EBACE Convention News

New UTC Module Delivers Aircraft Data To Mobile Devices

 - May 17, 2014, 5:00 AM
UTC Aerospace Systems’ electronic flight bag (EFB) family, which includes the SmartDisplay G700 series, tablet interface module (TIM) and aircraft interface device (AID).

EBACE attendees are invited to bring their mobile devices to the UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS) stand (3829) for a live demonstration of the company’s tablet interface module (TIM). The demo emulates a real flight by piping in simulated flight data through the TIM, which is mounted both in a UTC VIP seat and in a typical flight deck configuration. Visitors can plug their mobile device into the TIM’s USB interface to see how their apps display the live flight data and also stick around for a free battery top-off courtesy of UTAS. “We encourage people to come to the booth and connect to the system,” said Bill Baumgarten, UTAS subject matter expert for EFB solutions.

UTAS is a long-established manufacturer of FAA- and EASA-certified electronic flight bags (EFBs), but after the advent of Apple’s iPad and the rapid growth of mobile devices, the market for EFBs shifted. In the business jet segment, Baumgarten said, the adoption rate of tablets is near 100 percent, while commercial airlines tend to favor certified EFBs, at a ratio of about 80 percent EFBs to 20 percent tablets. To serve the needs of the tablet-toting market, UTAS developed a new product line–the TIM–which connects tablets to aircraft systems data. “We wanted a way of converting that tablet from just an e-reader into something that was useful,” he said.

The TIM is about the size of a deck of cards, and three users can hook up to each TIM, one via USB and two via Bluetooth. To deliver aircraft data to the TIM, UTAS offers the aircraft interface device (AID), which is usually mounted in the electronics bay. One AID, about the size of two iPads stacked together and weighing less than 2.5 pounds, can support up to six TIMs and it connects to the TIMs via Ethernet cable.

The AID gathers information from aircraft systems and makes it available to the TIM or provides it directly to a certified EFB installed in the aircraft. This can include precise position from onboard GPS, FMS and air-data information, data from aircraft systems and even maintenance data that can be used for troubleshooting problems.

The certified AID acts as a firewall between aircraft systems and devices like the TIM and prevents any device from gaining unauthorized access to the aircraft’s networks and systems. The TIM has onboard storage and can record systems data–and thus acts as a low cost quick-access recorder for flight operational quality assurance programs. The AID has up to 16 Arinc 429 inputs, one each RSS422/485 and RSS232 inputs and 16 discrete inputs. The AID also offers storage in CompactFlash solid-state format.

Real-time Data Transfer

The AID can also connect to onboard communications systems such as ACARS and satcom and can be equipped with GSM (cellular) and Wi-Fi capability. Thus the AID can be set up to automatically or manually send aircraft data while airborne in real-time for maintenance or flight-tracking purposes, or flight log and other data can be transmitted via GSM or Wi-Fi once on the ground.

For passengers using a TIM mounted in the cabin or in a seat, the module provides device charging via USB and options such as control of the seat, local heating and cooling as well as a hookup to the AID for displaying aircraft position on the passenger’s device and communication with the flight crew. “Some customers have asked for a TIM in the cabin for cabin crew using handheld devices,” said Baumgarten. There are also applications for the military and for helicopter operators.

UTAS has received supplemental type certificates (STCs) for installation of the AID and TIM in a variety of aircraft, including Airbus and Boeing models and regional jets. The first business jet installation is under way on a UTAS Global Express, and the company plans to seek approved model list certification for multiple business jets and commercial transports, which will lower the cost of installation.

The advantage of installing the AID is that it can deliver data to both EFBs and TIMs, so an operator could, for example, start with an AID and TIM then add a UTAS SmartDisplay EFB later for an end-to-end certified system. “It’s a nice range of solutions depending on what the customer wants today or in the future,” Baumgarten said. “Some are happy with just the iPad, and we fully embrace that.”

Another advantage for the AID/EFB installation is that the EFB offers cockpit display of traffic information (CDTI), which can combine traffic information from TCAS, ADS-B IN and TIS-B on a single display. CDTI runs on applications developed by ACSS and Honeywell, according to Baumgarten, although UTAS wrote the middleware software that facilitates CDTI functionality and runs on the AID and EFB.

UTAS systems are installed on some United Airlines and American Airlines airplanes that are currently participating in FAA NextGen trials, including in-trail procedure “ADS-B-enabled climbs and descents through altitudes where current non-ADS-B separation standards would prevent desirable altitude changes,” according to UTAS.