Aviation Technology Innovations:Pilot Edition

Here we find ourselves again at the end of yet another year. Hard to believe, I know, but with the changing of the season comes the passing of 2016.

If there is one consistency with the passage of time, it is the rapidity in which technology advances. There are probably fewer industries where this is more appreciated than aviation, with its sundry of outdated and archaic technologies. There are not likely to be many (honest) pilots out there who would tell you that they would rather shoot an NDB approach rather than an RNAV procedure. As a pilot, you definitely want technology on your side!

Here are the Top 10 Aviation Technology Advances for Pilots in 2016

Aviation Technology Advance 1: Drones

We’ll just call 2016 the Year of the Drones. Unmanned Aerial Systems if you are a stickler for details, but at the street level, nomenclature is not very important. From April 2015 through April 2016, private drone sales increased 224%. With the unbelievable capability of these remarkable little machines, pardon the pun but the sky is truly the limit.


Aviation Technology Advance 2: ADS-S "Out" Implementation

The 2020 mandate is looming for full ADS-B “Out” implementation, and many pilots are only too happy to comply (assuming they can locate a certified installer). This key component in the NEXTGEN initiative is an excellent service, providing real-time weather data to pilots, and providing a much more precise and reliable location service to ATC facilities. This only makes sense when you look at it; the perspective of a ground based radar system which scans and only provides you a fresh return every few seconds, versus several satellites with the capability to look down constantly with no need to refresh. The answer is obvious.


Aviation Technology Advance 3: Electronic Flight Bags

Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) have been in the works for several years now, with Jeppeson being a pioneer in the field. With the advent of extremely reliable, fast, and powerful tablets and mobile operating systems, this is a wonderful advantage over the outdated charts and flight publications. A pilot can now carry an entire worldwide set of flight publications on his iPad, along with the entire library of aircraft checklists and manuals for a specific airplane, with room leftover. Plus, those pubs can be automatically updated anytime the pilot connects to Wi-Fi.


Aviation Technology Advance 4: Light Sport Aircrafts

Light Sport Aircraft...this is a little bit off of the beaten path from what we may think of as a technology advance, but I assure you that it applies. Thanks to the FAA’s classification in 2004, creating the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category, manufacturers are now able to offer truly state-of-the-art personal airplanes that are technologically advanced, and do so at a fraction of the cost of a traditional certified new-construction aircraft.


Aviation Technology Advance 5: Light Jets

Very Light Jets. While these are not exactly specific to 2016, the HondaJet was officially introduced in January of this year. Whether these little jets are going to be the wave of the future is anybody's guess, but there is no argument that they represent a definite diversion from traditional corporate jets.


Aviation Technology Advance 6: Pilot smart watch

The Garmin D2 Bravo Pilot smart watch. This thing looks classy and shows you a current METAR? Sign me up!


Aviation Technology Advance 7: Roadside Assistance Plan

Sporty's Pilot Shop has introduced a "Roadside Assistance" plan this year. Any pilot who has been stranded with a bummed alternator could assure you that this may be far more valuable in tangible terms than that sweet glass panel would be! Breakdown Assistance Program information can be accessed here.


Aviation Technology Advance 8: iOS apps

Avidyne, a leading manufacturer of avionics, has now offered an app for iOS, mainly the iPad series, which replicates the hybrid display and synthetic vision of their IFD-series of displays. We have all known this day was coming, and it appears closer than we may just realize.


Aviation Technology Advance 9: Composite aircraft designs

Composite designs for very high performance light business aircrafts in particular. Composite aircrafts were originally brought to the market about forty years ago by Burt Rutan and his oddball canard designs, which were extremely fast on very low horsepower. Carbon fiber was not widely used in his designs, but it is being championed now in hot-rods like the Epic Aircraft series of turboprops. These things are just ridiculous. 4,000 FPM rate of climb? You could lose your lunch with that climb rate!


Aviation Technology Advance 10: Green Energy

The green initiative is nowhere if not in the forefront of aviation. Siemens powered an Extra 330L aerobatic airplane with a 260kw electric motor, proving the viability of the design. Again, we had to know this was coming once suburbia was overrun with Priuses.

While far from inclusive, these top 10 innovations set the direction that the aviation field is moving towards in regards to technology for pilots! From drones to the implementation of apps that turn off-the-shelf tablets into veritable multi-function displays, the technology is there; it is now just up to the FAA to give their blessing.


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