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Smartphone based weather radar app?

Wondered what peoples views are on in-flight weather radar displays? If you dig about a bit, there is some FAA comment on the topic relating to the fear that the use of this facility might encourage people to take risks based upon 15-minute-old radar data feeds . . .

EuropaBoy
EGBW

I would use www.buienradar.nl to get showers. Unfortunately in Dutch (Google translate does mirracles ;-) ). The app gets its data through the 3G network (on my smartphone/tablet), so it is not that helpfull while flying.

jkv
EHEH

Well, my single engine piston aircraft is probably never going to have an onboard weather radar so what else is there in Europe if you want radar data?

GSM/UMTS reception only works when flying low (and over non densely populated areas with not too many GSM stations) so right now you need an expensive satellite phone with data support to get those 15 minute old pictures.

It's a shame we won't get ADS-B weather in Europe.

I saw this in a mag at an airfield and thought it looked good. I am sure it was a UK mag (it wasnt the one below, I just found that on Google) but I am not sure it would work over here because we dont have a fully enabled ADS-B network ??? Looks quite cool nevertheless.

In Europe, and AFAIK anywhere outside the USA, the only way to get airborne data of any kind is via satellite phone technology.

Nothing else is ever likely to happen here, especially not for aviation. The Royal Yacht Club will get a govt subsidy to alleviate their hardship before anybody does that in Europe.

You have the choice of Iridium (US-based, worldwide, pricey, slow at 2.4k, relatively well sorted) or Thuraya (Middle East-based, coverage , cheaper, faster, historically dodgy service but nowadays IME OK for the 9.6k dial-up internet access).

A few firms sell aviation-specific kit: MT, Avidyne, Garmin too I think.

All these use Iridium, presumably because they can talk to the company at a proper commercial/professional level

A while ago I did a load of digging around this scene and wrote up this. It is still mostly valid. If you go to the end of it, that's what I use on long flights to get tafs and metars, and occassionally radar/sferics data. I never did pursue the more sophisticated solutions displaying text data on my MFD. You can buy a Thuraya 7100 phone on Ebay for about £300 and it will work straight away with any Windows machine which has an RS232 or USB port. I can get any number of tafs/metars for $1, and radar/sferics images for maybe $3 for the lot, which is why I never bothered with anything fancy. An installed MLX770 is c. £10k and that assumes you have a compatible MFD.

As regards tactical weather avoidance, a lot is written on this in the US aviation media. Occassionally somebody gets killed in a +TSRA and then somebody points out that NEXRAD is not quite as good for close-up cell avoidance as having your own radar in the aircraft

I don't know where exactly the above aviation systems get their wx data from (I mean radar images, not tafs/metars which are trivial to source) but basically the European weather offices set up a cartel for selling the data (notwithstanding that all of it is generated at taxpayer expense). The well-known Meteox gets their stuff from somewhere like that and funds it by the advert banners, but they buy time-delayed data which is cheaper

I have bumped into a few pilots in Europe with the MLX770 but none of them were able to comment on how well it works and how much it costs. I think the community who have it and actually fly distances is perhaps too small, currently.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

If Thuraya had an iPad compatible solution, I'd go for it. Can't be too hard to come up with a working bluetooth or wifi capable phone...

There is no way (apart from hacks/jailbreaking and I am not aware of any solutions even then) to do dial-up networking on IOS or Android.

However, there are solutions, developed for the upmarket sailing community, which give you a WIFI access point, from a satellite phone.

Example

Never used any of these.

If you are going to play with this stuff, you may want to buy shares in whoever makes this stuff

There are bluetooth-equipped satellite phones and in theory that might work with IOS but AFAIK none of them give you a "network" connection. What you get is the old DUN (dial up networking) so we are back to the original issue.

If you threw a lot of money at an IOS (jailbroken Ipad) or Android (Samsung Galaxy 10" tablet) programmer, it should be possible. Maybe somebody is working on it already. But it's a tiny market.

Satellite datacomms is astonishingly backward - until you get into the c. £100k solutions from Immarsat.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thanks all,

I've been using the iPhone app called 'OnlineWeather' which has a good European and UK precipitation radar display, though the resolution could be better when it is zoomed to 'regional' displays such as Midlands or Brittany. Its good enough for a general view of what the weather is doing and may help in planning, will work in the a/c with the network switched on (something I'm quite prepared to do if the situation gets sticky).

I bought this after trying to get radar help using the RT a year or so ago - no vicinity airfield ATCs or even London information seemed to be ready to help with a local weather update based upon real-time radar - which I found disappointing.

EuropaBoy
EGBW

As Peter said, the biggest issue is to get the radar data for Europe. You can start to negotiate with Metoffice, DWD, Meteo Swiss and so on, but you will end up with a sum that is too high to make a profit with the few users you will attract. Hooking up an iPad or Android tablet to a wireless satellite lan is not as easy as someone might think. You have to tame all data hungry apps first. It is not broadband what you get. My C64 in 1984 had a modem with 1200 baud, so they managed to double it. wow.

EGBE - Coventry

Yes it does astonish me that after all these years, Iridium are doing 2.4k (about 240 bytes per second) on a satellite link running at some gigabits per second, yet almost everybody (as in Avidyne etc) uses them.

I guess they do "reasonable" OEM deals e.g. with Avidyne.

Figures like £50/months have been mentioned but the usage in question wasn't clear.

Thuraya does 9.6k which is miles better but they also offer ~50k on their "GMPRS" service which needs the later (buggy) phones and in my testing I found it extremely unreliable. Maybe they have fixed it. When it worked it was good - like internet via the old 56k modems

9.6k is good enough for simple websites and great for textual data. I have a semi-private URL which was done specifically for satphone use and which uses server code to go the real sites and strip off the ads etc. So now a radar image from Meteox.com is about 50kbytes and on Thuraya downloads in about 1 minute ($1). On Iridium, retail tariff, it would be about $10.

However there is a separate question as to why or to what extent you are relying on this kind of data.

TAFs and METARs are obviously priceless for deciding early on diversions etc. You can get them from ATC but not if they are busy, unwilling, or (in some parts of Europe) do not understand English well enough.

Radar and sferics images are a good assurance but (this is another debate) the need to actually have them would depend on how you do your preflight weather assessment.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
63 Posts
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