Jeppesen likely to offer terrain/SVS package

 - December 18, 2006, 1:02 PM

Jeppesen says it’s ready to offer avionics makers an enhanced terrain and synthetic-vision database package that it claims offers a much more accurate model of the world than has been available until now.

In development for at least the last three years, the data set Jeppesen has compiled is said to represent “a giant leap forward” in terms of completeness and resolution and “far surpasses any terrain database currently available on the market,” according to the company, a division of Boeing with headquarters outside Denver.

The list of would-be buyers of such data is quite short, limited to the handful of avionics suppliers that don’t already offer such database information through TAWS (terrain awareness and warning system) and SVS (synthetic-vision system) products. Honeywell, Garmin, Chelton Flight Systems, L-3 Avionics Systems, Universal Avionics, Sandel and ACSS are the competing suppliers of TAWS avionics to business aviation. Honeywell, Universal and Chelton have SVS products. That’s a fairly crowded arena, but considering that the FAA has mandated TAWS in most turbine-powered airplanes and the market for SVS appears poised to explode, the market probably can support other competitors without becoming oversaturated.

At least Jeppesen hopes that is the case. The company says its database is unique because it is the only one that provides near photo-like quality (3 arc-second/90-meter resolution) and detail for the latitudes between 60 degrees north and 56 degrees south (covering nearly all the world’s major flight regions from latitudes in northern Canada to the southern tip of South America). Areas outside those latitudes are captured at a minimum detail of 30 arc-seconds.

The database is a compilation of imagery and information taken from Shuttle Radar Topography Missions and blended with many other sources of information to fill in the gaps. A Jeppesen team has been flight-testing the database around the world for some time with good success, the company said.

“Part of Jeppesen’s vision for the future is to provide value and safety in the form of databases that combine content from many different sources,” said Kevin Collins, Jeppesen senior v-p for business and general aviation. “We look forward to partnering with avionics providers to bring a new level of detail into SVS and TAWS systems,” which, he said, will mean better situational awareness and improved safety.

Jeppesen’s terrain database uses a proprietary process to create minimum altitude terrain “buffers” based on specialized terrain classification, source and the proximity of the terrain to an airport. This means that rather than simply applying a blanket minimum safe altitude cushion of, say, 1,000 feet, the Jeppesen database will offer better detail and a more accurate picture of minimum safe altitudes.