Thank You! An Unusual Application With Wonderful Results

Started by Bob Denny, November 24, 2012, 01:44:22

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Bob Denny

I have been working with Locus Pro on the Google Nexus 7 for about a month. I am a helicopter Tactical Flight Officer for a large public safety agency in the Southwestern United States. My job consists of providing street and trail level navigation for the pilot, operating the airborne imaging system and the spotlight, and communicating with the ground personnel. The pilot flies the helicopter and talks with air traffic control. Our first line Bell 407 helicopter has a very expensive airborne street level mapping and navigation system, however it does not provide useful information about trails, topography, US Forest Service and BLM roads, etc. We also have two military surplus OH-58 helicopters and these have no mapping systems at all. Our calls are often for urgent situations, and finding our citizens in need is a critical task. Also, the cockpit of the helicopter is a tight area. There are two hand controls: a "stick" (the cyclic) and a "bar" on the left side (the collective). It is difficult to manage paper maps of trails and back-country roads, especially with the doors off traveling at 80+ knots.

I was looking for mapping and navigation tools for my Google/Asus Nexus 7 tablet and luckily I found Locus Pro and through this forum, MOBAC. It took two weeks on the ground and multiple real-live flights, but I was able to configure Locus Pro into the perfect tool for our needs. We never "navigate"  but we use the "guiding". Of course guiding is good for geocaching etc., but it is also perfect for air navigation to arbitrary places. I can't rely on my phone's 3G WiFi to supply map tiles, so with Locus Pro, the Locus Pro Map Tweaker, and MOBAC, I have created a Google Classic map for our entire area, the ChartBundle Terminal Area for our area, a ChartBundle Sectional map for our state, and also My Topo USA topographic maps for our outlying areas. These topo maps are by far the best for USA, as they have modern/current roads and facilities depicted, and also have Forset Service and BLM roads clearly marked and depicted. They are better than the paper maps you get from the Forest Service!

There are so many things about Locus that were "pleasant surprises" I could go on and on but...

  • We wear Nomex flight gloves so it is necessary to use a capacitive stylus to interact with the tablet. There is no way to pinch-zoom. Thus the
  • and [-] zoom buttons are essential! Thank you!
  • The "Line to GPS" feature is amazing! I have magnetic set in Units (thank you for this option!). I turn off the "center on GPS" button then move the map to the location to which I want the pilot to fly. Right there, I see the magnetic bearing and the distance from our present position to the target location. I say to the pilot (e.g.) "Turn right heading one four zero" and this is air traffic control terminology that the pilot is very comfortable with. Air navigation is all based on magnetic courses and bearings. Thank you!
  • Once the pilot has turned the aircraft to a heading close to the one I gave him. the "Course Bearing Line" feature of Locus Pro comes into view somewhere near the "Line to GPS" line, and the pilot can see this. It is very intuitive for the pilot to adjust the aircraft heading to match the "Course Bearing Line" and the "Line to GPS" line, and this compensates for any wind drift! We can navigate right to the target location. Thank you!
  • The Time Rings are so useful for us. Helicopters do not fly fast, thus wind affects our ground speed more than fixed wing aircraft. We are often asked for our estimated time to destination, and with the time rings I can read it right off of the display. Thank you!
As I said, there is so much more I could say. I will be putting together a guide to low-cost and effective airborne public safety mapping using Locus. You should be proud of the first class engineering discipline and software skills you have.


Glad to hear, that there are more and more professional uses for Locus!

Quote from: "Bob Denny"We wear Nomex flight gloves so it is necessary to use a capacitive stylus to interact with the tablet.
Have a look at this tutorial:

With Android 4.2 there is support for an external display. Means that you can mirror the screen from your tablet to any other screen that has an HDMI plug. Read more here:
Of course, this is not a Locus task, but I thought, it might be interesting for you, in case you want to give your pilot a second screen...  :D
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Thank you Bob for such interesting story. I'm very glad that someone use also these unusual features in Locus! I'm sure there will be more features for pilots in future. I'm not an pilot, but I receive quite a lot of requests on some bigger support in this field (even more then for geocaching and other features). So ... who knows what time bring :)
- Official help (ideas, questions, problems):
- Advanced topics, sharing of knowledges: you're here!
- LM 4 Beta download, LM 4 Release download

Bob Denny

berkley - Thanks for the information. We would not be allowed to do surgery on our gloves :-) and the stylus is just fine. I actually know Graffiti from the Palm days, and I have the Graffiti for Android IME installed on the pad, so I can write it with the stylus, and that works really well in the air. My Nexus 7 tablet doesn't (yet) have the Miracast feature as far as I know. but I will be on the lookout.

menion - I'm sure you get requests for air navigation, but to be clear that's not how I am using Locus and I don't care about it. And there are other very complex and sophisticated apps out there for air navigation. I would be unhappy if Locus got inflated with air nav features at the expense of its current capabilities :-)))))