Responding to a trend of business aircraft operators migrating to “self service” flight planning, UAS International Trip Support (Booth E065) is unveiling and demonstrating its new flight-planning platform, developed in partnership with ForeFlight, this week here at EBACE 2016. Currently in Beta testing, the all-digital platform—dubbed FlightEvolution—allows schedulers, dispatchers and flight crews to plan every aspect of a trip without any outside help.
“By developing advanced operational tools on the market, we are responding to the complex and ever-changing requirements of operators and pilots who demand more powerful and sophisticated tech capabilities,” said UAS executive vice president Jay Ammar Husary. "Being more solutions-focused allows us to best meet the unique requirements of each individual. There are a number of online flight planning tools on the market today, but what makes FlightEvolution different is the user experience.”
Distinguishing itself from competing online flight-planning solutions, FlightEvolution was built using a “mobile first” approach, UAS regional director for the Americas Ryan Frankhouser told AIN. “It was developed first for iOS devices, then the web. Because of this approach, we were able to make sure all of the features and functions, with the exception of flight-plan filing, work on the iPad/iPhone app even if the user is offline,” he said. The web version does require an Internet connection, however.
Besides flight-plan filing, planning features include graphical weather, rubber-band routing, overflight permits, navigation fee estimates, fuel orders and FBO/aircraft handling arrangements. The iOS app can also display approach charts with overlays, ADS-B traffic and worldwide synthetic vision. The Beta version can already perform all of these functions, but features such as catering orders, hotel accommodations and executive ground transportation bookings will be added in the future, possibly with other partners, the company said.
According to Franhouser, the FlightEvolution app borrows vector-based mapping engine technology developed for video games. “Games such as ‘Call of Duty’ have such smooth and robust graphics, but flight planning software mapping lags behind or is tiled,” he said. “So we brought in some gaming programmers as part of our development team to eliminate these issues.”
This technology also allows data to be highly compressed—the key to permitting mapping for route planning, approach chart overlays and synthetic vision to be used worldwide while the iOS device is offline, he told AIN.
Even with this enormous amount of stored data, the company’s recommended minimum onboard storage space for an iPad or iPhone with the FlightEvolution app is only 32GB. However, Frankhouser said the app runs better on the newer iOS devices, which have faster processors. Thus, he recommends running the app on an iPad 2 or newer iPad, or the iPhone SE or 6/6S.
Five “major” Part 91 operators in the U.S. have been beta testing the app over the past few months. “It will be available for sale before the NBAA Convention in October,” Frankhouser noted. “While we feel that the Beta version of FlightEvolution is pretty solid, we just want a few more months of testing to make sure it’s as flawless as possible before signing up paid customers.”
Pricing has not yet been set, but will be comparable to existing online flight planning applications, he said.