A popsicle delivery, a cloud-connected firefighting drone, and a feral pig patrol were launched in recent weeks as the FAA and industry partners study how to ease restrictions on drone operations. The FAA has meanwhile been flooded with Part 107 waiver requests, and approval rates have declined.
Real estate professionals are buying lots of drone photography, but you need a compelling pitch to land the most lucrative jobs. Show them you’re a pro and sell them on the time and money they will save by hiring you.
Garmin is continuing its relentless push for a connected cockpit, with avionics and apps that allow a wide variety of portable and panel-mount products to sync up. The latest (and greatest) offering is the Flight Stream 510, a tiny card that unlocks an impressive number of features. We recently flew with it and the latest version of the Garmin Pilot app and came away very impressed. Here’s a detailed review.
Flight Stream 510 is part of the Connext family of products, which is Garmin’s name for its connected panel products. It looks like a small SD card because it basically is an advanced version of that. The benefit is that it requires essentially no installation – just pop it in and turn on the GTN (although you’ll need to have an avionics shop do the actual installation).
We flew a Flight Stream 510 in a Pilatus PC-12, connected to a variety of Garmin avionics:
Garmin GTX 345 – ADS-B In and Out transponder
GDL 69A – SiriusXM weather and radio receiver
GTN 750 – GPS/nav/com
G600 TXi – primary flight display and AHRS
This allowed us to try a number of features on Garmin Pilot, from weather and traffic to music and flight plan transfers. One feature we couldn’t test was satellite messaging. With a GSR 56 Iridium satellite communicator installed, you can also use Garmin Pilot to compose text messages or initiate phone calls.
Flight Stream 510 includes both Bluetooth and WiFi, with Bluetooth being used for weather, traffic, and position data; WiFi is used for database updates (see below). The Bluetooth can connect to two devices at once (iOS, Android, or Garmin aera 660/796), and initial pairing is about what you would expect. Go to the Connext page on the GTN 750 (if you have more than one, as we did in this case, it’s important to do this on the #1 GTN or it won’t work). Once you’re in the Manage Devices page on the 750, you can go to the Settings app on your iPad to connect to the Flight Stream Bluetooth.
Once that’s done, future connections should be automatic so there’s nothing to do after this initial setup. You can always check the status of paired devices by going to the Connext page from the Garmin Pilot menu, then tapping the Flight Stream 510 page, then choosing “Manage Paired Devices.” This will show all previously paired devices, and offers the option for Auto Reconnect, which should be on by default.
Weather and traffic
Once you’ve connected your iPad to a Flight Stream 510, the information you can display really depends on what avionics you have in the panel. If you have an ADS-B receiver or a SiriusXM receiver, weather data can be displayed on your iPad in addition to the panel. Below is an example of SiriusXM weather on the Map page in Garmin Pilot. This is received by the panel-mount GDL 69A, then sent wirelessly to the iPad via Flight Stream. It’s seamless, and offers a wide variety of information, including storm cell tops and movement.
Flight Stream also sends traffic information from the panel, in this case the GTX 345 transponder. This can be viewed on the Map page or on the dedicated Traffic page in Garmin Pilot. We think this is the best traffic display in the industry, with clear symbols and lots of pilot-friendly information. For example, the motion vector can be set to TargetTrend, which shows a more realistic view of where the traffic is going relative to your aircraft. You can also tap on a target (see below) for more details.
In addition to weather and traffic, Flight Stream 510 can also be used as an attitude source. In this airplane, it uses the AHRS for the G600 TXi (the primary flight display) as an attitude source, which means it is rock solid and reliable. If you’re keeping track, that’s three different devices the Flight Stream is supporting (GDL 69A, GTX 345, G600 Txi). You can see the result below, with a split screen view: attitude and GPS information on top, moving map and weather on the bottom.
Flight plan transfer
So far the features are nice, but nothing you can’t do with a portable ADS-B receiver like a Stratus or GDL 50. The real magic happens when you start transferring flight plans from your tablet to the panel, or vice versa. Once you’re paired, go to the Map page and tap the Connext symbol at the top of the screen.
This is a quick-access Flight Stream menu, where you can monitor reception quality and control SiriusXM Audio volume. However, you can also tap Send To or Load From to share a flight plan. This is a great way to keep your iPad and GTN in sync. If you get a complicated re-route, just type it into Garmin Pilot, then tap Send To. It’s fast and easy. You can also set the Flight Stream to automatically push flight plan updates to your iPad, which is a big time-saver in our opinion.
One of the most interesting features of Flight Stream 510 is the ability to do wireless database updates of your panel-mount avionics, what Garmin calls Database Concierge. We’ve done it and can confirm that it works – you can use Garmin Pilot to download new databases, then send those new databases to the GTN 750 via the Flight Stream 510. From there, it distributes all the information to other devices, including the G600s. That means you download one time, then update four devices.
This is clearly the future, but our only complaint is that it takes a long time – over 40 minutes in our first test. That means you’ll want to hook up a ground power unit and plan well ahead. We’ll have more details on this process in a future article.
One thing Garmin has worked really hard at lately is the status page for remote devices. This isn’t exciting, but the latest version of Garmin Pilot offers a number of detailed pages for checking on the status of GPS receivers, ADS-B receivers, flight plan transfer, and much more. With a variety of external devices and possible features, this is essential to keep track of and we found ourselves checking the pages frequently.
First is the general Flight Stream 510 status page, which shows firmware version and the connected LRUs (line-replaceable units, essentially the panel avionics). This is also where you can manage the paired devices.
Tap Situational Data at the top to view the status of the GPS receiver and the AHRS.
Tap ADS-B to check the quality of your weather and traffic, including ground station locations and the age of individual weather products.
The SiriusXM page shows weather reception quality, which should almost always be excellent with a roof-mounted antenna. But it’s also a good place to monitor the age of SXM weather and the radio ID (important for changing your subscription or trouble-shooting).
SiriusXM Audio offers a dedicated place to choose a channel or adjust volume. Again, there’s a quick shortcut for this from the Connext menu on the Map page, but this is the best place to browse all stations and create favorites. It’s also much easier to do on the iPad than on a GTN we think, so this quickly became our main control for audio.
Flight Plan Transfer is mostly a backup page, since the typical push/pull operations are done from the Map page. This page is where you can set the auto-sync feature (we like Prompt so you can verify the new route on your iPad first), and it’s also the place to review stored flight plans.
The feature list is long and the acronyms are intimidating, but the actual process of flying with Flight Stream is remarkably easy. Just fly and your iPad will magically be in sync with the panel, showing updated weather and traffic as it changes flight plans automatically. If you have a full panel of Garmin avionics, we think it’s a great addition.
The Garmin Flight Stream 510 has a list price of $1,495, and is available from Garmin dealer shops. Worth noting is that this is compatible with the GTN 650/750 series of navigators, but not the older GNS 430/530 line.
For this review, we flew with the Garmin Pilot app on iOS, which works with all the features. Many of these features are also available with ForeFlight and Fltplan Go, but not SiriusXM weather/radio, Iridium messaging, and database updates.
Your iPhone and iPad are constantly working behind the scenes to provide the best user experience possible based on available data. One of the main data feeds they use is your physical location, determined from a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth. This allows them to provide you with location-based data like the weather at your current location, a map with the nearest coffee shop or traffic conditions for nearby highways.
While there’s no question these are useful features, they require additional power which leads to decreased battery life. This isn’t a big deal when actively using an app to provide location-based data, but it’s not necessary to have all your apps using location services while the screen is turned off or when using other apps.
The first time you open an app that uses location services you’ll see a pop-up alert asking if it’s ok for the app to track your location. Due to the large number of pop-ups that appear on the iPhone and iPad many just blindly acknowledge these to quickly start up app. It’s worth taking the time though to read these, as the notification will tell you if the app plans to use your location in the background (meaning when the app is not running), and a quick explanation of how it will use your location to improve the user experience.
A small arrow will appear to the left of the battery symbol whenever an app is actively using your location. It’s normal to see this when using a navigation app in the air and relying on an external GPS or the iPad’s internal GPS. It’s also common to see this on weather apps, for example, when on the ground to display nearby weather conditions.
You should take note though if you’re seeing this symbol continually on the home screen or when using an app that doesn’t require location services since your battery life is most likely taking a hit from this.
Fortunately, Apple allows you to control how and when each app uses your current location from the main settings app. Go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. At the top, you’ll see a master switch to completely disable all location services, followed by a list of every app that is designed to make use of your location. Tap one of these and you can select when you want to allow the app to use your location: never, always or while using the app (some apps may only offer 2 of these 3 options).
When viewing the list of apps you may also see the location services arrow towards the right of the screen next to the app’s location preference. A gray arrow indicates the app has used your location within the past 24 hours, and a purple arrow tells you that an app has recently used your location. These are helpful to look at when you want to track down which apps are using your location most often and potentially decreasing battery life.
The last hidden setting to check while in location services is at the very bottom, called System Services. Tap this button and you’ll see another handful of location-based preference settings. Turning off unneeded features, like Location-Based iAds or Diagnostics, can further reduce your device’s use of location services and improve battery life.
Time is ticking for lawmakers to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill, and aviation groups are expressing their frustration. In an Aug. 15 letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), AOPA and 32 other organizations urged leaders to move quickly before the agency’s funding expires on Sept. 30.
uAvionix Corp. is selling its tailBeacon EXP at an introductory price of $1,649, the company announced Aug. 13. TailBeacon EXP currently is available only for installation on experimental and light sport aircraft; uAvionix said it plans to seek FAA technical standard order (TSO) certification as soon as another product, the wingtip-mounted skyBeacon, receives TSO approval.
If you fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire, you could get someone killed.
Thats the stern warning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. wildland fire agencies have for pilots of unmanned aircraft (UAS, or more popularly drones) who interfere with fighting wildfires. When firefighting aircraft have to be grounded due to an unauthorized drone flight, there are serious risks not just to first responders but also to anyone in the fires path.
Authorized drone missions by the proper authorities can yield valuable information to firefighters by detecting hotspots, charting a fires spread and the progress in controlling a blaze. But when an unauthorized drone is spotted, they may have to stop all helicopter and airplane operations. Unauthorized drone flights create collision hazards to firefighting aircraft and can distract pilots who are operating in stressful and challenging conditions. Wildland fire agency reports give a sense of how a single errant drone can disrupt operations:
Drone spotted by pilot at eye level during [helicopter] bucket work spotted a drone over fire. All helicopter operations shut downUAS incursion stopped aerial firefighting assets UAS intrusion into TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction). Helicopters disengaged from fire.
If you own a drone, DO NOT fly near or over a wildfire, said FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell. Its against the law, and firefighting aircraft could be grounded, disrupting time-critical firefighting efforts. Your hobby is not worth another persons life.
Most members of the public would never dream of standing in front of a fire engine to stop it from getting to a wildfire, but thats essentially what theyre doing to aerial firefighting aircraft when they fly a drone over or near a wildfire, said Jennifer Jones, spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
If unauthorized drone operations interfere with wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response efforts, those drone operators could face civil penalties that exceed $20,000 and potential criminal prosecution.
Anyone who witnesses or has information about an unauthorized drone flight over or near a wildfire should immediately contact local law enforcement.
Deterring interference with first responders, as well as giving way to other aircraft in the sky, becomes more important as drone use expands exponentially. The FAAs rules for flying unmanned aircraft are clear. Keep your drone away from other aircraft operations, including aerial firefighting missions.
A video of a Cessna 414 bound for John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, Aug. 5 showed the twin-engine airplane in a nosedive to the ground, killing all five on board. Alarmist media reporting has the public incorrectly thinking airplanes fall out of the sky in any accident scenario. One pilot reporter is setting the record straight.
At the request of its Federal security partners, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations 99.7 Special Security Instructions to address concerns about drone operations over national security-sensitive facilities by establishing temporary flight restrictions specific to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
In cooperation with Department of Defense (DOD), the FAA is establishing additional restrictions on drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of the following Federal facilities:
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) West near St. Louis, MO
NGA Next West near St. Louis, MO
NGA Arnold near St. Louis, MO
These changes, which are highlighted by FAA NOTAM FDC 8/7350, are pending until they become effective on August 30, 2018. Note that there are only a few exceptions that permit drone flights within these restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.
Operators who violate the flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.
Information on the FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which defines these restrictions, and all of the currently covered locations, can be found on our website.To ensure the public is aware of these restricted locations, this FAA website also provides an interactive map, downloadable geospatial data, and other important details. These restrictions also are depicted in the FAAs B4UFLY mobile app.
Additional, broader information regarding flying drones in the National Airspace System, including frequently asked questions, is available on the FAAs UAS website.
The FAA continues to consider additional requests by eligible Federal security agencies for UAS-specific flight restrictions using the Agencys 99.7 authority as they are received. Additional changes to these restrictions will be announced by the FAA as appropriate.