Before the Spider 7, operators of aircraft with electrically heated windshields have had three options when it comes to flight tracking, although only one of them provides an actual solution.
1) Spend tens of thousands of dollars on a tracking system that is complicated, heavy, and expensive to install.
2) Go to extreme and creative lengths in an effort to get effective tracking from a low-cost device that is not fit for-purpose in this type of aircraft.
3) Do nothing.
Unfortunately, the majority of operators have either done nothing or achieved only mediocre outcomes from the second. For operators of smaller and less complex aircraft the flight tracking options have been plentiful with the likes of the Spider 3 serving the market for almost half of a decade. The introduction of the Spider 6 has increased the capability for this segment again but these options are simply not suited for aircraft with heated windshields.
The higher an aircraft flies, the colder the temperature is. Aircraft operating in cold environments require specialised equipment to prevent ice from developing on critical components like the windshield. There are essentially two ways to prevent a frozen windshield in an aircraft. The older and less common method called bleed air involves blowing hot air onto the windshield. This method was extremely popular in the early days of jet aviation, but has been overtaken by the more reliable and constant method of an electrically heated filament laid into the windshield.
While the electrically heated filament was a huge advance over bleed air for safety, it unfortunately brought with it another issue. The physical characteristics of an electrically heated windshield gives rise to the Faraday cage effect which impedes any Radio Frequency (RF) device from transmitting or receiving through it. This is a function of grounded metallic circuitry and doesn’t necessarily require the heated windshields to be active to create problems. Since our Spider transmits RF to the Iridium satellites between 1616 and 1626.5 MHz, it also gets caught up in this effect. It’s important to note that this limitation is not specific to Spidertracks devices, you would experience the same difficulty with any similar device trying to transmit through a heated windshield.
What does that mean?
In our previous Spiders everything you need is contained within the single and simple enclosure, all it requires is power. This type of unit has worked great in GA aircraft for nearly a decade but as aircraft tracking becomes more of a business management tool, the need for operators of complex aircraft to have real-time operational awareness of their fleet has become greater.
Whats the difference between the Spider 6 and the Spider 7?
The Spider 7 is the new frontier in aircraft tracking for us, it has an input on the front which allows an antenna that is external to the Spider to be plugged into it. This can be in the form of a small antenna external to the Spider but still in the cockpit, or an antenna that is installed on the exterior of an aircraft.
This changes the game for operators of larger aircraft as they can now access real-time tracking and manage their fleet for a fraction of the purchase and operation cost of cumbersome existing options.
Why the Spider 7?
The Spider 7 is our most advanced Spider yet, yet it is still classed as a portable electronic device which in most cases does not require an STC.
Some other features on the Spider 7 include:
- Altitude Event Alerts – Know when something isn’t right. Your Spider automatically monitors rate of climb and descent and can immediately alert you if your prede ned limits are exceeded.
- External Keypad – With the new external keypad, you can mount the Spider 7 discretely out of the way but still have access to the Spider’s main buttons.
- Take-off/Landing Alerts – Receive SMS or email alerts whenever your aircraft takes off or lands.
- Spidertxt Two-Way SMS – Connect your iOS device via bluetooth to the Spider and have two-way conversations with your pilots from anywhere in the world using Spidertxt, regardless of cell reception.
- Can be mounted discreetly out of sight and unable to be tampered with.
- Watch Mode – Actively track the aircraft as it sends position reports to the website. If an incident occurs and the Spider loses power the website will automatically send an SOS message after 12 minutes of no communication.
- ‘Plug and Play’ simplicity.