Is voice recognition the next big thing for aviation iPad apps?

Could the iPad be taught to be a better copilot?

Today’s GA avionics and iPad apps have only scratched the surface when it comes to reducing pilot workload and improving GA safety. While Apple, aviation app developers and accessory manufacturers have made great strides over the past 6 years, we’re still interacting with our data in much the same way. Yes we have digital charts and near real-time weather imagery at our finger tips, but to ingest this information we have to take our attention away from flying the airplane and interact with small buttons and menus on a panel-mount MFD or tablet in our lap.

The iPad’s touchscreen display and has made this interaction much easier, but at the end of the day it’s really not much different than looking down at a paper sectional chart or flipping through the pages of an instrument approach book. No matter how you slice it, it’s time away from looking out the window, scanning flight instruments or monitoring aircraft systems.

You could outfit your cockpit with all the iPads, gadgets and information systems available today, but that would only provide a fraction of the benefit of an alternative low-tech solution: a human co-pilot. There’s no better way to reduce pilot workload thn to have another knowledgeable pilot sitting beside you to help out with routine tasks in the airplane. The best part about this arrangement is the tried and true communication link with this resource: verbal dialogue.

Could the iPad be taught to be a better copilot?
Could the iPad do a better job as a copilot?

Need the ATIS frequency for the destination? All it takes is a simple spoken request using the headset and they can locate the frequency for you (and maybe even enter it in the standby radio if you’re lucky). Need the before landing checklist? Again a simple request will have them reading the items out loud while you keep your head up and accomplish each task. The best part about this resource is it allows you to keep focused on flying the airplane and not spend time hunting for data on an iPad or checklist in your lap. This is a tremendous resource to have during task-saturated events, like taxiing around a busy airport or setting up for an instrument approach in rough weather.

The airlines recognize the benefit of a two-pilot crew and there’s no question its a big reason they operate with a near-flawless safety record. It’s not realistic, though, for GA pilots to always operate with the same two-pilot crew, as that would take away a lot of the flexibility afforded by our GA airplanes.

So if we accept that we’re going to continue to operating single-pilot in a high-workload environment for the foreseeable future, what other resources might be out there to help reduce pilot workload? You don’t have to look far to see one possibility, which is exploding currently in the consumer market:

“Hey Siri, order me an Uber to the Peachtree Airport”

“Hey Siri, set the home thermostat to 72°”

Voice control was designed to allow us to communicate with our devices without taking our eyes off another task, such as walking down the street or driving a car. All the popular smartphones and tablets now offer these digital assistants, and Amazon even offers a product that resides in your home that allows you to order products from the online retailer using only voice commands.

Image used and reprinted with permission of The MITRE Corporation. ©2016. All other rights reserved.
Image used and reprinted with permission of The MITRE Corporation. ©2016. All other rights reserved.

If the digital assistant concept works so well for hands free tasks in everyday life, why couldn’t it benefit pilots in the airplane as well? The folks at the MITRE Corporation think it can, and have been researching the concept for nearly a year now. MITRE is a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government. Their main interest is to develop new technologies that benefit the public interest. For example, they developed the core technologies that power your favorite portable ADS-B receiver.

Their current mission is to develop the “Digital Copilot,” with the goal to increase safety in the single-pilot environment. These technologies would allow the pilot to speak to an iPad app to request information pertinent to the current phase of flight, and the app could either display that information on the screen or “speak” the requested info right back to the pilot. This would provide many of the same capabilities as a human copilot, looking up ATC frequencies, reading checklists or providing reminders to switch fuel tanks, all with no heads-down time needed from the pilot.

MTIRE’s Digital Copilot looks to go beyond a simple challenge/response system and provide smart services too. It will monitor what’s occurring in your flight and try to alert you to safety issues, such as altitude deviations or taxiing on to the incorrect runway. While en route it could monitor your flight progress, and automatically read to you the current weather at the destination and runway in use when you start to descend.

One of the most interesting things about this project is that MITRE is not trying to develop a dedicated EFB app with these features to compete in the current app market. Rather their goal is to develop these new technologies and then transfer its research and capabilities to the GA software industry. It’ll then be up to the individual aviation app developers to incorporate the Digital Copilot concept if they so choose.

The timing of this project coincides well with the release of iOS 10, which opens up Apple’s Siri digital voice assistant to 3rd-party apps. Up to this point Siri could only be used for specific Apple-approved requests, which were pretty limited. Now individual app developers can take advantage of voice recognition to perform basic tasks in their specific apps, e.g. calling for an Uber right from the main Siri screen.

telligence-blog-1078x516Garmin also introduced voice control in its panel-mount avionics lineup this year, officially called Telligence Voice Command. This requires a GMA 350 or GMA 35 audio panel, a GTN 650/750 touchscreen navigator with the required Telligence system software, and a push-to-command button on the yoke (separate from your communication radio push-to-talk switch).

There are hundreds of commands available with Telligence, allowing you to perform routine actions on the GTN navigators without touching or looking at the screen. For example, you could have it tune in specified frequencies:

“Tune destination ATIS”

“Tune destination approach”

The system can also be questioned and will provide contextual information using a computer-generated voice. You might ask:

“Say bearing and distance from destination airport”

“Say winds”

When it comes to voice recognition and the concept of a personal digital assistant, there are really 2 separate trends to pay attention to over the next few years. The first is the basic voice command technology that Garmin recently made available in their panel-mount navigators. This technology is here now, but its capabilities are limited to a finite amount of variables and actions programmed by the developers.

The next step is combining voice recognition with artificial intelligence, allowing the avionics or iPad app to “think” in a sense and provide more meaningful data and resources to you throughout a flight. This would represent the true Digital Copilot that MITRE is researching and has the potential to affect aviation safety in big ways.

For more information:

The solo pilot gets a second set of eyes

Talking to your airplane

Source: Ipad appsIs voice recognition the next big thing for aviation iPad apps?

U.S. Aviation Community Readies for Winter Weather

September 30– As winter approaches, U.S. airports, airline flight crews, dispatchers, general aviation pilots, air traffic controllers, and manufacturers will begin using new Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) methods to improve safety at U.S. airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has launched a TALPA website with key information the aviation community needs to know to prepare for the TALPA changes, which will be effective tomorrow, October 1. FAA guidance, notices, alerts, videos, and frequently asked questions will help the aviation community reduce the risk of runway overrun accidents and incidents due to runway contamination caused by weather and other factors.

The FAA developed the standards based on the work of the TALPA Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). As a result of the committees work, the FAA has developed a revised method for airports and air traffic controllers to communicate actual runway conditions to the pilots in terms that directly relate to the way a particular aircraft is expected to perform. The TALPA initiative improves the way the aviation community assesses runway conditions, based on contaminant type and depth, which provides an aircraft operator with effective information to anticipate airplane braking performance.

Airport operators will use the new Runway Condition Assessment Matrix (RCAM) to assess runway conditions, and pilots will use it to interpret reported runway conditions. The RCAM is presented in a standardized format, based on airplane performance data supplied by airplane manufacturers, for each of the stated contaminant types and depths. The RCAM replaces subjective judgments of runway conditions with objective assessments tied directly to contaminant type and depth categories.

The pilot or dispatcher will then consult the aircraft manufacturer data to determine what type of stopping performance to expect from the specific airplane they are operating.

The airport operator will assess surfaces, report contaminants that are present, and input the information into the Federal NOTAM System in order to generate the numerical Runway Condition Codes (RwyCC) based on the RCAM. The RwyCCs may vary for each third of the runway if different contaminants are present. However, the same RwyCC may be applied when a uniform coverage of contaminants exists. RwyCCs will replace Mu values, which will no longer be published in the Federal NOTAM System.

Pilot braking action reports will continue to be used to assess braking performance. Beginning October 1, the terminology Fair will be replaced by Medium. It will no longer be acceptable for an airport to report a NIL (none) braking action condition. NIL conditions on any surface require the closure of that surface. These surfaces will not be opened until the airport operator is satisfied that the NIL braking condition no longer exists.

Source: FAAU.S. Aviation Community Readies for Winter Weather

Pictures of the day: Flyhound

alma-flyhound

Gary Lanthrum sent in these photos, noting: “The pictures show my dog Alma with her flying scarf (ear muffs were added after the picture was taken)…Our approach up the Skykomish River valley, short final into S88, the three planes parked next to the picnic area and the table where we actually had lunch. It doesn’t get much better than this!”

alma-flyhound

skykomish-approach

short-fina

parked

picnic

Source: http://generalaviationnews.comPictures of the day: Flyhound

Idaho air museum partners with new high school

By Frederick A. Johnsen

When a World War II Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter made a dramatic flyover during the first Ridgevue High School football home game last month, it was far more than a passing symbol. It marked the beginning of a way of life — a patriotic and respectful ethos nurtured by the new school in Nampa, Idaho.

Ridgevue students and faculty call themselves the Warhawks. It’s part of a collaborative relationship between the school and Nampa’s Warhawk Air Museum.

Ridgevue principal Julie Yamamoto, born and raised in this part of Idaho, enthusiastically embraces the classic freedoms and responsibilities that go with being an American citizen. She sees the example set by America’s Second World War generation as a thrilling and worthy role model for students of any era.

Principal Julie Yamamoto shows one of the campus fixtures that promotes the Warhawks ethos at the new Ridgevue High School in Nampa, Idaho. (Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen)

Principal Julie Yamamoto shows one of the campus fixtures that promotes the Warhawks ethos at the new Ridgevue High School in Nampa, Idaho. (Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen)

That’s music to the ears of Sue Paul, director of the Warhawk Air Museum. Sue and her husband John have nurtured a similar respect at the museum for decades.

Working with the museum’s administrative assistant, Heather Mullins, the Pauls made a presentation to the Vallivue School District that envisioned an ongoing alliance between the museum and Ridgevue High School.

Use of the museum by students and faculty is part of the story; inspiration in the halls of Ridgevue is another element. Various corridors in the sparkling new high school will be known by names like Rosie the Riveter, Warhawk, MacArthur, and Tuskegee, each conjuring visions of wartime sacrifice and heroism. As the inaugural school year for Ridgevue High unfolds, students will create related art and explanations to adorn each hall.

Warhawk Air Museum's TP-40N nicknamed Parrot Head. (Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen)

Warhawk Air Museum’s TP-40N nicknamed Parrot Head. (Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen)

Yamamoto is at once optimistic and urgent as she says, “We have been gifted with an American way of life.” She intends to make sure younger generations understand the value of that legacy, and the responsibility that goes with it. It’s all part of her goal to bring the school into the community, making the school experience “bigger than these four walls.”

Ridgevue High principal Julie Yamamoto raises her hands to make the Warhawks 'W' sign in the gym where the namesake aircraft decorates the basketball court.

Ridgevue High principal Julie Yamamoto raises her hands to make the Warhawks ‘W’ sign in the gym where the namesake aircraft decorates the basketball court.

If Julie Yamamoto and Sue Paul share an abiding respect for history, their tools and outlook are as modern as today. While embracing the Warhawk symbol, students will render it using state-of-the-art graphics programs and computerized machines to equip the students to become productive in society.

Yamamoto envisions drafting classes that solve practical problems, not merely textbook exercises, and graphics classes that she says will be “designing business solutions” in the local community.

While learning valuable life skills, she says, students will be giving back to the community and gaining a sense of place in the larger world.

Nor is she content with some of the older precepts of STEM education, emphasizing the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. She acknowledges the evolved acronym STEAM, that folds the Arts into the mix.

If STEM, and STEAM, foster valuable critical thinking, Yamamoto wants to make the student experience more pragmatic than academic. “How do you have it not be a head exercise?” She looks to the community and to relationships like the one with Warhawk Air Museum to help create well-rounded capable post-high school citizens.

Idaho is largely an agricultural state, with a steady, if smaller, core of high-tech industries like HP computers, Micron, and the Idaho National Laboratory. The demands placed on the 21st Century workforce for this state in the Mountain West range from entry level jobs right out of high school to specialized technical competencies and positions requiring college education.

College is not a panacea for all high school students, and Yamamoto wants the immersive curriculum at Ridgevue High School to be much more than a pre-college mill.

“How do we keep as many doors open as possible” for students to find post-high school opportunities, she asks.

The Ridgevue High Warhawks — all 1,135 of them — will visit Warhawk Air Museum this year in groups. Like schools around the United States, Ridgevue must budget student travel carefully, but this trip to see the school’s historical namesake makes the cut.

If the Ridgevue Warhawks name conjures a combative mascot, Yamamoto says the intent is to have good role models.

She and the staff will promote “a palpable positive energy at games,” deliberately devoid of trash-talking the other team. “That’s not the Warhawk way,” she explains.

One comes away from a visit with Yamamoto impressed with the amalgam of new ideas, new technologies, and new community opportunities blended with the vintage, yet timeless, example set by America’s greatest generation.

If an enthusiastic and motivated principal and a community-oriented air museum in Nampa, Idaho, can collaborate for the good of students in an ongoing relationship, it remains to be seen how other aviation entities around the country can bring their own vision of that classic can-do, upbeat fliers’ attitude to the classroom in a meaningful partnership.

Source: http://generalaviationnews.comIdaho air museum partners with new high school

FAA scrambles to hire controllers

More than 35 years after President Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers who had gone on strike in the midst of a bitter labor battle, the FAA still faces periodic waves of shortages. For the first time in seven years, however, the FAA is poised to catch up with recruiting efforts, at least in the near term: The agency is on track to hire 1,781 new air traffic controllers before the end of December.

Source: aopaFAA scrambles to hire controllers

Futuristic Dystopia Movie Shot Entirely with Drones

Despite that one time a falling camera drone almost landed on a downhill skier mid-race, drones are becoming a go-to tool for filmmakers and cinematographers. And as the technology continues to develop, so does the potential for creative projects harnessing the power of aerial cameras. Now, one movie has been completely shot with the use […]

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Source: Quadcopter/Drone newsFuturistic Dystopia Movie Shot Entirely with Drones