panel.» If an aircraft experiences engine failure, Xavion is able to plot a guide to the nearest, safest runway. In addition, Xavion is able to estimate fuel burn at different altitudes so that a pilot can choose the most efficient flight path, and, according to Meyer, the app provides «synthetic vision without the cost of a traditional glass cockpit» by revealing a clear picture of surrounding terrain.

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