Garmin Pilot Switches To Dynamic Maps

 - April 9, 2013, 8:15 AM
An upgrade to Garmin Pilot features dynamic maps that let the user customize and annotate the maps.

Just before Sun ’n Fun Garmin (Booth No. D-034) unveiled a major update to its Garmin Pilot iPad app, dynamic maps drawn from a vector-based mapping database. The new dynamic maps allow for many improvements to Garmin Pilot, chief of which is labels always remaining upright in the new track-up mode as the airplane turns and the maps adjusts to the new direction. Thanks to dynamic mapping, Garmin’s app designers were also able to make maps render more quickly and deliver greater resolution at higher zoom levels and also integrate Garmin’s SafeTaxi airport charts into the moving-map display.

The dynamic mapping mode can be seen by selecting VFR or IFR maps (not the typical Sectionals, TACs, WACs or IFR charts). In the map view, users can customize the map to great extent by touching the right arrow next to the map type (Roads/Borders, VFR or IFR) for advanced map setup. Adjustments are possible to airports, navaids, airspaces and cities, mostly related to how far away each type is visible and the label sizes. For example, you can set large airports to be visible from, say, 50 nm away, so they won’t pop up on the chart until your aircraft is 50 nm or closer to those types of airports.

Dynamic mapping also enables highlighting of airspace segments. Just touch a portion of the airspace then touch the inverted wedding cake airspace symbol on the radial menu, then you can select the airspace to highlight. One drawback on Garmin Pilot is that you can’t move the label that then sits over the highlighted airspace, if you want to see details underneath the label. Once you touch outside the label, the highlighting and the label disappear. I’d like to see the ability to make the label go away while retaining the highlighting.

Another welcome addition to Garmin Pilot is chart annotation, which works on arrival and departure charts, Airport/Facility Directory pages (which are new to Garmin Pilot), approach charts and airport diagrams. Annotation isn’t available on dynamic maps or on Garmin SafeTaxi airport diagrams. And the user cannot annotate a chart while viewing the chart in split-screen mode, although existing annotations are saved on the chart and can be viewed in a split screen. Annotation mode offers six colors and drawing, highlighting and erase tools, available either by touching and holding the chart or from the menu button. Three different line widths are now selectable, too.

Track-up mode is new and works on both dynamic maps and static maps, although labels remain properly oriented only on dynamic maps. Trips can now be synched between devices, using Garmin Pilot’s cloud computing technology. This feature also syncs aircraft, bookmarked flight plans, pilot information and user waypoints. The flight condition color scheme can be changed in settings and now offers two options, the standard Garmin avionics colors (blue=VFR, etc.) or FAA standard (green=VFR, blue=marginal VFR, red=IFR).

Garmin Pilot costs $74.99 a year plus $49.99 for geo-referenced FliteCharts and $24.99 for SafeTaxi charts. The latest version is a free upgrade for existing users. Garmin Pilot also works with Garmin’s $799 GDL 39 ADS-B receiver, which delivers free weather and traffic to the iPad.

There remains one major element missing from Garmin Pilot, and that is terrain data. “That’s on the list to come out in the future,” said Jim Alpiser, Garmin’s director of aviation aftermarket sales. “Garmin Pilot will continue to evolve.”