On April 1st, 2020 we officially began approving invites to the POSCON Invite-Only Beta. We are now almost two months into our release and it still brings me great excitement every time I see a new user experience POSCON features for the first time. We learned a great deal in the first few days and weeks after the initial release. One thing that became abundantly clear was that we need to have a central location to refer users to in regards to what features are functional, what features are still in development, and what features are planned for the future. In addition, there still seems to be some confusion surrounding the invite process, so I am going to attempt to clarify all these items in this development update.
Before I began, I think it is worth mentioning that we created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) area that may contain answers to some of the questions that may not be answered in this blog post.
While there is no doubt that we have deviated from the FSExpo 2019 Roadmap to Release timeline, we are doing our best to keep on track. Right now, I think it is safe to say we are in Invite-Only Beta, Phase 2. Here is a quick recap on the original plan for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 2 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. Currently, any approved member with access to the network also has the ability to invite two additional registered users to the service by clicking here. Once invited, those members will be placed into a holding pattern until they are approved by the POSCON staff. There is no set time frame on when these approvals are distributed - we approve people when the team feels comfortable to receive additional members. This two-step process was designed to meter the flow of incoming members and minimize the amount of support requests we receive. More information on the invite process is discussed below.
ATC will be hand-picked by POSCON staff and will be required to sign an NDA
Status Update: This is still the case. We have been testing ATC regularly now, but we rarely advertise when or where we will be conducting these testing sessions. This strategy is employed on purpose in order to not overwhelm the controllers as they test new features. On a few occasions, we have given some advance notice of when ATC will be online, but right now those instances are rare.
Operating times will be schedule limited
Status Update: This is no longer true. Before we released, we separated the network into a development environment and a production environment which enables us to minimize interruptions to the users as we add new features. With the exception of a few hot-fixes in the early days after releasing, we have made considerable effort to inform all beta testers of scheduled maintenance well in advance of a server restart. In order to facilitate this, we created a System Status Monitor page which can be used to view the status and scheduled down times of our applications: https://status.poscon.net/
ATC coverage will be limited to areas selected by POSCON
Status Update: This is still the case. ATC testing has been limited to the areas where the facility data is most developed; however, our Facility Data Team has been tirelessly working on other areas around the world as well. Here is just a brief overview of what they have done:
170 FIRs have been worked on.
7856 independent ATC sectors have been created.
7053 independent VHF transceiver sites have been located and entered into our database.
1801 independent radar sites have been located and associated with 73 different radar types.
In addition to the above, below are just a few images of the FIRs that have been worked on:
Number of users was planned at between 1000-2000
Status Update: This is still the case. As of May 23rd, 2020 we have invited and approved 1278 registered users.
NDA is not required for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 2
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.
Invite Process - How does it work?
As mentioned earlier, the invite process consists of two steps: INVITED and APPROVED. Here is how it works:
Lets assume you joined the POSCON Public Discord first and then realize you are interested in joining the network. If this is the case, you are considered an "Enthusiast" and will be assigned that tag automatically in our Discord server.
Now you decide to register at https://www.poscon.net and complete the checklist items which include: ensuring your birthday is set correctly and your Discord ID is connected to your POSCON account. At this point, you are now considered a "Registered User".
If you are lucky, you may be invited by an approved member as their guest and you will receive an email from POSCON. If this happens, you are still considered a "Registered User".
Please wait patiently until you are approved by POSCON staff. When approved, you are now a "POSCON Member" and have access to our HQ website and are able to download the Launcher Client. This is the point at which you can now connect to POSCON.
The time between steps 3 and 4 is an unknown. It could be a matter of days, weeks, or even months. It all depends on where we are at with our development and whether we are ready to accept new members.
If you find yourself in limbo, the best thing you can do is join our Public Discord and participate in the discussions until you are invited and/or approved.
What is working, what is in development, and what are the future plans?
Ground-based transceiver locations have been added for most ATC facilities.
Auto gain control.
Propagation of transceiver locations to the Radar Client.
Our voice library supports the option for separate PTTs per radio (e.g. VHF #1 and VHF #2), separate volume controls per radio, and separate audio devices per radio.
NOTE: The pilot clients do not currently support this yet.
Full VHF simulation including:
8.33 kHz and 25 kHz spacing.
Terrain line-of-sight processing.
End-of-transmission popping tones.
ATIS, AWOS, and ASOS automatic audio broadcasts on the proper frequencies.
HF and UHF.
There are many more features planned, but we are going to keep those a secret for now.
Website, Training, & Administration
Fully GDPR compliant.
Integrated support system.
Basic flight statistics.
ICAO 2012 formatted flight plan form includes:
An integrated help tutorial provided on the page.
The form validates while entering data.
Auto-fill from SimBrief output.
Feedback and generic points system works.
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).
Converting HQ to a new language and framework.
Moving elements of the ICAO 2012 flight plan to the server.
Live Map version 2.0 will use custom tiles and our own tile server. The map will also contain a 2D option for performance reasons.
Various upgrades to user-interface and user-experience throughout the HQ.
Upgrades to the user profile, including notifications.
Pilot and ATC scheduling system.
Advanced statistics center.
Additional ways to earn and lose POSCON points.
Additional CBTs with progression quizzes.
Airport Advisory Page system. This system will allow Divisions and Sub-Divisions to create informational pages about their airports that will be viewable by all pilots.
Pilot Clients & Web UI
Both pilot clients support a high refresh rate. Models will update 15 times a second for a smooth visual experience.
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.
VHF volume sliders on the native user-interfaces.
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.
X-Plane 11.50 Vulkan support.
Moderator messaging directly into the pilot clients.
Automatic ghosting 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.
We are fixing various issues with models and model matching (X-Plane).
A new multiplayer library is being integrated (X-Plane).
A new native user-interface is being added (X-Plane).
We plan to make full use of the voice system by adding separate PTTs per radio (e.g. VHF #1 and VHF #2), separate volume controls per radio, and separate audio devices per radio.
HF and UHF integration.
There are many more features planned, but we are going to keep those a secret for now.
Here is an Easter egg for those who have gotten this far in the blog: If you can name all the FIRs (the colored ones) depicted above correctly, then you can get an instant invite and approval to use POSCON. DM your answers to me directly. Offer expires May 27th at 2359 UTC.
Some functions of CPDLC (Controller-Pilot Data Link) are operational such as the login function and automatic squawk code assignment.
Real-world FAA 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.
Ghost and unghost toggle.
Additional CPDLC functions, including heading, speed, and altitude changes.
Full pilot report functionality.
Approaching online ATC awareness messages.
The ability to download, install, launch, and update all available network software.
Token authentication. Once you enter your username and password once, the Launcher Client will take care of the rest.
We added some new functionality to these buttons. The button on the left refreshes the Launcher Client, the middle button minimizes the Launcher Client, and the button on the right will send the Launcher Client to the system tray.
Once in the system tray, right-clicking on the Launcher Client icon will bring up a menu that will allow users to: reload, clean temp files, and quit the application.
Adding libraries that will utilize a new content delivery method through a download server.
Converting the application to a different framework.
Working on moving away from our web dependent set up.
User-interface changes such as adding a download progress bar, information display, and a direct link to Discord from the title bar.
Working on integrating Live Map version 2.0 through the Launcher Client.
The plan is to embed the Pilot Client native user-interfaces directly into the Launcher Client. There will be no need to launch a the Pilot Clients anymore after this is completed.
Once the back-end work is completed for the above, a new user-interface will be needed to accommodate the integration.
The next step for the POSCON team is simple: we will continue to work hard on bringing you the next-generation flight sim network.
While we do that, we encourage you to join our Public Discord and participate in the discussions there. Typically, the most up-to-date information about the project is released on our Discord first.
That's it for now! If you have any questions that have not been answered in the FAQ or in this blog post, feel free to comment below.