New +Apps for Everyone

Starting in 2018 Apps4Av is releasing new Android apps useful for anyone but not specifically designed for aviators, in the new +Apps section. To learn more, Click here.

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Posted in Other apps

New Avare Videos

We’ve just published two new Avare Intro videos on our new YouTube Channel, Avare and more, by Apps4Av.

These videos are designed to be fast-paced with many details provided in a short time, so that you can pause or back up and repeat any parts you’d like to understand more fully. The two videos are:

Avare Intro – Part 1: Installation – a brief tutorial on how to install and perform initial setup of Avare, so as to start using it more quickly.

Avare Intro – Part 2: Preferences & Features – builds on Part 1 with a tour through some settings in Preferences that lay the groundwork for getting started with Avare basics. Then it takes you on a quick tour of some commonly used features.

After watching these two videos, our hope is that you’ll find it easier to get comfortable with the Avare user interface (as of version 7.6.8). This may help you to continue exploration on your own with a basic understanding of the core features. Because the app has so many powerful features, each user tends to fine-tune their specific setup and focus on specific functions over time.

Please consider sharing your comments on these videos or your uses of Avare or our other apps on our Forum. We may post more videos, and revise or replace these as the apps continue to evolve.

Posted in Avare

Avare 7.2.3 – 3D Option

Avare version 7.2.3 has added a new “virtual reality” 3D view option! Now you can tap the new “3D” tab to view selected chart types (currently intended for Sectionals and IFR charts, with more to possibly be added). In the new 3D view, these charts show ADSB traffic, terrain, and obstructions in the vicinity.

For comparison, here’s a cropped screen capture from a Samsung S4 phone (with GPS Off in Simulation mode) showing the LA Sectional in the familiar basic Map view:

KBUR Map View

KBUR Map View

There may be occasions in flight planning, in flight, to spot ADSB-In traffic, inadvertent flight into IMC, or other situations when it could be helpful to tap the new “3D” tab to get a view like this:

Avare v7.2.3 Sat View

Avare v7.2.3 Sat View

This places Avare in “Satellite” view mode as if seen from high altitude, with the chart “stretched” over terrain. ADSB-In traffic and obstructions would also be shown in 3D if those options are active. Returning to Map view is done with a tap on the Map tab button. To see the same area in the 3D “Pilot” view, just long-press the “target” Center button at the bottom of the screen to see something like this:

Avare v7.2.3 Pilot View

Avare v7.2.3 Pilot View

Note that the Center button turns green to indicate your view mode, and you can long-press it again for a return to Satellite view or tap the Map tab for that view. As you can see, this mode could be helpful for a quick glance (especially on a backup Avare device like a phone) in IMC or a night approach, and will be much more intuitive in motion than in these static screen capture samples.

Another view option now available is “Shaded Relief” if you Download the file for your area in the Terrain section (Shaded Relief SW for my area of SoCA). This gives you more apparent 3D terrain detail without the aviation chart markings. Here are two edited S4 phone KSBA screen capture samples:

KSBA Shaded Relief Sat. View

KSBA Shaded Relief Sat. View

KSBA Shaded Relief Pilot View

KSBA Shaded Relief Pilot View

See the Help info built into Avare for details on how to use this new 3D feature, and watch for further refinements and additions in future version updates.

Note: You will need to update your elevation file after launching this new version in Map view using Download->Terrain, and you’ll also want to ensure that you have the latest version of the charts you use.

As with all aspects of Avare and the other Apps4Av products, we welcome your feedback and questions in the open and free Apps4Av Forum.

Posted in Avare

Flying Avare In Canada?

We are investigating the potential for adding more capabilities for flying Avare in Canada. It would be helpful if anyone interested in this topic would post a message on our Forum, so we can gauge how many of our users fly Avare in Canada and would like to see more capabilities added. Also what specific capabilities might be most useful.

Clearly, having official Canadian charts and data would be very popular and helpful, but to date we have been unable to obtain free materials of that kind.

To fly Avare in Canada as of this writing (October 8, 2014), be sure you go to Map, Options, Preferences, Display, and turn on Show All Bases. That enables you to Find any Canadian destination that’s in Avare’s database and fly GPS direct even without any map displayed. To display a Canadian map, in the Download menu near the bottom is a category currently named “Topographic Maps(42)” which currently only contains Canada Grid maps numbered 1-114. To find out which grid map(s) you need for the area you fly, consult this UNBC key map. Note that because this link was changed by UNBC recently, the key map linked to from Avare’s in-app Help stopped working and that will be fixed in the next Avare release. Meanwhile, here’s a small version you may find helpful.

Editied canada_grid map

Editied canada_grid map

Click the map to see a larger version, and the original largest and complete version is available on the UNBC map link above. Note that the grids are numbered vertically in rows from East to West and South to North. If you find a better grid map online, please post about it in our Forum.

In the current version of Avare, you might encounter some difficulty in switching between U.S. charts and Canadian Topo. If so, it might help to use Simulation mode if your current position is not in Canada. If that doesn’t help you might also Exit and restart Avare. We very much want to improve and add more Canadian capabilities in Avare, but receive very little feedback and few inquiries. If you fly Avare in Canada or would like to, please contact us on our Forum.

Posted in Uncategorized

Free Geo-Referenced IFR Plates in Avare

You can now install free “Geo-Referenced” live IFR Plates in Avare, thanks to the volunteer work of a “tagging” team that manually added and checked Geo-reference data for almost every FAA Plate. This means that Avare can now show your actual position on the Plate during an IFR approach, updated in real time while on the active area of the Plate, similar to how your position is shown during taxi on the Airport Diagram. These free Plates are a great way to add situational awareness in flight, even for VFR flying.

Steps to install & activate live Plates:
1. Ensure that you have Avare version 5.7.7 or later installed.

2. Download the “Plates Geo-reference Info” file, using:
Options > Download > Plates/d-TPP/ADs

3. Install all of the area or state Plates desired, using:
Options > Download > Plates/d-TPP/ADs

4. Use the Plate button at the bottom of the screen to bring up the Plate menu, and select the desired plate.

A Green dot  over the runway on a Plate is an indicator that it has been Geo-referenced, initially checked, and is ready to use for your further verification and situational awareness.

Note that like all apps on handheld devices like phones and tablets, Avare is not FAA Certified and can not be used for primary navigation in either IFR or VFR flight. As with all such apps, Avare may be used as an Electronic Flight Bag for informational purposes and as a tool for secondary situational awareness.

If you have questions or tips on using Plates in Avare, please share them in the Avare Forum.

Posted in Uncategorized

$10 ADS-B Receiver for Avare

For anyone interested in the smallest possible investment to get ADS-B on Avare, here’s my report on using a $10 “SDR” receiver with the free open source version of the ADS-B app by HIZ:

Summary
With a very small investment of time and money, you can now display 1090ES ADS-B air traffic (TIS-B) on Avare. There’s a good chance that we’ll soon see all available ADS-B data displayed on Avare in this way. This will probably work with most Android devices, though the process might vary on some devices. From what I’ve seen online, it’s likely that with a good quality OTG cable (about $7) and a good SDR (about $8) nearly anyone can have it working within a few minutes. Many people report success with the cheapest SDR & OTG available for well under $10 total. If you have no idea what an OTG or SDR is, no worries – I’ll provide a brief explanation and links to details on some terminology below.

Intro
As you know, most ADS-B receivers cost somewhere in the range of $1,000 and many of them work great in Avare. Now for about 1% of that investment you can get some of that capability using a small USB stick with an antenna and a short USB adapter cable called an OTG (“On The Go” – a silly and pretty much meaningless name for an item that lets you plug more types of USB devices into many Android devices).

The small USB stick is a receiver that works startlingly well and is called an SDR (aka RTL2832U or most relevant to this app: RTL-SDR). Basically it’s a very capable mass-produced USB broadband receiver originally designed for Digital TV in Europe that can be re-purposed via software to do thousands of other cool things, like ADS-B.

Both the OTG and SDR have been available since Avare was introduced, but until now nobody had created the app to make it all work with Avare. The upside is that it’s amazingly cheap and easy. The downside is that right now unlike some of the expensive aviation receivers it’s only providing Avare with 1090MHz traffic (TIS-B) data (basically, airliners). Not yet very useful for GA, but if enough pilots are interested now the chances are quite good that full 978MHz ADS-B In UAT capability could be included within a few months. Currently it only provides 1090ES band reception for ADS-B Out international, Mode C & Mode S aircraft transmitting air to air. This does mean however, that most people can use it on the ground (often 978MHz data is only available in flight).

Hardware Tested For This Review
Device: Nexus 7 (1st Gen) running Android: 4.4.2
OTG Cable: $6.42 StarTech 5″ (much cheaper cables are available)
<http://www.amazon.com/dp/product/B00B4GGW5Q>

OTG Cable

OTG Cable

SDR: $8.86 Jummax
<http://www.amazon.com/dp/product/B00C37AZXK>

SDR Example

SDR Example

Notes: My impression from reviews online is that the most likely problem with getting an SDR to work is a defective OTG cable, so I bought this “expensive” one. If you have trouble, trying a known good OTG cable would be a good place to start. The CD wasn’t included in the SDR as pictured, but neither that nor the remote control unit are needed for anything but European TV anyway. The included antenna worked surprisingly well, and there are articles online about how to improve it or make your own. I saw several variations on this SDR hardware that look identical, though some show the outline shape of the black USB stick rounded at either the same or opposite top & bottom end corners – this is probably because you can insert the USB plug cap either way. Many reviews say the ones that look like this work fine, and recommend getting the cheapest one from a well-reviewed supplier.

Apps Tested For This Review
Avare: 5.6.7
Avare I/O: 2.0.8
ADS-B SDR app: 1.4.4

Test Location
Indoors, about 4 miles East of SBA and 4 miles South of the commercial air traffic route over RZS VOR.

Testing Process
1. Assemble and plug in the SDR antenna, plug the OTG cable into the SDR and then into the Nexus 7.
2. Launch the ADS-B app.

ADSB app Main Screen

ADS-B app Main Screen

It immediately showed “Packages” being received (note that these screen captures are cropped to save space). The “Bad CRC” line basically shows the signal quality, outdoors or aloft with a better antenna the percentage would be lower, and “Bad” data is automatically rejected by the app.  After a few seconds I tapped the Data button and saw an ICAO number, speed and heading in what is apparently called a “Frame” (paragraph).

ADSB app Data Screen

ADS-B app Data Screen

3. Launch the Avare I/O app, tap the WIFI button and the Listen (43211) checkbox.

Avare IO app

Avare IO app

Though we’re using the WiFi section in this app the actual connection is via USB and no WiFi is available from the SDR, so WiFi on the Nexus 7 (or other Android device running Avare) is not needed. You can leave the Android device WiFi off and in “airplane mode” to save battery.

4. Launch the Avare app, tap the Options button, then the Preferences, Display, and Show ADS-B Traffic buttons, and return to the Map display.

Avare with ADSB Traffic

Avare with ADS-B Traffic

Air Traffic is shown as a jet icon at the bottom-right, beneath the small gray rectangle containing 36025′ in white text. Because no other traffic is close to this jet transmitting ADS-B Out, GA traffic much lower at those coordinates is unlikely to show up because few have ADS-B Out.

About These Screen Captures
These were taken within perhaps a minute of each other as I switched screens, and I’ve cropped them to save space. I think the Avare target shown next to KWANG intersection bottom-right at 36k’ was out of the LA area northbound.

Notes
*The antenna supplied with the SDR is designed for European TV reception, and is almost certainly not the correct length for either of the ADS-B frequencies.  So I was surprised that it works at all, especially indoors. One trick I saw in an Amazon review is sticking the magnet base of the antenna to a small ~2″ diameter tin can, and that might be a quick way to reduce the “Bad CRC” number to get quicker & smoother target tracking.

*Commercial traffic within about a 35nm radius was displayed. There are mountains in the SBA vicinity that might be blocking transmissions, so longer ranges with more targets might be seen aloft or on flat terrain and of course with a better antenna.

*Battery use was fairly high.  In this brief (perhaps 45 minutes) test about 15% of battery capacity (from 65% at start down to 50% at end) was used.  The SDR gets warm, so it’s using considerable battery power.  An external powered USB hub to supply the SDR (and ideally also the N7) might be prudent for most flights. If you have or buy such a hub that works well for providing power to both the SDR and your Android device while also passing the data between them (i.e. it works), please post the hub’s make and model to the Apps4Av Forum. The Nexus 7 used 15% percent of its battery capacity during this 45 minute test.  Since I fly with screen brightness at 100% that’s what I used for this testing.  Afterward I closed all apps and left the SDR plugged in (and warm), and with screen still on and full brightness it took four minutes for battery percentage to drop from 45-44% which was much less battery use than I’d anticipated.  It would surely be different on a phone or other device that doesn’t have the beefy battery in the Nexus 7, but you’d get better results with the screen turned down or off when not needed in flight.

*UPDATE: I tried this same SDR on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone (at home as above), and it was showing these two targets within a minute.

ADSB SDR on S4

ADS-B SDR on S4

The battery went from 89% to 86% in the 5 minutes it took me to do the test, again with screen at full brightness. Looks like this could work on battery long enough to be useful in flight, at least as backup.

*The app’s current 1090MHz frequency is only showing a very small portion of traffic (ADS-B Out), nearly all of it commercial jets. It is also not currently showing all the other UAT services provided by the FAA on the 978MHz frequency (weather, TFRs, etc.), though that could be added.  You can find a concise and mercifully brief summary of ADS-B in this recent AOPA article and this more extensive FAA FAQ.

*The app is also less useful right now unless you pay for the “pro” version since the free version times out and requires a Restart.  Then it takes a while to re-acquire enough data to reliably show this limited traffic on Avare.  In actual flight for most situations you’d do far better (and be much safer) to just look outside and ask ATC for flight following. If all the UAT data isn’t soon provided to Avare by this new app, other SDR apps will probably be adapted to feed the entire UAT data stream to Avare making the $10 hardware investment much more useful.

But … for this very small investment of time and money right now you will have a portable ADS-B that shows commercial traffic. Very cool toy to show other pilots, play with at home or on a walk, and when you’re flying in busy airspace: to pre-spot the heavies and impress ATC. When I transition LA airspace to MYF, now I’ll know in advance when there’s an airliner inbound for LAX or BUR and plan accordingly. If you ever fly in congested airspace, you’ll also see a lot more traffic because those jets with ADS-B Out will illuminate all detected traffic in their vicinity. When you finally have ADS-B Out in your aircraft, you’ll already have everything you need to display all identified traffic in your vicinity and you’ll be familiar with using it. You’ll also be encouraging Mike and the other developers to expand and improve the ADS-B options for Avare.

Conclusions
It’s really exciting to see any ADS-B traffic for an investment in the range of $8-15 and ten minutes to install and set up.  The app is quite easy to install and use, because Avare automatically displays any detected traffic right on the current chart.

It’s truly Wonderful that this SDR ADS-B app is open source.  That fact seems sure to greatly expand the free and low cost ADS-B options for Android devices going forward.  Thank you, Mike Hammer of HIZ LLC and the Avare development team!

Once the other ADS-B data channel has been added to an SDR app, because Avare already supports it, anyone who has this cheap hardware in an aircraft with an ADS-B Out transponder will get all of the ADS-B weather, traffic and other data now available. This means aircraft can be equipped with the least expensive ADS-B Out transponder available, rather than those linked to a complex and expensive panel receiver/display. It also means pilots who rent ADS-B Out aircraft won’t need to learn and use those complex panel units to get all the benefits of ADS-B on Avare. Just hook up the simple and powerful Android device & SDR you carry in a pocket of your flight bag, and take off.

Posted in Uncategorized

Partnerships, Marketing

Apps4Av occasionally receives requests from hardware vendors seeking assistance with integration or for marketing related activities. This page offers general information to those who have made (or are planning) such a request.

First,

Welcome!

Apps4Av strives to integrate hardware that is (or could be) widely adopted to increase safety in the cockpit. We also recognize that users and vendors both benefit from a well integrated user experience.

However, the core Apps4Av developer team remains small and 100% volunteer. We develop in our free time and receive no tangible compensation. Thus, we prioritize feature requests based on our own personal interests, the requests of our users, and the best interests of Avare (to ensure it remains a strong and maintainable app).

Hardware Integration


Our developer team will consider your request and, if found to be beneficial and practical, add it to our integration plan. We ask for your active assistance in integration. Here are ways you can help (ordered by our preference):

  1. Donate sample hardware to Apps4Av. It is difficult to ensure compatibility without access to the hardware. We suggest a donation of at least 1 (and up to 4) “devices” for distribution to our core developers. Here is how it will be used:

    • For initial development by those skilled in hardware integration.

    • For distribution to the core development team for longer-term compatibility testing.

    • We generally retain and continue testing donated hardware for a minimum of two years.

    • When it reaches end-of-life or end-of-support, it may be raffled to raise funds or given as a thank you to long term supporters (i.e., those who have provided donations or other support)

    • We generally do not sell hardware that has been donated to us. However, we may do so after the minimum retention period. Proceeds will be used as if it were a monetary donation.

    • We may return it to you, if requested in advance. (Please make it clear that the equipment is on loan!) We do not guarantee its safe return but will treat your hardware with respect. (FYI, Loaned hardware generally does not attract as much developer interest as fully donated hardware.)

  2. We accept monetary donations supporting our servers and other costs.

  3. We also accept new hardware donations for use in joint marketing or fund raising. For example, we may raffle the new hardware to our user base or our list of recent donors.

We will not accept hardware donations unless we plan to integrate the hardware. However, we make no warranties or guarantees respecting the timing or success of such integration. (Bottom line, we do the best we can do using our limited resources.)

If you profit because of Avare compatibility, we ask your help to ensure that we can afford to distribute our app for free! Please consider doing one (or all three) of the above.

Inquiries should be directed to our Support at apps4av@gmail.com

Thank you for your support.

Marketing and Use of Apps4Av Marks


As a non-profit group offering free apps, we don’t do much marketing. However, we will consider partnering for joint marketing activities on a case-by-case basis.

You may use our trademarks and service marks in your marketing only in a referential phrase. For example, “compatible with Avare”. You may not imply our endorsement of any product. We do not guarantee long-term support for any product. We reserve all rights afforded by copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property laws of the United States of America.

Posted in Uncategorized