Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Aspen Has Connections

Aspen’s latest product emphasizes connectivity

Aspen has formed partnerships with a number of aviation technology companies, including PS Engineering, AvConnect, ForeFlight, Honeywell, J.P. Instruments, Parrot, Pinnacle Aerospace, Seattle Avionics and Sporty’s.

Brad Hayden, Aspen’s VP of marketing, commented, “We have an idea what some of the initial applications (of the Connected Panel) might be, and we’re actively working on them. But our partners will be able to come up with apps that we haven’t considered, and the open system will allow them to unleash their specialized knowledge and creativity in completely new ways.”

The Connected Panel hardware plays through a small box called the CG100, blind-mounted behind the aircraft panel. This unit contains wireless, Bluetooth and USB connectivity provisions along with flash memory storage. The system is designed to make it easy for Aspen and its partners to incorporate new modes of interface as they become available.

John Uczekaj, president and CEO of Aspen Avionics, says, “We encourage and invite all hardware and application developers to push the boundaries of what’s possible in aircraft electronics to make flying safer, easier, more affordable and more enjoyable.”

The first Connected Panel hardware/software system, designed for interface with the Apple iPad, is called Connected Pilot, and it has a list price of $2,500. At this writing, Aspen, ForeFlight and AvConnect are offering interface programs for Connected Pilot. Aspen hopes the Connected Panel will be certified and available by the end of the year.

Aspen announced synthetic vision as an additional option to the company’s line last year and hoped to offer the system in the second quarter of 2011. However, the company informed the press at Oshkosh that beta testers and human factors experts have suggested some improvements that will entail more development. Aspen hopes to introduce the final, dedicated edition of synthetic vision by the third quarter.

When Aspen synthetic vision does hit the market, it promises to be the lowest-priced system of its kind available for glass panels. At $2,995, the Aspen version will offer a representation of the terrain ahead with color-coded screens to warn of ground clearance: red for terrain less than 100 feet below, and yellow for terrain clearance less than 500 feet.

The database employed is the Jeppesen three-arc-second library, which provides approximately 400 data points per square mile or one every 265 feet. In a typical, 150-knot GA airplane, that works out to one data point every second of flight time. If Aspen runs true to form, you can bet the new system will be the equal of far more expensive systems on the market.

As we went to press, we received word that Aspen is now in formal compliance for FAA approval of synthetic vision, and the actual production certificate should be in hand by the time you read this. The company hopes to begin shipments as soon as the system is FAA-approved.

An Aspen EFD1000 flight display transforms virtually any airplane it touches, no matter what the age. Even an older Cherokee or Skyhawk fitted with an Aspen assumes a level of sophistication beyond its price. As an owner of a fairly ancient Mooney, I can only dream of the day I might be able to afford Aspen glass in my Mooney. At Aspen’s prices, that day may not be as far off as I imagine.


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