Perhaps the latest GTN 650 and GTN 750 are a godsend to users. The current software upgrades and hardware mean safer and easier operations. Garmin has outdone itself with these futuristic avionics systems. From data entry to ease of use, it’s everything a pilot could want and more. Fewer buttons, more control, and a touchscreen system are fabulous.
Can it ever be any better? It’s as if the engineers made it for pilots as if it was designed and engineered by the very users who love it so much – We think it may improve in the future. How do you ask? It turns out I was discussing this with a fellow think tanker, Troy Leclaire, recently, and we talked about the issues with 1/2-second or 1-second delays from the satellites for data.
We discussed various solutions, such as which information should be pre-loaded data and use upgraded RAM to get at it. Here are some of Troy’s ideas to prevent bottlenecks in the system – a combination of hardware and software upgrades;
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1. Increase RAM
2. Make sure to use the best possible bus speeds between the processor and RAM
3. If using standard hard drives, switch to solid-state drives/flash drives. (although flash drives have a limited read/write, perhaps a combination, use flash for long-term storage and solid-state for short-term information, and have it possible for maintenance to swap out the flash drives after so many cycles easily.) Used but still usable flash drives can then be used in other areas or sold off to the secondary market.
4. Determine what is necessary for the instant update and what isn’t. Terrain and such can be hard-loaded since this usually doesn’t change much. Things that do not often change (such as general weather) are not going to change too fast, although I know in some cases it can. However, you can use predictive algorithms to predict possible changes and base the display/transmissions around this, so the weather doesn’t have to be updated too often.
A plane flying over the ocean in good weather does not require that the weather is updated every second, so say that temperature may only need to be updated every 20 times that a transmission is sent, rather than having constant updates unless the weather meets certain guidelines in which case the messages can be increased. If a plane is flying into bad weather, have the pilot capable of pushing a button to increase the number of times that the weather is updated.
Tie this into a system that communicates to the satellite so that if one pilot pushes the button, the satellite will feed the same results as often to other pilots in the same general area. For example, all planes in an area have weather updated every 30 seconds. One pilot notices bad weather and pushes his button; suddenly, all aircraft in the area receive updates every 3 seconds.
5. Use a variation of the above for plane path prediction. Since usually (from what I understand) there are set routes, and most planes stay on these routes, it may be possible to use predictive algorithms to determine where an aircraft is and where a plane isn’t ahead of time. If a tracked plane deviates from the predicted route, change how often that plane is updated on other displays. Planes closer to the receiver will be regularly updated than planes further away.
5. Use military-grade burst transmissions from the satellites to the planes to decrease traffic being transmitted/received.
6. Augment the system from ground control radars for planes in holding patterns, or perhaps have them switch off from receiving via satellite to receiving via ground stations. This may decrease the load on the satellite systems and increase the accuracy in the busiest areas.
7. Use the same type of video cards/monitors gamers use. These have some of the best refresh rates around.
Indeed, these are all excellent solutions and concepts to keep the system robust, safe, and leading-edge. Now then, in examining these ideas, and regarding item number 4 above, Yes, all-terrain and non-changing data must be pre-loaded, with updates available. It is very important to consider things like new wind turbine towers, radio antennas, power lines, airport frequency changes, changes in airport services, noise abatement rules, etc.
Additionally, Troy makes an interesting observation on item four, an interesting concept. In other words, the algorithm will self-inquiry for updates, as anticipated. Or the system will increase the refreshing updates as expected if the pilot does not. Also, the system’s bandwidth will concentrate on “need to know now” or “NKN information” when prioritizing data feeds.
Now, these are just a few concepts that could be integrated into the next generation of systems. However, both Troy and I realize the current versions of these technologies are superior to anything else out there. Troy, of course, being a systems engineer type, would improve these devices using these concepts if designing a system of this type.
Indeed, I agree, and thus, we have written this up, as these are brilliant suggestions, some of which this system most likely already has now or are in the works for future versions. Nevertheless, most of these concepts would be perfect for the next generation of avionics. If you have any comments, concerns, or questions, feel free to email me.