As Avidyne completes the FAA approval process for its AviOS 10.3 IFD navigator software, expected in about a week, the company continues development of avionics that employ artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Delays in certification of AviOS 10.3 were due in part to supply chain issues that forced Avidyne to source components from different vendors, which in some cases required a redesign of hardware and corresponding software changes.
“It has been a very eventful year,” said Avidyne president Dan Schwinn, with some positive developments but many challenges, such as supply chain and workforce issues. However, he added, “it appears that most of this stuff is on its way down.”
When components started becoming scarce last year, Schwinn and Avidyne leaders decided that it was critical to maintaining product availability so dealers could keep installing avionics and not have to delay work on customer airplanes while waiting for products to arrive. This didn’t always help the installers, however, because Avidyne avionics are often installed in parallel with products from other manufacturers, and many of these other products were suffering the same supply chain delays.
“This was very difficult for our dealers,” Schwinn said. “The avionics dealer base is under quite a bit of stress. Some dealers are facing three-month backlogs [for non-Avidyne products].” Nevertheless, he said, “We do think the worst part is behind us.”
Among the many new features of AviOS 10.3 are visual approaches and certified terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), which is a significant upgrade requiring more FAA involvement. The TAWS capability will help Avidyne as it develops more products for the business aviation market and with advanced air mobility aircraft developers, many of which are already testing or considering Avidyne avionics.
The first product in Avidyne’s AI-based avionics will be the PilotEye visual traffic detection system. With expectations of additional airborne traffic in the national airspace system as urban air mobility aircraft and drones take to the skies, systems like PilotEye will be essential. PilotEye uses three cameras, one facing forward and one on each side of the aircraft and an AI neural network to detect traffic visually.
Avidyne has been working on PilotEye for the past two years with Swiss technology company Daedalean. “They have developed with EASA methodology behind what we think is certifiable,” Schwinn said. The technology will further lend itself to other uses such as visual detection of runways and other ground features, which could enable the development of instrument approaches using PilotEye’s AI camera system.
Avidyne applied for the supplemental type certificate with the FAA in December and has arranged for concurrent certification with EASA. “We’re getting good support from both agencies,” he said. “We’re trying to certify this next year. This will open a new wide world of products based on AI.”
Schwinn also said that Avidyne expects certification of its Vantage 12 high-resolution display upgrade for older Cirrus SR series airplanes by the end of this year. Avidyne will sell the Vantage upgrade, which replaces first-generation Entegra displays that were installed in about 4,000 SRs, as a kit with all materials included. “It shouldn’t be a difficult certification process,” Schwinn said. “I hopped in the airplane last week and I just had this reaction: these things are big!”