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February 2020 Update

The Invite-Only Beta is almost upon us, so it is a great time for another development update!

Pending final bug fixes, we will be sending out the approval emails to the invited users soon. If you are lucky enough to get one, you will be authorized to access our software at the time you receive the email. Those who make it into Phase 1 will receive invite codes for Phase 2 to distribute at your discretion, but those codes will not be immediately available. We will keep you posted on when they become available to distribute.

Here is a quick recap on the original plan for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 1 and what may or may not have changed since the announcement was first released:

  • Pilots will require an invite code and subsequent approval in order to participate
    • Status Update: This is still the case. All available invites have been distributed and those who received an invite are patiently waiting for the approval email, which will come soon.
       
  • ATC will be hand-picked by POSCON staff and will be required to sign an NDA
    • Status Update: This is still the case. One thing to note, however, is that we will most likely be very slowly implementing ATC. In fact, the first couple of weeks will most likely see little to no ATC coverage on the network as it still requires some additional dev work.
       
  • Operating times will be schedule limited
    • Status Update: This is no longer true. We plan to have the server up and running 24/7 as we have separated our development and production environments. We will inform everyone of scheduled down times when we make updates to the production servers.
       
  • Number of users was planned at between 500-1000
    • Status Update: This is still the case; we have invited between 600-700 users to Phase 1.
       
  • NDA is not required for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 1
    • Status Update: This is still the case. You are not required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) unless you are hand-picked to be an ATC. We will continue to maintain a select group of NDA pilot beta testers to test new features in our development environment.

Having said all that, now I want to take some time to outline features that made it into this phase. I think outlining these features is an important part of the process of managing expectations.

Voice System

One of the main blockers that prevented us from releasing POSCON sooner was the decision to completely rewrite our voice system. Six months ago we were using the TeamSpeak 3 SDK for our voice infrastructure, but we decided using TeamSpeak 3 would limit our technical growth into the future.  As a result, we opted to get rid of TeamSpeak completely before any sort of public release. Over the past few months we have worked tirelessly to develop our very own custom infrastructure and I am happy to report that it is now completed. Our voice will have the following features at Invite-Only release:

Voice Server Supports:

  • Many simultaneous connections.
  • Ground-based transceiver locations; there are currently 4,667 locations entered into our database.
  • Propagation of transceiver locations to the Radar Client.
  • Option for separate PTTs per radio (e.g. VHF #1 and VHF #2), separate volume controls per radio, and separate audio devices per radio.
    • The server supports this, but the pilot clients do not support this yet.

Voice Effects Supported:

  • Full VHF simulation including:
    • 8.33 kHz and 25 kHz spacing.
    • Terrain line-of-sight processing.
    • Beat simulation.
    • End-of-transmission popping tones.
    • Wavelength simulation.

Website & Administration

Another factor that prevented us from releasing POSCON sooner was the decision to build out a custom Single-Sign-On or SSO. It became apparent, as we added new products and technologies to our software suite, that the generic open-source or even payware services would not meet our needs. I am happy to report that our custom SSO has been completed and is fully functional. Here are some additional web features we will release with:

  • GDPR compliance.
  • A support system.
  • Basic flight statistics.
  • ICAO 2012 formatted flight plan form:
    • An integrated help tutorial is provided on the page.
    • The form validates while entering data.
  • Feedback and generic points system.
  • Live Map used to view online traffic (updates every 2 seconds).
    • Users can leave feedback about each other using the map.
    • Moderators can initiate ghosting, disconnects, and bans using the Live Map interface.
  • Pilot Client Web UI, which can be accessed on any device with an internet connection (see below for more details).

Pilot Clients, Pilot Client Web UI, & Pilot Server

The Pilot Clients are by far the most completed products that we have in our software suite. They have been closely designed in parallel so that the features remain consistent across the various platforms. Once you have logged in to the network, the Pilot Client will send information about your plane’s location, altitude, attitude, as well as a number of the plane’s parameters such as gear and flap deployment, engine RPM, state of various beacon and navigation lights, transponder mode and code, etc. The Pilot Clients also receive similar information from the network about aircraft that are within range of your plane. This information is used to draw 3D models of the aircraft at their correct position and orientation. The information is also used to populate various datarefs so that your aircraft’s TCAS system will be aware of nearby planes.

In addition to the aforementioned features, the Pilot Clients also feature:

  • Enhanced ground-clamping using various methods for a smooth experience regardless of differences in terrain.
  • Model matching. Here is how we handle model matching with the various platforms:
    • For X-Plane, the models are distributed with the pilot client itself and contain custom model matching logic.
    • For FSX/P3D, we have integrated the FLAi model set through our Launcher Client application (see below for more details).
  • ICAO equipment and airline code validation.
  • Accurate ground speed monitoring (X-Plane Only).
  • VHF push-to-talk activation indications.
  • AI model sounds and controls (X-Plane Only).
  • The ability to control the maximum number of AI planes that will be displayed.
  • In-game notification of ghosting and disconnects with explanations.
  • The ability to manually toggle ghost mode or request to unghost.
  • Automatic detection of change in aircraft.

The Pilot Clients will automatically ghost for:

  • Sim rate increase, entering slew mode, using replay mode, or deliberate pausing (this can also sometimes be triggered by accessing a sim menu).
    • If you are on the ground and not moving, pausing is allowed.
  • Connecting on or re-positioning to a runway (through a menu) will prevent connection or disconnect the user as applicable.

Pilot Client Web UI Features:

  • Some functions of CPDLC (Controller-Pilot Data Link) will be operational such as the login function and automatic squawk code assignment.
  • Real world D-ATIS (Digital Automated Terminal Information Service) broadcasts are integrated and can be requested in real-time by pilots.
    • The voice portion of D-ATIS is not working yet, only the text portion.
  • METAR and TAF reports can be requested in real-time by pilots.
  • Radio syncing.
  • Ghost and unghost toggle.
  • Disconnect.

Pilot Server Supports:

  • Many simultaneous connections.
  • A variable update rate based on range. When in close proximity to other aircraft, models will update 15 times a second for a smooth visual experience.
  • Airspace awareness. The server can determine a planes position in relation to defined airspace boundaries (both vertical and lateral). This is a very unique feature not implemented on any other network. In the future, this will enable POSCON to build many other features using this core server functionality.

Launcher Client

The Launcher Client is the centralized hub to keep you up-to-date on everything related to POSCON. This product was designed around the idea of "platform software" similar to what Origin, Steam, and other gaming platforms offer. The POSCON Launcher Client mirrors the content contained in the POSCON HQ, but with enhanced functionality: 

  • The ability to download, install, launch, and update all available network software.
  • The ability to switch between development and production environments (for NDA testers only).
  • Token authentication. Once you enter your username and password once, the Launcher Client will take care of the rest.

That's it for now, we hope you enjoyed this update. In the near future we will post a list of frequently asked questions that should help first-time users when accessing the network. If you have any questions you think would be a good addition to this list, feel free to comment below!

Thanks for all the support over the last few years, it continues to keep us motivated!

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  • More Blogs

    1. Network Technology

      • 3
        entries
      • 9
        comments
      • 1053
        views

      Recent Entries

      Andrew H.
      Latest Entry

      By Andrew H.,

      The Invite-Only Beta is almost upon us, so it is a great time for another development update!

      Pending final bug fixes, we will be sending out the approval emails to the invited users soon. If you are lucky enough to get one, you will be authorized to access our software at the time you receive the email. Those who make it into Phase 1 will receive invite codes for Phase 2 to distribute at your discretion, but those codes will not be immediately available. We will keep you posted on when they become available to distribute.

      Here is a quick recap on the original plan for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 1 and what may or may not have changed since the announcement was first released:

      • Pilots will require an invite code and subsequent approval in order to participate
        • Status Update: This is still the case. All available invites have been distributed and those who received an invite are patiently waiting for the approval email, which will come soon.
           
      • ATC will be hand-picked by POSCON staff and will be required to sign an NDA
        • Status Update: This is still the case. One thing to note, however, is that we will most likely be very slowly implementing ATC. In fact, the first couple of weeks will most likely see little to no ATC coverage on the network as it still requires some additional dev work.
           
      • Operating times will be schedule limited
        • Status Update: This is no longer true. We plan to have the server up and running 24/7 as we have separated our development and production environments. We will inform everyone of scheduled down times when we make updates to the production servers.
           
      • Number of users was planned at between 500-1000
        • Status Update: This is still the case; we have invited between 600-700 users to Phase 1.
           
      • NDA is not required for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 1
        • Status Update: This is still the case. You are not required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) unless you are hand-picked to be an ATC. We will continue to maintain a select group of NDA pilot beta testers to test new features in our development environment.

      Having said all that, now I want to take some time to outline features that made it into this phase. I think outlining these features is an important part of the process of managing expectations.

      Voice System

      One of the main blockers that prevented us from releasing POSCON sooner was the decision to completely rewrite our voice system. Six months ago we were using the TeamSpeak 3 SDK for our voice infrastructure, but we decided using TeamSpeak 3 would limit our technical growth into the future.  As a result, we opted to get rid of TeamSpeak completely before any sort of public release. Over the past few months we have worked tirelessly to develop our very own custom infrastructure and I am happy to report that it is now completed. Our voice will have the following features at Invite-Only release:

      Voice Server Supports:

      • Many simultaneous connections.
      • Ground-based transceiver locations; there are currently 4,667 locations entered into our database.
      • Propagation of transceiver locations to the Radar Client.
      • Option for separate PTTs per radio (e.g. VHF #1 and VHF #2), separate volume controls per radio, and separate audio devices per radio.
        • The server supports this, but the pilot clients do not support this yet.

      Voice Effects Supported:

      • Full VHF simulation including:
        • 8.33 kHz and 25 kHz spacing.
        • Terrain line-of-sight processing.
        • Beat simulation.
        • End-of-transmission popping tones.
        • Wavelength simulation.

      Website & Administration

      Another factor that prevented us from releasing POSCON sooner was the decision to build out a custom Single-Sign-On or SSO. It became apparent, as we added new products and technologies to our software suite, that the generic open-source or even payware services would not meet our needs. I am happy to report that our custom SSO has been completed and is fully functional. Here are some additional web features we will release with:

      • GDPR compliance.
      • A support system.
      • Basic flight statistics.
      • ICAO 2012 formatted flight plan form:
        • An integrated help tutorial is provided on the page.
        • The form validates while entering data.
      • Feedback and generic points system.
      • Live Map used to view online traffic (updates every 2 seconds).
        • Users can leave feedback about each other using the map.
        • Moderators can initiate ghosting, disconnects, and bans using the Live Map interface.
      • Pilot Client Web UI, which can be accessed on any device with an internet connection (see below for more details).

      Pilot Clients, Pilot Client Web UI, & Pilot Server

      The Pilot Clients are by far the most completed products that we have in our software suite. They have been closely designed in parallel so that the features remain consistent across the various platforms. Once you have logged in to the network, the Pilot Client will send information about your plane’s location, altitude, attitude, as well as a number of the plane’s parameters such as gear and flap deployment, engine RPM, state of various beacon and navigation lights, transponder mode and code, etc. The Pilot Clients also receive similar information from the network about aircraft that are within range of your plane. This information is used to draw 3D models of the aircraft at their correct position and orientation. The information is also used to populate various datarefs so that your aircraft’s TCAS system will be aware of nearby planes.

      In addition to the aforementioned features, the Pilot Clients also feature:

      • Enhanced ground-clamping using various methods for a smooth experience regardless of differences in terrain.
      • Model matching. Here is how we handle model matching with the various platforms:
        • For X-Plane, the models are distributed with the pilot client itself and contain custom model matching logic.
        • For FSX/P3D, we have integrated the FLAi model set through our Launcher Client application (see below for more details).
      • ICAO equipment and airline code validation.
      • Accurate ground speed monitoring (X-Plane Only).
      • VHF push-to-talk activation indications.
      • AI model sounds and controls (X-Plane Only).
      • The ability to control the maximum number of AI planes that will be displayed.
      • In-game notification of ghosting and disconnects with explanations.
      • The ability to manually toggle ghost mode or request to unghost.
      • Automatic detection of change in aircraft.

      The Pilot Clients will automatically ghost for:

      • Sim rate increase, entering slew mode, using replay mode, or deliberate pausing (this can also sometimes be triggered by accessing a sim menu).
        • If you are on the ground and not moving, pausing is allowed.
      • Connecting on or re-positioning to a runway (through a menu) will prevent connection or disconnect the user as applicable.

      Pilot Client Web UI Features:

      • Some functions of CPDLC (Controller-Pilot Data Link) will be operational such as the login function and automatic squawk code assignment.
      • Real world D-ATIS (Digital Automated Terminal Information Service) broadcasts are integrated and can be requested in real-time by pilots.
        • The voice portion of D-ATIS is not working yet, only the text portion.
      • METAR and TAF reports can be requested in real-time by pilots.
      • Radio syncing.
      • Ghost and unghost toggle.
      • Disconnect.

      Pilot Server Supports:

      • Many simultaneous connections.
      • A variable update rate based on range. When in close proximity to other aircraft, models will update 15 times a second for a smooth visual experience.
      • Airspace awareness. The server can determine a planes position in relation to defined airspace boundaries (both vertical and lateral). This is a very unique feature not implemented on any other network. In the future, this will enable POSCON to build many other features using this core server functionality.

      Launcher Client

      The Launcher Client is the centralized hub to keep you up-to-date on everything related to POSCON. This product was designed around the idea of "platform software" similar to what Origin, Steam, and other gaming platforms offer. The POSCON Launcher Client mirrors the content contained in the POSCON HQ, but with enhanced functionality: 

      • The ability to download, install, launch, and update all available network software.
      • The ability to switch between development and production environments (for NDA testers only).
      • Token authentication. Once you enter your username and password once, the Launcher Client will take care of the rest.

      That's it for now, we hope you enjoyed this update. In the near future we will post a list of frequently asked questions that should help first-time users when accessing the network. If you have any questions you think would be a good addition to this list, feel free to comment below!

      Thanks for all the support over the last few years, it continues to keep us motivated!

    2. Jarrett I.
      Latest Entry

      By Jarrett I.,

      I'm sure you've seen those four letters before - RVSM - and you may have a fundamental knowledge about the airspace, but do you know why it exists? Here are the answers to the most basic questions:

      1. Where do we find RVSM airspace? Higher cruising altitudes.
      2. What happens in RVSM airspace? Airplane separation is reduced vertically.
      3. Why does RVSM airspace exist? To allow more aircraft in the sky.

      There you have it... the simple definition of RVSM. Now, let's get technical:

      179238233_rvsmexample.thumb.jpg.7dec5a890cb6b0df0630858cc6783e10.jpgRVSM stands for Reduced Vertical Separation Minima and it's located between FL290 (29,000ft) until FL410 (41,000ft) inclusive. To understand RVSM, you must first understand what the vertical separation requirements were above FL290 before 2005. Prior to RVSM, aircraft were required to be separated by 2,000 feet vertically above FL290 due the possibility of altimetry errors at the higher flight levels. RVSM airspace allows for a reduction in vertical separation between qualifying aircraft in order to allow more aircraft to operate in crowded enroute airspace thereby allowing for more efficient traffic flows. Airplanes of course move a lot faster at higher altitudes though, so it is only natural that this little amount of separation may make even the most vigilant pilot a little nervous. However, it is important to note that before implementing RVSM, aviation authorities instituted a required set of parameters that must be met in order to operate in RVSM. If any of these parameters cannot be met before entering or while operating within RVSM airspace, the aircraft is required to advise ATC and exit RVSM.

      Before we get into other details about RVSM lets recall that in many countries, the East ODD and West EVEN rule applies to vertical separation. This practice ensures that two airplanes are never assigned the same altitude flying in opposite directions. In some regions that are geographically more north/south split such as Italy or Florida for example, they have elected to modify the rule to favor North ODD and South EVEN as the determining factor for vertical separation. Either way a region chooses to separate traffic, it is important to recognize that these rules exist are crucial to establishing a baseline for high altitude vertical separation.

      Now that we have covered the basic rule for opposite direction vertical separation, let's talk about what makes an aircraft RVSM approved. In order for an aircraft to operate in RVSM airspace, a certification is required from the governing agency of that nation (FAA, local CAA's, etc.), but the basic equipment that an aircraft should have operational include: an autopilot, two independent altimeters, a transponder with an altitude reporting capability, and an altitude alerting system. During flight in RVSM airspace, pilots will cross check their two independent altimeters to ensure the difference does not exceed a specified tolerance, which could range anywhere between 50ft to 200ft.  If any of these items malfunction during flight in RVSM airspace, notification to air traffic control is essential.

      Let's talk about air traffic controller's responsibilities in regards to RVSM airspace. Aircraft will have an equipment code in their flight plan assuring ATC that they are RVSM compliant and capable. If an aircraft alerts that they are no longer RVSM capable, ATC will have to either ensure separation of 2,000ft with that aircraft at all times or descend the aircraft outside of RVSM (below FL290).  However, just because an aircraft is not RVSM capable does not mean they can never fly between those altitudes. Many corporate jets are not RVSM capable but still request to cruise above RVSM airspace (e.g. FL430). In this scenario, the controller will climb the aircraft through RVSM airspace while ensuring 2,000ft separation is maintained between other traffic at all times. 

      On a final note, RVSM aircraft require a maintenance certification as well. The next time you start up your flight sim and connect to POSCON for IMG_20190825_235257469.thumb.jpg.8e83b29248a45ce99a0d2db21142efb2.jpgyour online flight simulation experience, take a look at the outside of your aircraft. Depending on the quality of the aircraft in terms of realism and study level, you should see what's called an RVSM critical area (see image to the right). Aircraft maintenance technicians must run specific tests and certify that everything located within this box meets the required RVSM tolerances, which are often stricter than in flight checks accomplished by pilots. Static ports, pitot tubes, and AOA vanes are small examples of what can be found in these boxes, of course, these are important functions that will assure RVSM tolerances when in flight. Pilots check this box during preflight inspections to ensure this critical area is free of residue, damage, dents, or other non-normal appearances on the components in the boxed lines.

      On POSCON, our air traffic controllers are well trained on RVSM procedures. When flying online, ensure your aircraft is RVSM capable and make sure you indicate it properly in the flight plan equipment code section ("W" is the letter identifying that the aircraft RVSM capable). If you do not include "W" and are offered an RVSM altitude (it happens), simply say to ATC "Negative RVSM". And of course if you are having issues with your autopilot, now you know you are required to tell air traffic control.

      After reading this article, you should be confident answering when and why the "W" equipment code is required in your flight plan. It is true, there are far too many acronyms in the aviation world, but at least you got RVSM down! See you on POSCON in RVSM and don't forget the whiskey! (get it?)

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