General aviation pilots have an alternative to paper documents in the cockpit with the introduction of eFlyBook™ from ARINC. According to senior director of the ARINC Technology Innovation Center Rolf Stefani, eFlyBook™ is a self-powered electronic library that stores and displays enroute charts and pilots' other essential documents on a glare-free screen of "electronic paper." Users can also write on the screen with a stylus - recording weather conditions or other notes.
The portable device has 128 MB (megabytes) of internal memory and measures 1/2-inch thick, 9 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and weighs 13.7 ounces. Stefani says it's designed for very low power consumption through its persistent display technology. "It's not like an LCD (liquid crystal display) or laptop screen," he explains. "When you're looking at it, the image isn't consuming any power. Power is only used when you're changing the image on the display."
According to Stefani, the device comes pre-loaded with the U.S. Digital Terminal Procedures Publication, enroute charts, airport facility director, and FAR/AIM, all provided by ARINC's partner MyAirplane.com, as well as a one-year subscription to data updates. "Every 28 days [customers] will get a CD in the mail to update that data." Updates can be done online as well, but require a high bandwidth because of the amount of data, some 400 MB, that's being updated.
Pilots can also load any other PDF (portable document format) document onto the eFlyBook. According to Stefani, pilots are putting everything from their owners handbooks to avionics manuals on the devices.
ARINC is the systems integrator for this application of the product while MyAirplane.com is the storefront and handles the order fulfillment through the website, as well as maintenance and software development. Another partner, iRex Technologies, a spinoff of Royal Philips Electronics, manufactures the hardware and provides the one-year warranty support. Because of the immense amount of data being stored on the eFlyBook, Stefani says it was necessary for MyAirplane.com to use a compression software to reduce the amount of space the data requires. The source material from the FAA is about 3.6 GB (gigabytes) of data, he says, and MyAirplane.com uses compressions software to reduce it to some 400 MB. MyAirplane.com also developed the viewer software which allows all these resources to be viewed on the eFlyBook.
During development, ARINC surveyed pilots and compiled some 500 responses. "We asked all the questions about what type of things would you like to see on a device like this," says Stefani. Through the results, the company learned that 96.9 percent of respondents use paper maps and charts when flying.
Stefani says ARINC sees a need for this type of product in more than just the GA pilot market. It's developing applications for cabin crews on which to store their manuals for the in-flight entertainment or emergency procedures, and an application for first or business class cabins as a news reader.