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When humans landed on the moon in 1969, we achieved something huge with something very small. The device that enabled this feat, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), had a similar computing power to that of a modern toaster. For comparison, an iPhone 7 is around 32,000 times faster than the best Apollo-era computers.
Aviation operators are accustomed to the lagging hardware developments and non-competitive pricing that come with heavy legacy systems. In contrast, consumer products almost always have more computing power at a lower cost and are deployed more quickly thanks to economies of scale. In other words, most operators use an AGC when they could be using an iPhone — so the challenge for technology companies operating in highly regulated aviation environments is balancing new technology with slow implementation timelines.
In direct opposition to industry norms and standards, Spidertracks will be leading the broader aircraft technology market by bringing the low-cost power and speed of a consumer product to a space dominated by legacy systems.
Spidertracks will be using its aviation-designed and certified hardware to collect data and then send it to the pilot’s mobile device — using the device’s vastly greater computing power to process the data. The data will then be transmitted via the global cross-channel communication (GC3) network, Spidertracks’ globally connected and secure Iridium channel combined with the low-cost and usually available GSM cell channel.
Spidertracks’ chief marketing officer Todd O’Hara says this approach will future-proof aviation operators from having to constantly upgrade expensive and heavy legacy systems by replacing them with a lightweight Spider that leverages low-cost technology advancements in personal smart devices to deliver most of the same benefits.
“Aviation is a community built on safety. But the problem is that safety usually starts at the top of the market and works its way down.
“The challenge that smaller operators face is applying these best-practice approaches to aviation safety without having access to the budgets that large fleet operators and airlines have.
“Collecting the information is only one part of the equation. It’s the processing of such a huge amount of data and then getting it from the aircraft to the ground that has required providers to increase the costs of their products.
“We stood back to understand exactly what our customers needed in a service and found that we’re able to keep the low cost, lightweight product, and simplicity of use that we’re known for — but that we can also deliver greater capability by leveraging the computational power of commonly carried smartphones,” said O’Hara.
He adds that early next year, Spidertracks will begin delivering these revolutionary solutions that give operators the information the big players get, without the barrier of the associated price tags.
“When fully deployed, individual pilots can be assigned to jobs to calculate flight and duty times; accurate flight times can be automatically integrated with a billing system to create invoices based on time or distance flown; and maintenance tracking systems can then automatically receive flight times to log against component life times and inspections.
“And specific events on an aircraft can trigger alerts to the ground (for example, engine over temperature/over torque, high G loading). The system can then deliver real-time exceedance alerting and trend analysis of aircraft and pilots and integrate with other systems to automatically generate incident tickets when flight profile limits have been exceeded.
“Ultimately, we’ll be helping to make operations safer and more efficient by giving operators the information they need to make better decisions,” said O’Hara.