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The Avidyne DFC90 - General Introduction

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    Posted: 11 Nov 2009 at 2:39pm

The Avidyne DFC90: Another Big Step for Increasing Safety and Utility

Last week was very exciting for Avidyne with the announcements we made at AOPA.  We have continued to focus on our customers’ needs and adapting our products for the current market conditions.  We made announcements about our EX600 MFD product that continues to lead the market for aftermarket MFD functionality, the DFC90 digital autopilot that allows release 7 Entegra customers to upgrade their aircraft, and we also announced the Envelope Protection capabilities of the DFC90 and DFC100 autopilots. 

The DFC90 project is important to us for many reasons: first, it allows us to create a continuum of upgrade possibilities for all of our customers in a wide range of price points.  Second, it is going to provide a lot of value to our customers with a relatively low investment of money and time.  Third, we are going to increase safety and utility for our customer base.

You can get all the details on the DFC90 by clicking the link above to our press release.  I wanted to share with you my personal experience flying with the DFC90 over the past month.  I don’t have much time flying in a Cirrus and even less time flying with the 55x engaged, but I have heard from a lot of our customers that they would like more out of their autopilot.  The DFC90 and DFC100 will absolutely provide that to our customers, and we should have some PIREPS from non-Avidyne employees in the coming weeks.

As a 100-hour pilot, I can appreciate the “Straight-and-Level” functionality and the envelope protection capabilities.  I flew with Steve Jacobson, VP of Product Management, last week, and he put the DFC90 through the demonstration profile.  We did unusual attitude tests of 30⁰ pitch up / down and 60 degrees of bank.  With the push of a button the aircraft smoothly regained controlled flight quickly and efficiently.  He then demonstrated our Envelope Protection functionality where we commanded a VS climb rate of 500 FPM and we pulled back power.  The PFD annunciated that we were in an “Underspeed” situation, and the aircraft gently reduced the climb rate, adjusting VS in concert with the ability for the aircraft to climb. When a climb was no longer possible and the airspeed dropped it sacrificed altitude for airspeed and kept us well above a stall and we eventually started to descend.  This feature provides a tremendous level of safety for our turbo-equipped pilots that are in the flight levels.  There have been some unfortunate fatalities caused by hypoxia that our envelope protection could have prevented.  In a situation where the pilot is incapacitated due to hypoxia the one tank would run out of fuel, the engine would stop, envelope protection would prioritize airspeed over altitude hold, and the plane would start a descent.  If someone was at FL250 it would take about 11 minutes to descend to 14,000 feet and hopefully the pilot would start to regain consciousness.  They would then have another 10+ minutes to either restart the engine using the other tank of fuel or pull the chute.  I think this can be a game changer for those of you with turbo-equipped aircraft that want another layer of safety and redundancy when trying to get more utility from the aircraft in the flight levels.

The other aspect of this program that is exciting is the ease with which someone can upgrade to the DFC90.  First, it requires a hardware and software mod to the PFD.  In order to decrease downtime, we will do this upgrade using our advanced-exchange system, so the PFD swap can be done in a couple of hours.  Once the PFD 8.0 is in the airplane, the upgrade is as simple as removing the 55x control head with an allen wrench and then replacing it with the DFC90 control head.  During our test flight last week it took us 90 seconds to swap control heads and get the full system up and running in between ILS landings on runway 29 at KBED.   That was impressive and proved to me that this can be an easy upgrade for our Entegra customers.

I will get one of the more experienced pilots to post about the overall performance of the DFC90, but for this 100-hour pilot I am sold!

Edited by BigDaddyJake - 13 Nov 2010 at 11:53am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TurboPA30 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Oct 2010 at 11:26am
There were a lot of discussions recently, especially on the CPA forum, on many people wishing that Avidyne made the DFC90 available to aircraft other than the Cirri.... Like Cessna 210s for instance. Are there any plans in that direction? 
Robert
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Oct 2010 at 11:40am
Hi Robert,

The DFC90 and DFC100 autopilots require a specific set of AHRS input data and data formats to work.  We have customized those to be compatible with the Avidyne AHRS for various technical reasons.  Therefore, the DFC90/100 can only work with the Avidyne data formats which are only supplied now by the Avidyne EXP5000 PFD or the Avidyne IFD5000 R9 system.

Unless your airplane has an Avidyne PFD or IFD, or the existing AHRS source in your airplane can be modified to match the Avidyne AHRS format, the DFC autopilot will not work.

As a product manager, however, I am always interested in hearing about interesting/new markets that we can expand this autopilot into.  Can you elaborate on your vision or desire for the Avidyne autopilot in your aircraft?

Steve Jacobson
VP Product Management
Avidyne Corporation
sjacobson@avidyne.com
Steve Jacobson
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TurboPA30 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Oct 2010 at 11:59am
Steve,
as the "Aviation Consumer" rightly wrote in their recent article on aftermarket autopilots, that market is a mess. For some time, nothing was available, now STec seems to have recovered under new ownership. Century seems dead. The only modern aftermarket certified autopilot that was available was the AP3C, that Cobham pulled the moment they acquired it with Chelton. (A bit like what Garmin did with the 480, to protect their other products from superior inhouse competition).
So now Aviation Consumer writes that Mid Continent is beefing up their legacy autopilot maintenance facility because people have no choice for really superior retrofit systems.
I would see a clear market niche for a modern, attitude based, digital autopilot as retrofit for the Twins, 210s, Bonanzas and lesser aircraft. Great would be something that works with a solid state gyro like the Sandel SG102, using standard ARINC low speed. That would already be a lot better than the turn coordinator based STec offer. Naturally, if you offered a retrofit glass for the 210 and other aircraft, the autopilot would be a significant added reason to do the installation. Especially with your suite of excellent hazard avoidance boxes (The G500/600 still cannot interface with ANY stormscope!) your offer could be more competitive than the competition....
Hope these thoughts help
Kind Regards
Robert
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TurboPA30 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Apr 2011 at 11:55am
With the announcement of Aspen compatibility of the DFC90 things have changed. PLEASE GIVE ME A DFC90 RETROFIT STC FOR MY Cessna T210F! And work hard of making the Aspen and EX600 work really well together.... And my CNX80.....
Thank you
Robert
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Apr 2011 at 6:12pm
Robert,

The 210 family of aircraft are an interesting target market for us to bring the DFC90 autopilot into.  Our plate is full for 2011 so it is extremely unlikely that the 210 will get any attention this calendar year.  However, we will be assessing and laying out our roadmap of the next wave of aircraft to bring the DFC90 into later this year.

While we would love to have an offering for you right now, if this is something you need to act on quickly, I'm afraid we won't be a viable option for you in the near term.

As I'm sure you can imagine, each new airframe DFC90 cert is time consuming and costly.  A very big part of our decision making process in determining which airframes to go after next is the estimated ROI calculation.   If you have any connections in the Cessna 210 aircraft owner group(s), it might be very helpful to spread the word so we have a better idea of the potential market penetration.  We would be very interested in hearing more feedback or product requests from those owners.

(I'll look into the Aspen-EX600 integration too)

Steve
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TurboPA30 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Apr 2011 at 10:30pm
Hello Steve,
there is great interest in the Forum of the Cessna Pilot Association for the DFC90.
What I mean with "act quickly" is I need information to make an investment decision in autopilot equipment now. If you tell me that in 2012, you will use my plane for certifying the DFC90 for the T210F, then I would hold off autopilot installation alltogether for now.
If you tell me you cannot commit, then I would need information if you will have your own servos, or if you will use STEC servos for the 210. Also, could you use the servos of the STEC30, or only of the STEC55 (in case they are different)
That type of information I would need urgently.
Thank you
Robert
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Apr 2011 at 4:00pm
Thank you Robert.

I don't think it is a good idea to commit to a 2011 or 2012 Cessna 210 STC at this time (not that it's a bad idea, just that we haven't defined the next model(s) roadmap in sufficient detail).

BTW, as far as we understand it, the STec 30 does use the same servos as the STec 55.

Steve
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TurboPA30 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2011 at 2:20am
Steve,
yes, that is correct, same servos, I also just found out. So in this case, I will put in an STEC30 now, and keep my offer to make my aircraft available for DFC90 certification.
Kind Regards
Robert
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