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Thread: Building a PlanePuter

  1. #1
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    Building a PlanePuter

    Hey there to all. I am a newbie to the board and by the way it is very cool and awsome. Could you guys go over my plans and give me some feedback on this project?

    I am building a planeputer for my experimental homebuilt. It's called a EFIS system, (electronic flight instrument system). A quick search of the moving map display market for aircraft is enough to make a person sick. Prices for
    these things vary from a staggering $2700 to a blistering $7000 and up for a tiny panel mounted Multifunction Display. To pay this much money for a screen the size of a playing card is insane. The best you get is limited topographical features, and a data base of airports and navaids. That's it! What a rip-off.

    So I have always thought the idea of an onboard computer was really cool. Imagine all the functionality of a high powered desktop PC packed into your go fast airplane. This dream has led me to the quest of someday claiming victory and thumbing my nose to the giant avionics manufacturers as I beat them at there own game for a fraction of the cost.

    My goal is to have high speed moving map display with serious terrain display like a moving sectional chart, to be able to listen to my vast mp3 collection in flight thus eliminating the need for a CD player and to watch in-flight movies...yeah that's right...in-flight movies in hifi stereo on a big screen under my nose. Its going to happen! With the current state of PC technology, all these things exist NOW.

    So, these are the things that I am considering: (But not limited to)
    1. Build a small light weight computer.
    2. Make it stand up to the heat that builds up in the cockpit of a small canopy covered aircraft.
    3. Make it endure the vibration of a 200 HP engine.
    4. Make it run off 13.8 volts at a reasonable amount of amps
    5. Be able to user interface it in flight (forget a keyboard)
    6. It must be able to update software easily.
    7. It has to have a display (10.4 first choice 7 if I have too) you can see in the sunlight.

    In-flight moving map GPS. I have hooked up with a company in California which is developing 3-d moving map integrated with its' standard moving map and flight sectional mapping. I am beta testing their software and it is awsome. So, this part is a no brainer...

    I have settled on the MII 10K mobo for obvious reasons but mainly size, graphics features, PCMCIA slot and CF slot.

    Winblows OS is a toss-up and I am open to suggestions here. I would like to boot via the CF slot for both speed and redundancy. Should the computer crash (no pun intended) in-flight. It would re-boot fast and not be subject to vibrations(No moving parts). I know that I'll need to shrink it. The only other add-ons needed would be a small (by todays standards) hard drive.. say 20G and a low profile/power CD.

    Display My first wish is 10.4 in. LCD display, with Touch screen interface. One of my questions to you guys is, "Can you read your screens in the daylight?" I have to be able to clearly see the screen as it will be an important link to my navigation. Someone told me that I needed at least a 500 nit display? What do you all think? I have plenty of room in my panel for the 10.4 but it could blow by my budget, otherwise, I'll have to settle for the 7".

    So, I guess I only have a couple of general questions:
    1. The OS delimna. Keeping in mind that I'd like to boot from the CF card.
    2. Screen brightness and oh yea, FPS? What rates of FPS's are you guys getting with the VIA M10K machines and its' onboard video? This is important related to the moving map software.

    Thanks in advance for your comments.

  2. #2
    Maximum Bitrate deadweasel's Avatar
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    I was considering the same type of thing with a Velocity kit I'm working on. Vibration *may* not be too much of an issue, but it could be, if it allows the drive to work up a harmonic vibration.

    Temperature shouldn't be too much of an issue. What's the operating ceiling of your plane? If it's below 6,000 feet, you might just run a conduit to the computer's compartment from the outside, giving it lots of cool air.

    Operating system? I still hold that Windows XP is the most stable and reliable operating system Microsoft has yet put out, although Linux may be a better choice if you intend to use the PC to operate any critical instrumentation functionality. If you intend to pony up for the oldschool vacuum/pressure/voltage driven analogue guages, then why not build something to supplement them for display on a monitor instead? I say go for it!

    I would be interested to keep up on your progress. Do you have a site to follow your progress on your plane? Please post a link or PM me with it if you do.

    Hope my two cents didn't just lay about!
    The ALEXIS Project
    MP3---VIDEO---GPS---REARVIEW---OBD---SKINNING
    Color Coding :
    DONE / MOSTLY DONE / BASE FEATURES / WORKING CONCEPT / NO CODE COMPLETED

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadweasel
    I was considering the same type of thing with a Velocity kit I'm working on. Vibration *may* not be too much of an issue, but it could be, if it allows the drive to work up a harmonic vibration.

    Temperature shouldn't be too much of an issue. What's the operating ceiling of your plane? If it's below 6,000 feet, you might just run a conduit to the computer's compartment from the outside, giving it lots of cool air.

    Operating system? I still hold that Windows XP is the most stable and reliable operating system Microsoft has yet put out, although Linux may be a better choice if you intend to use the PC to operate any critical instrumentation functionality. If you intend to pony up for the oldschool vacuum/pressure/voltage driven analogue guages, then why not build something to supplement them for display on a monitor instead? I say go for it!

    I would be interested to keep up on your progress. Do you have a site to follow your progress on your plane? Please post a link or PM me with it if you do.

    Hope my two cents didn't just lay about!
    Don't have the site up and running yet, been too busy riveting pieces-parts together. Just finishing up on the empenage, waiting on my wing kit. I'll keep you posted on the progress and let you know when the site is up.

  4. #4
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    somewhat similar

    i too am working on a similar project and i may be looking for some assistance on the display as well.

    My project will not be for planes though and i will not be using a computer, i plan on making a heads up navigational display for cars. I will have a palm, with gps, and hook it up to a monitor to reflect off the windshield. I have the palm working with the gps and a product that converts all of that to vga, but the problem is the display. I was looking at a 10.4 in lcd monitor, and hoping to have it reflect so i can see the map on my windshield. Let me know if anyone has ideas, maybe we can use the same solution.

  5. #5
    Maximum Bitrate deadweasel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by duyduck
    i too am working on a similar project and i may be looking for some assistance on the display as well.

    My project will not be for planes though and i will not be using a computer, i plan on making a heads up navigational display for cars. I will have a palm, with gps, and hook it up to a monitor to reflect off the windshield. I have the palm working with the gps and a product that converts all of that to vga, but the problem is the display. I was looking at a 10.4 in lcd monitor, and hoping to have it reflect so i can see the map on my windshield. Let me know if anyone has ideas, maybe we can use the same solution.
    Reflecting the map on the windshield will have two problems. The first is that you will need to coat the area of the windshield to reflect with something that will enhance the reflected image. You won't see jack diddly during the day otherwise. The second is that the screen will be clearly visible to the Authoritahs, who may not take kindly to the blatant distraction.

    The heads-up idea is a good one though. Following that, I read something about flexible organic LCD displays, which are still very expensive, but are see-through, and can be stuck to surfaces like a small sheet of vinyl. This would be optimal. For a more cost-effective solution, look into how Pontiac did their heads-up MPH indicator on '92+ Grand Prix vehicles just before they went all boat-supersized.
    The ALEXIS Project
    MP3---VIDEO---GPS---REARVIEW---OBD---SKINNING
    Color Coding :
    DONE / MOSTLY DONE / BASE FEATURES / WORKING CONCEPT / NO CODE COMPLETED

  6. #6
    FLAC Pudge's Avatar
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    Someone.. defiler i think, just posted a thread, search planeputer, or something like that. it's a link to a guy that put one in his plane. sorry for the hasteful reply, didn't read the whole thing, just thought it might help.
    My Carputer! (More Car Pics at the end)
    2 Kicker Comp 10"
    Epia M-9000, 256 MB DDR, 120 Gig HD
    Lilliput 7" VGA Touchscreen
    Check it out?!

  7. #7
    FLAC LESLIEx317537's Avatar
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    I was the one that posted the thread about it here: CarPC in Plane? I mean PlanePC / PlanePuter. Look!!!
    Maybe you are the guy that made that?

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