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Aspen Gets Connected


When the history of general aviation is written, 2011 will be the year of the iPad. Rarely have we seen new technology adapted faster than the iPad has been. Pilots have always been early adopters of new technology, though, so it’s no surprise that the iPad and its accessories and applications were practically the theme of this year’s Oshkosh. When you saw a crowd in a booth or standing room only in a forum, chances are the iPad was the cause.

Of course, Oshkosh this year was as exciting as ever. For all of you who attended AirVenture, I am sure you will agree. For those of you who didn’t, you may have seen all of the exciting news coming out of Aspen. At our annual media breakfast, we announced our new Connected™ Panel line of products. Connected Panel provides connectivity between tablet (iPad, droid) applications and the compatible installed avionics through Aspen’s Connected™ Panel gateway and Aspen’s MFD.

Connected Panel video

Click here to view the Connected video

We are quite excited about this Connected™ product line. The use of these tablet devices on airplanes has grown as fast as anything I have seen in my career. The one thing missing on all of the current applications is the access to interact with the certified avionics.

The concept is very simple: Connected Panel creates an open standard for two-way data exchange between un-certified applications and the certified avionics utilizing Aspen’s Connected™ Panel gateway and the Aspen MFD. To address the certification considerations, we’ve implemented patent-pending data exchange methods which we’ve built into our software API and using the Aspen MFD to ensure pilots review and approve any inputs into the certified avionics systems on the airplane. These methods protect the certified avionics from any possible interference or disruption, keep the pilot in the loop, and provide security of the exchanged data. At no time can an application on an iPad be in direct control of the aircraft or its systems.

This announcement exploded on the Internet. I have been exceptionally interested in all of the reactions to the concept on different forums and blogs, both in and outside of aviation. The concept even got picked up by Macworld and the extended high tech community. In fact, if one makes a simple search of Aspen Connected Panel through Google, more than 700 results were posted in the days since the announcement! Comments range from “This is very cool” to people who think one will be able to fly the airplane with an iPad or even conspiracy theorists who believe someone will be able to hack into the airplane software.

Of course, none of the comments regarding controlling the airplane or being able to hack into the airplane are true. After all, many of us here at Aspen are pilots and aircraft owners too! The architecture does not even provide the opportunity for someone to take the pilot out of the loop, hack into the avionics system, or in any way affect the availability of flight critical functionality.

The real power of Connected™ is in the ability to facilitate innovative applications being created on tablet devices daily for aviation purposes. We announced our launch partners at Oshkosh and we have had a continuous stream of requests from other application developers and avionics manufacturers to become part of the Connected Panel program.

We have seen a lot of attention on flight planning, data logging, position replay, exceedence alerting, on-condition maintenance reports, and other interesting ideas. A typical scenario would be to plan and brief a flight plan in ForeFlight, enter the cockpit and upload your flight plan through the Connected™ Panel which will allow you to load it into your GPS navigator. During flight, route changes can be exchanged between the Connected™ Panel and your ForeFlight application on the iPad giving you quick access to the necessary chart data for your flight. After landing you could then download all applicable pilot log information, engine, parameters and GPS navigation information for use by iPad or desktop applications when you get back to your home or office. However, we believe that aviation enthusiasts will come up with new applications that will stretch the limits of our current imagination.

We at Aspen are proud to once again be the first to bring new, groundbreaking technology to the General Aviation community. We expect a lot of innovation to flourish from and through this product and are as anxious as you to see what comes next. As always, we would love to hear your comments and ideas!

Categories: Company, Connected Panel
  1. Mike Kobb
    August 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm | #1

    John,

    It was a pleasure to meet you in person at Oshkosh! Thanks so much for spending so much time chatting with me about my panel project and all the Aspen technology that will soon be housed in my airplane. I continue to be extremely impressed with the level of innovation and customer focus coming from Aspen!

    This Connected Panel project is extremely exciting and I can’t wait to install mine. Do you have any information available for planning purposes, like the dimensions of the blind-mount Connected Panel gateway, and the type of connections between the gateway and the Evolution?

    Thanks again.

  2. August 25, 2011 at 9:08 am | #2

    Thanks for comments. I enjoyed meeting you as well. Sorry it has taken me a bit to respond as I was called out of town on personal business. I am back and wanted to respond quickly. We will have specific installation data at the end of September. We are working on the final configuration and will have dimensions available then.

  3. Ronald Librizzi
    October 9, 2011 at 7:33 am | #3

    Many of us have been waiting to upgrade with things coming fast and furious but the story of the iPad on the AOPA website let’s me think that soon will be the time!!!!

    Keep up the good work and having it as a lead article on the aopa website got my attention and probably many others!!!

  4. Mike Kobb
    December 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm | #4

    Hi again, John!

    Still planning to include the Connected Panel in my airplane, and a KSN-770.

    Three questions from my avionics shop, which is an authorized Aspen installer.

    1) When can we expect installation info for the KSN-770? We need both mechanical and wiring info because we’re doing the new panel now. We’ll install a temporary radio for now (a Garmin 430 or 430W) but we want to be sure that we have left room for the KSN-770 and provided for all of the connections that will be necessary so we don’t have to re-do expensive wiring. We also need to know about what external annunciators it may support (things like GPS waypoint, etc).

    2) Same question about the Connected Panel — dimensions and wiring info. Not sure if that information you were planning to release is available now. I didn’t see anything on the site.

    3) Third, about the KSN-770: he’s worried about the dealer channel. His feedback to me was that carrying Bendix/King products has been a non-starter because it was extremely expensive to become a dealer and their focus seemed to be more on larger aircraft. Are there any plans to make the units available to Aspen dealers without their also having to be Bendix/King dealers?

    Looking forward to your next blog entry!

  5. January 16, 2012 at 11:11 am | #5

    Mike,

    Thanks for your comment. Sorry it has taken me a bit to respond, but I have a pretty good reason. I just received my instrument rating this week and have been consumed with getting that done. More on that in my next blog entry.

    As far as Connected Panel goes, we have been working feverishly to put the final touches on the product and get certification completed. It is taking a bit longer than expected but we are making good progress. I am anxious to get it in my airplane as well, as I have really integrated the ipad and many of its applications into my flying as well.

    We are not quite ready to release the installation data for either the KSN or Connected Panel as it needs to be approved through the FAA process. I am actually keeping my KLN94 for now until the KSN comes out (which by the way is an excellent GPS. While I wish it had WAAS capabilities, for my flying it does an excellent job for me).

    I wish I could give you more specific information, but at this point until it all gets approved it will be subject to change and could actually cost more for you if you go one way and then we have to make some changes.

    Give our field service engineer in your area a call and he can try and work with you as best as possible to minimize any expensive rewiring.

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