I spend a lot of my time installing and flying behind the latest in top end experimental avionics - full touch screen EFISs, advanced autopilots that will fly a coupled approach and make you coffee while doing it, and audio systems that rival a concert hall in capability and clarity. But there is another end of this business - the inexpensive yet capable end that can help folks who just want to fly get and stay in the game.
I have recently been experimenting with a compact little box from Talos Avionics called the Aeolus Sense. This small cube is a full ADAHRS – attitude and air data computer – that communicates with my iPad to give me a real-time six-pack of instruments to use as a backup to the big expensive panel – or as a primary panel in a small, simple airplane. Problems with glare and brightness aside (and these issues seem to vary widely from pilot to pilot and cockpit to cockpit), the iPad (or iPhone) can make a nice panel display for a VFR fun flyer. If I had an ultralight or no-electrical airplane, this would be a neat panel solution.
The Aeolus Sense box has ports for pitot and static, a temperature probe (so that it can do TAS calculations), and a GPS input so that it knows where it is and how it pointed. It includes an internal magnetometer to track magnetic heading as a bonus. I’ve been flying with this little unit in my RV-8, with the air data tapped into the test ports under the panel, and the power just coming from a 12 volt outlet. While the first unit we had exhibited some problems in attitude stability and the WiFi link to the iPad was flaky, the second unit seems to confirm tat the first one had some sick hardware, and is performing just fine.
Getting a good compass calibration with he little box sitting on the cockpit floor (near steel rudder pedals, cables, electrical bundles, etc.) is problematic – but if this was installed in a nice magnetically quiet location in the airframe, I am pretty sure it would do a god job at providing basic flight instruments.
The software used on the iPad is downloadable from the App store for free – if you are willing to use the iPad’s internal sensors and look at a black and white picture. In an emergency, this might be enough to keep the wings level and the airplane upright. Once linked to the Aeolus, the display changes to full color and the air data becomes real and alive (the black and white version tells you that you are looking at GPS-derived speed and altitude). Talos gives away the black and white version as a back-up for pilots – the color version can be purchased, or self-activates if you buy the ADAHRS box.
No, I am not going to give up all the big, fancy, capable boxes in stalled in my panels – but if I was looking for an inexpensive panel for a simple machine, or as a backup in something more capable, the Talos Aeolus would be worth a look. At current exchange rates, the Aeolus Sense is selling for just under $600 – and if you already have an i-thingy, that is a pretty cheap six-pack solution.
For more info – www.talosavionics.com