Guardian Avionics has introduced its new smartPlane system, which combines a cockpit mounting mechanism for Apple iPads with data-capturing devices and software to bring low-cost multifunction display capabilities to general aviation cockpits.
The heart of smartPlane is Guardian’s FAA-approved panel mount, which can be installed on an instrument panel. The iPad fits flush into the mount, and any information displayed on the iPad is thus more easily viewed by the pilot. By adding Guardian smartLink products, users can run information such as backup flight display, engine instruments, charts and more on the iPad. The panel mounts are FAA-approved as a minor alteration that an A&P mechanic can install under the agency’s non-required safety-enhancing equipment policy.
Guardian’s smartLink products include the remote-mount smartLink 851, which incorporates a flight data recorder, carbon monoxide detector, AHRS and dual USB power connectors. The 851 includes dual RS-232 ports for data input from installed avionics such as a WAAS GPS and engine sensors. Other smartLinks offer some of those capabilities and others—such as a pulse oximeter on the 555 unit—and they are also panel-mountable.
The flight data recorder shares information with Guardian’s smartCloud web application for post-flight analysis, which includes flight data and engine performance.
For the iPad display, Guardian’s smartMFD software shows a primary flight display alongside charts and engine instruments. This app can run in the background while the pilot switches to another app, such as a moving-map app to check weather or flight progress. Or if the moving-map app complies with Apple's split-view protocol, both smartMFD and the other app can run side-by-side on the iPad.
“Most pilots already fly with an iPad in the cockpit,” said Guardian president Ash Vij. The smartPlane system gives pilots modern multifunction display type information at a far lower cost than installed avionics, he said. In the case of engine instruments, if there is no room in the instrument panel for a full engine monitor, smartPlane can tap into engine sensors and display the information on the iPad.
Guardian welcomes other app developers to add new capabilities to its software; for example, a moving-map app could also include an engine instrument display. “We’re open to that,” he said. “We’re trying to help the pilot make his job easier.”
The smartLink 851 and mount for an iPad mini, Air or Pro 9.7 is priced at $899.