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  #1  
Old 07-16-2011, 12:20 PM
dpansier's Avatar
dpansier dpansier is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Green Bay, WI (GRB)
Posts: 597
Default 3G iPad Data Reception in the Air

I developed an external aircraft antenna intended for data transmission, the antenna designed to be used with a Wilson mobile wireless signal amplifier, the type used in construction vehicles, over the road trucks and boats. (Wilson model 801212, available on eBay for about $260) The Wilson unit wirelessly connects with the iPad 3G and similar devices.

The aircraft Data antenna is similar in size and shape to the Transponder antenna I now offer on my webpage.

The installation in the aircraft requires mounting the external Data antenna, attaching the amplifier box (12VDC at 3 amps), and placing the internal antenna within 3 feet of the 3G device. A few other items are required such as a short section of RG-400 with a BNC male connector on each end, and a BNC Female to FME Female adapter.

My intent of developing this was to supply inflight weather data to the iPad3G / ForeFlight, beyond that, it does not take much thought to see the potential of other data uses for the system, email, text message, flight data, MiWi Hotspots, Etc.
With the iPad accessory market exploding , small wireless keyboards, voice recognition software and the like are available that offer iPad interface flexibility only limited by imagination.

The complete unit is undergoing testing in a RV and so far, the results have been very positive. Testing has taken place up to 10,500' AGL and the iPad / ForeFlight is being supplied with constant data updates to Radar, METARS, TAF's, etc.

This development is experimental in nature and by no means has the system been completely tested in all flight conditions, testing will continue to determine the limitations.
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Don Pansier
Green Bay, WI (GRB)
RV-7


Antennas for Experimental Aircraft
www.deltapopaviation.com
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  #2  
Old 07-16-2011, 01:36 PM
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Mike S Mike S is offline
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Location: Dayton Airpark, NV A34
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Sounds like a product that will have a pretty good market waiting for it.

Any more details, photos, price etc??
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Mike Starkey
VAF 909

Rv-10, N210LM.

Flying as of 12/4/2010

Phase 1 done, 2/4/2011

Sold after 240+ wonderful hours of flight.

"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it."
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  #3  
Old 07-16-2011, 03:10 PM
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Pat Hatch Pat Hatch is offline
 
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Location: Vero Beach, FL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike S View Post
Sounds like a product that will have a pretty good market waiting for it.

Any more details, photos, price etc??
I guess I should chime in here. I am doing the testing for Don. I mounted Don's antenna on the belly of my RV-6. I removed my tracker antenna for the new antenna and borrowed the tracker's RG-400 coax.

The Wilson amp uses a power supply that plugs into a cig lighter outlet. The RF output of the amp goes to an "inside" antenna that should be positioned near the cellular data receiver: in this case, my 1st generation iPad. The amp has three green lights on it: the first indicates that it is powered on, the second indicates that there is throughput of the lower frequency cellular signal and the third light indicates throughput of the higher frequency cellular signal. So, if you have 3 green lights, everything is working properly.

So far I am impressed with this setup. Like many of you, I have experimented with the 3g data on my iPad below a couple of thousand feet and found it to be adequate but intermittent. So I was quite impressed when I was receiving data today at 9,500 feet. On a previous flight, I was receiving data up to 6,500.

I would emphasize that I have a long way to go before I can have a definitive opinion about this system, but initial results are very promising. I am getting 5 bars (the maximum) at 9,500 feet along with the AT&T logo and then the 3G and the hourglass indicating that it is receiving data. Occasionally, I get an "E" instead of the "3G" which I guess indicates an older technology network than the 3G. It does lose lock quite a bit: one minute you'll have 5 bars, and then nothing. But the data appears seamless to me. Even though there are a lot of interruptions, the data seems to continually update. I tried getting the weather at KSFO, for example, while at 9,500 and had no problem getting the entire SFO package, including NOTAMS, winds aloft, METAR and TAF. It comes in very quick.

On my last flight, I was playing around with the radar map and although it received data fine, it appears the bit rate is not high enough to enable the loop function. So what you get is the last 5-minute snapshot of the radar return and it updates approximately every 5 minutes. Of course it is time stamped so you know how old the data is.

I can easily envision flying along on a cross country and being able to look ahead at the weather without any problems--at least this has been my impression so far, but I want to use the system quite a bit more to see just how reliable it is going to be.

I will update my findings as I go along and post some pictures in my next entry. My hope is that this will be another use for the iPad in the cockpit: already it has proven to be very useful to me as an EFB.
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Pat Hatch
RV-4 (Gone to RV heaven)
RV-6 (N44PH - Flying)
RV-7 (Sold)
RV-8 (Builder & Avionics Installer)
www.phaviation.com Trim Relay Boards/Flap Actuators
www.pathatch.com (Photography)
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  #4  
Old 07-16-2011, 07:35 PM
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dpansier dpansier is offline
 
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Thanks for your reporting your findings Pat, I apologize for my error in the maximum test altitude, looks like I was 1000' off.


More information on the components that make up the system.

Wilson amplifier is readily available on eBay, occasionally a used Wilson amplifier will show up but they sell for nearly the price of a new unit.
The Wilson Model 801212 sells new for $250 to $260.

The Ultra Wide Band Data Antenna physically looks like the Delta Pop Transponder Antenna but the internal components are different to allow a low VSWR over a very wide frequency range. The mounting hole pattern is the same as the Transponder Antenna as they share a common base design.
The price for the UWB Data Antenna is $89.95 plus shipping.

Pat mentioned he will post some pictures of his installation soon.
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Antennas for Experimental Aircraft
www.deltapopaviation.com
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  #5  
Old 07-16-2011, 08:21 PM
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Pat Hatch Pat Hatch is offline
 
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Location: Vero Beach, FL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpansier View Post
Pat mentioned he will post some pictures of his installation soon.
Here are the pictures of the installation.

Don's antenna is the rearmost. It is actually the same size as the transponder antenna on the right.



I have the amp just sitting on the floor for now, but it can easily be velcroed to the forward side of the wing spar. The ON/OFF switch for the amp is on the cig lighter plug and has a red LED in the switch to indicate when the switch is on. There are also three green LED lights on the unit, barely visible here.



This the interior antenna. It comes with velcro attachment tape. I have it just sitting on the right arm rest for now with a piece of painter's tape until I decide the best place to mount it. You can also see the cig lighter plug/switch just above the red fuel selector on the center console.

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Pat Hatch
RV-4 (Gone to RV heaven)
RV-6 (N44PH - Flying)
RV-7 (Sold)
RV-8 (Builder & Avionics Installer)
www.phaviation.com Trim Relay Boards/Flap Actuators
www.pathatch.com (Photography)
Track Me
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  #6  
Old 07-17-2011, 02:33 PM
bergroup bergroup is offline
 
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Location: Chicago, IL
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Amazon's got it for $240.00 with free shipping if you're an Amazon Prime member.

http://www.amazon.com/Wilson-Electro.../dp/B0011GI94Q
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  #7  
Old 08-10-2011, 10:58 AM
Jfassino Jfassino is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Peoria, Il
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Is there any update on the testing? This looks like a great alternative to the XM WX Receiver and Barron Mobile link system that is about $1,200 plus the monthly XM WX Data packages which start at $35.00 per month.

I have been using ForeFlight for about 18 months which I really like. I just dont have good reception at higher altitudes or over less populated regions. That is not an issue for the maps, just weather data.

I have been using the Pilot My-Cast 30 day free trial. It has some nice features but still prefer FF. WingX Pro7 has some nice features too. For me the inflight radar/weather is my focus.

Thanks for all the information.
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  #8  
Old 08-10-2011, 12:16 PM
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dpansier dpansier is offline
 
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The testing reports I'm receiving continue to be very positive. Several additional members of VAF will be equipped and flying by this week Friday so I will have performance results from a wide area of the US.
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Don Pansier
Green Bay, WI (GRB)
RV-7


Antennas for Experimental Aircraft
www.deltapopaviation.com
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  #9  
Old 08-10-2011, 09:04 PM
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Greg Arehart Greg Arehart is offline
 
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Location: Sequim, WA/Atlin, BC
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Let me know if you need a tester in Nevada. Would be happy to help out.

greg
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RV-9B (Big tires) Tipup @KCLM or CYSQ
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  #10  
Old 08-10-2011, 10:38 PM
Jordan1976 Jordan1976 is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: WA
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As an ex-AT&T network engineer that had to deal with making a cell phone system work, while hoping someone didn't rain down watts of RF from the sky down into my network, I have to ask:

How do you feel about the legality of using a cellular phone in the air? The FCC is pretty clear that this is illegal, and the FAA supports this in AC 91.21-1A.

The FCC rule is not there because a cell phone might interfere with the airplane, it's there because an airborne transmitter spreads out the RF over such a wide area that it reduces the usability of the network for everyone significantly. You're hurting the network for every single person that is below you.

Read this if you need more information why this happens. It's even worse when you are using an amplifier that is increasing your power output:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_...channel_re-use

Last edited by Jordan1976 : 08-10-2011 at 10:43 PM.
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