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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? Voice System Working Features: 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. Beat simulation. End-of-transmission popping tones. Wavelength simulation. In Development: ATIS, AWOS, and ASOS automatic audio broadcasts on the proper frequencies. Future Plans: HF and UHF. There are many more features planned, but we are going to keep those a secret for now. Website, Training, & Administration Working Features: 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). In Development: 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. Future Plans: 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 Pilot Clients Working Features: 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. In Development: 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). Future Plans: 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. Web UI Working Features: 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. Radio syncing. Ghost and unghost toggle. Disconnect. Future Plans: Additional CPDLC functions, including heading, speed, and altitude changes. Full pilot report functionality. Approaching online ATC awareness messages. Launcher Client Working Features: 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. In Development: 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. Future Plans: 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. Next steps? 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.
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!
Earlier this year, we created an MVP (or Minimum Viable Product) list of features that need to be completed before our first public release. Since defining these specific objectives, our development team has been laser focused and, as a result, we have made tremendous strides in POSCON's technological development. In June 2019, we attended FSExpo where I was interviewed by Callum Martin from FSElite and we revealed our roadmap to release announcement. This announcement had a significant impact on our development team because it assigned a series of deadlines as to when the MVP objectives need to be completed by. Here are some additional interviews I took part in during FSxpo: Flight Simulation Addon Developers Panel Ground_Point_Niner Interview Lets first talk about the voice client, since voice quality seems to be the hottest topic in network development spheres. The truth is, we have only pushed one or two revisions to our voice code since my last update in April 2019. The reason for the lack of updates is not because we have given up working on it, but because we are done. The POSCON voice system was one of the very first projects we worked on and because of that, it has been stable and ready to be released for the past 6 months. We have an update to the voice infrastructure planned before public release, but the update is not a no-go item and can be delayed if it were to prevent our release. The current features of our voice communication system include: Low latency. Realistic VHF distortion. Line-of-sight simulation including both curvature of the earth and terrain modelling. Blocking simulation. The ability to add custom transmitter locations for ATC through our website. Full integration into all of our clients. Second, lets talk about the server... and the first word that comes to my mind is "wow". The server update rate (15 Hz) is absolutely phenomenal and extremely smooth. I find myself bugging our testers to join me in VFR group flights constantly because the update rate makes these types of flights extremely enjoyable. If you haven't seen some of our demos, you can can view them on our YouTube channel. Other than the update rate though, the server has had a lot of work performed on it. Here is brief summary of recent changes: The server can now determine what FIR and sector an airplane is in by analyzing known lateral and vertical airspace stratum. Below are two images showing our custom Discord bot reporting: The active aircraft on the server, shown with their Mode-S hexadecimal readouts (first column), The FIRs the aircraft are currently in (AOR column); and, What FIRs the aircraft are in the vicinity of (APD column). We have also extended this capability to sector level granularity. The image below shows what sector the aircraft is currently in and also what sector the aircraft is projected to be in the next 180 seconds based on the current aircraft trajectory. Why on earth is this important? Well this core functionality can be used for many different applications such as ATC scheduling, traffic management, auto-handoffs, auto squawk code assignments, and auto "contact me" messages... just to name a few. Speaking about auto-squawk code assignments, the server can already do this! When you file an IFR flight plan on POSCON, regardless of whether ATC is online or offline, the server automatically sends you a squawk code assignment. This is important so that your flight plan and target are properly correlated because on POSCON, your callsign is not tied to your actual connection. Another recent update to our server is that ghost mode has been re-enabled. Earlier this year we disabled our ghost mode code while we worked on other aspects of the server because the feature was interfering with our testing. I am pleased to announce that we have finished those peripheral updates and have re-enabled ghost mode. Ghost mode allows members to remain connected and enjoy the server, while not being a bother to other users. While on the topic of ghost mode, we recently added runway definitions and buffer zones to the server so that when an aircraft spawns to a runway, instead of interfering with traffic, they are automatically ghosted. This server functionality can also later be used for Runway Safety Area (RSA) alerts in the Radar Client. In addition to automatically ghosting for spawning on a runway, the server will also automatically ghost aircraft that slew or that connect in the vicinity of another aircraft (e.g. at the same gate as someone already connected). In regards to server infrastructure, we are utilizing the Google Cloud Platform. Some features of our server infrastructure include: Automatic server selection and negotiation. Memory-only flight servers (no need to read from disk). Multi-gigabit network uplinks per server. RAM-based databases for our core services. Next, lets discuss the pilot clients. Like the voice system, most of the work on these clients has been finished for a few months. Right now, our main focus is sorting through bugs and working on the Pilot Client Web UI, which I will discuss later in this post. The X-Plane Pilot Client was recently updated with better model matching logic. The new logic closely emulates the logic that most people are already familiar with on other networks. In addition to this new logic, we also added a new ground clamping algorithm. As a pilot approaches or departs from the ground, the client will now evaluate the terrain underneath the aircraft and intelligently chose from one of two methods to display an aircraft in your sim. This will prevent models from making unrealistic movements during the takeoff or landing phase of flight. I have personally tested this extensively and I can tell you, it works very well when you are flying with people using different sims and/or terrain meshes. As with all things pilot client related, we will ensure feature parity, so the FSX/P3D client will soon have the same features that have been added to the X-Plane client. Since FSExpo, the website (we call "HQ" or Headquarters) continues to be updated to the new design. We currently have a fully functional ICAO 2012 flight plan form with an integrated tutorial for users who are not completely familiar with how to fill out the form. Some additional features of the HQ include: The ability to view your profile, statistics, and change account preferences. View training documentation and modules. Submit support requests. View upcoming events and bookings. Browse available Discord servers. Schedule ATC sessions. Submit airline and aircraft ICAO codes to be approved for inclusion in the global database. If you were at FSExpo, you will be familiar with our Live Map which consists of a globe, continents, and FIR boundaries. Currently it displays airspace and aircraft with the ability to view activity in a 3D perspective. We have included a live weather radar on this map as well that covers most major areas around the world. By clicking on an aircraft on the map, a sidebar appears which displays some basic flight data and a series of options to choose from including: "Leave Feedback" "Report Issue" - in other networks, this is the same as the "Wallop" command. "Message" - this is restricted to Moderators only. Because our map is derived from OpenStreetMap, users are able to update their home airport and make it as detailed as they want. Here is EHAM: The Pilot Client Web UI, which is part of HQ, is coming along nicely. The Web UI is already capable of: Changing VHF radio frequencies in your sim. Changing squawk code, transponder mode, and identing. Changing the active radio transmitter and receiver in your sim. Requesting and displaying weather reports (METARs, TAFs, etc.). Changing your connection mode (ghost or live). Disconnecting from the network. Sending PIREPs to the server. Communicating with Moderators. We are currently working on implementing CPDLC via the Web UI. This will be the only way users are able to use text to communicate with ATC. Last but not least, lets discuss the Radar Client. Development on this software is coming along nicely as well. One of the unique things about our Radar Client is the way you log in and choose what position you are going to control. The first step is to pick the authority in which you desire to work in. In this case "FAA", which is the USA. Then pick the enroute facility. In this case "ZNY", which is New York ARTCC. Then pick the sub-facility. In this case "N90", which is New York TRACON (Apporach/Departure). Then pick the sub-facility area. In this case "JFK", which is of course Kennedy International Airport. Then pick the sector or position. In this case "2G", which is a sector of the Kennedy Area. Pick the configuration. In this case I picked "Default". After clicking "Login", the server automatically downloads all the proper sector and voice communication data. Why is this important? It makes the setup process extremely seamless. With our software, all a user needs to worry about is basic preference settings. Right now, the login menu exists in the Radar Client itself, but eventually we will move it, along with a lot of other things, to the Launcher Client software which will automatically download and keep POSCON files up-to-date. Another feature of the Radar Client worth discussing is our VSCS (Voice Switching and Control System). The VSCS panel data is automatically populated from the server based on the position you select at login. No extra configuration is required other than selecting which transmitters you want to activate. In the example below, we have set up a single frequency with multiple transmitter locations. I have activated the transmitter located at Matawan (MAT), New Jersey and I am transmitting on 125.325. I am also monitoring Guard on both VHF and UHF frequencies. The Radar Client also gives the user the ability to change the rate at which targets update. This is important because different air traffic control positions use different types of radars that update at different rates. We wanted to give the user the ability to control this variable. Here is an image from our WX and ALTIM SET panels. These can be setup using the "WR" and "QD" commands respectively. Well, that about sums up our technical development progress. I am sure I left out some points but there is just so much to cover! I want to stress the point that we have accomplished the majority of this work in just over a year. Imagine where we will be at next year. I also want to take this opportunity and remind everyone to follow us on our Twitch channel! You can expect that to become active in the VERY near future!