Monday, March 07, 2011

iPad as Electronic Flight Bag (revisited)

Last year, Apple announced something that over the past year has taken mobile computing by storm, the iPad.

Shortly after I posted a blog post "The Apple iPad: Electronic Flight Bag?", which I considered the potential the device has for aviation. Namely, getting rid of the ridiculously overpriced and underpowered specialty "electronic flight bag" (or EFB) computers.

Now when I made that prediction, I had no clue how quickly the aviation industry would step up and embrace this device. Let's face it, sometimes with certain technology, aviation isn't always up to current times (I'm looking at you DUATs & NOTAMs).

So what's the secret to the iPad's success? Long battery life, great fit and finish, it's portable, beautiful screen, lots of power and memory, those are important, but what the iPad has that other EFBs don't is a diverse platform for developers to write excellent aviation apps. Apps such as Foreflight, Jeppesen Mobile TC, Skycharts Pro, and even the simple PDF reader app GoodReader.

Private pilots aren't the only ones noticing that the iPad is a great platform for managing a flight. The FAA has approved an EFB app from Jeppesen to be used for Executive Jet. Wonder what kind of tests the FAA has done on the device to certify it for cockpit use?

FAA authorisation came after an intensive three-month in-flight evaluation, which included a successful rapid decompression test on the iPad to 51,000ft (15,555m) and non-interference testing.

With the iPad2 coming out in a few short days, the future is looking pretty good for pilots who want a low-cost solution to having an EFB and getting rid of the paper charts. The new iPad will be lighter, thinner, and will include a built-in gyroscope. Coupled with the Bad ELF GPS, the iPad and the apps will just keep getting better.

Finally, as an aside, I really want Android to step into this space as well. Hopefully with the Motorola Xoom we'll start seeing some comparable aviation apps for Android as well.