OK some of you read the post on my work on the electric VeTOL project AVA:
That showed the airplane, but what about the AVIONICS?
Avionics for eVTOLs are interesting, but maybe not for the reasons you might expect.
MANY people would say: “Oh, it has ELECTRIC motors, so THAT means all the engine displays have to be different!”
Ppphhhhh!!!!! Big deal! No problem to plot a torque and temp and rpm from an e-motor instead of a gas-burner.
MANY people would say: “Oh, it has VERTICAL action like a HELICOPTER, so THAT means the synthetic vision and GPS-tracking have to be great for close-in ops!”
Ppphhhhh!!!!! Big deal! Synthetic vision systems are already good enough for approaches to planned and charted helipads, and the tracking is already good enough to do AIPORT TAXIING!!!
No problem there either.
Here is the problem with avionics for eVTOLS: They have to work TODAY so they don’t slow down the project development, but ALSO work in the FUTURE when air traffic control will be completely different!
They have to live in TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORLDS AT THE SAME TIME.
Now what does this mean exactly?
Well, for avionics to work right NOW, they have to know all the VORs, ADFs, and airways to take ridiculous commands from ATC over the CB radio like: “Fly Victor Airway #1 to CUB VOR and then from there Victor Airway #36 to GUB VOR and then Victor Airway #105 to HASSLE fix!”
For avionics to work right NOW, they have to know instrument approaches, and be able to show things like the ridiculous old ILS and VOR displays, complete with those silly little needles that wiggle left and right and up and down as you try to fly an ILS down to the runway.
For avionics to work right NOW, they have to be able to switch to all the different random CB-radio frequencies that you use to talk to each jury-rigged control center along the way from one point to another, getting random commands from air traffic controllers looking at their old radar-scopes from 1970.
So the VORs, ADF’s, airways, instrument approaches, ILSs, CB-radios… they all have to be in the avionics platform for the airplane to be able to fly right NOW.
And our airplane is flying right NOW. This is, by definition, NOT the future!
But would any avionics that ONLY work in this retro-environment that aviation lives in by acceptable to an eVTOL program?
Of course not!
Anyone sitting in the cockpit would INSTANTLY (and correctly) say: “OK but how can you have 1,000 of these things in the sky in the same region at once?”
Obviously, for these airplanes to proliferate, new ATC and avionics are needed.. and a powerpoint presentation ain’t gonna fly in the cockpit.
So we need avionics that can handle the NEXT generation as well.
And we need them in the cockpit NOW so we are building in the right direction without limit.
So what would avionics of the FUTURE look like?
Well, everything would be visual, and we would fly through HOOPS to go wherever we are going.
Navigation would involve entering a destination, having it wifi’d to ATC for approval and possible modification, and then wifi’d back to your avionics for auto-load into the system for both display and auto-flight.
No talking to ATC. No entering complicated flight plans. No changing radio frequencies. No wiggling needles to follow. No flying the airplane if the autopilot is flying the hoops for you.
These are all things that must be built into the avionics of the near future.
So ONE suite of avionics has to live in BOTH WORLDS, being able to let us fly NOW to develop our trade, and into the future to carry the airplane (and the business) forwards.
As well, as we enter this NEW world of propulsion, engine-out guidance is a thing that avionics should probably have.
Those avionics should constantly be running little flight simulations in the background, imagining a power-off approach to every runway in the area, to present the most-likely-to-succeed approach to you as hoops to fly through in the event of power loss.
So, meet Xavion installed.
Xavion for iPad and iPhone is available on the market right now, but I am now overhauling Xavion from the inside out to ALSO work as the PRIMARY AVIONICS in the REAL PLANE.
And our current plan is to have Xavion to soon be the avionics platform for Ava and it’s successors.
We are in the final stages of testing Xavion on iPads connected to X-Plane (and also flying in a real plane clipped to the dash in N844X!), and moving to flight hardware is the next step.
We are having an AMAZING time in the sim, flying our eVTOLs in X-Plane with Xavion as the avionics, and while I can’t show you the full sim (because the cockpit has the shape of our next-gen eVTOL!), here is a (blurry, washed-out) shot of the avionics suite: