Dynon Autopilot Status Update and Hardware Pre-release Details
October 9, 2008
With the final polish on the Dynon Avionics Autopilot being applied, we wanted to take a moment to let all of you know where everything stands, and to provide some details on the recently-announced ability to order install hardware in advance of the actual Autopilot firmware release. Though we obviously won’t quite make our original “end of summer” release date, we’re confident that you’ll agree the final product will be worth the wait!
Test Program Update
Dynon has been working with a small fleet of testers on the flight dynamics and performance qualities of the Autopilot for a few months now. So far, the Dynon Autopilot is flying a diverse set of aircraft, including examples of the RV-4, RV-6, RV-7, RV-8, RV-9, Glasair Sportsman 2+2, Sonex, SeaRay, BD-4, and more. People familiar with these aircraft will recognize that this represents a fairly wide range of stability profiles and performance characteristics. As we move forward, we will continue to add experience in different aircraft.
Hardware Pre-release Details
Every Dynon Autopilot is comprised of a combination of a Dynon EFIS (running the upcoming 5.0 version of firmware), Dynon servos, and optionally the AP74 Dedicated Autopilot Interface Module. The launch servo models, mounting kits, and AP74 modules are finalized, but the 5.0 EFIS firmware update needed to enable autopilot functionality is still going through our pre-release testing process. To accommodate strong customer demand, though, we have decided to begin selling servos and installation kits ahead of the full Autopilot EFIS firmware release. We will begin taking orders for these items for immediate delivery starting on Wednesday, October 8, 2008.
This means that customers can opt to take delivery of servos, mounting kits, and AP74 modules now, allowing them to install hardware, run wires, and be completely ready for the Autopilot functionality once it is ready.
Dynon Avionics expects the firmware update to be available in November 2008. To reiterate, this means that customers can choose to purchase and install their servos, installation kits, and AP74 modules now, but their EFIS will not be able to drive those servos for at least a few more weeks.
Changes since the Sun ‘n Fun Announcement
A few things have changed since we initially announced the Autopilot at Sun ‘n Fun.
We couldn’t promise it at Sun ‘n Fun, but we can now: EVERY Dynon Avionics servo will ship with the ability to sense and enunciate out-of-trim conditions, along with the required corrective action, when a servo is used on the pitch axis. By helping the pilot keep the aircraft in trim, undesirable pitch excursions after the autopilot is disconnected are minimized.
There is a small chance that the EFIS firmware to support trim-sensing will not be available in the initial autopilot firmware release. If it is not ready, altitude hold will be possible, but altitude change will be inhibited until a follow-up firmware release.
Increased Servo Torque Output
We are excited to announce that our servos are producing considerably more torque than we originally specified. This means that they can produce significantly more torque than competitive servos without any corresponding increase in drag. Practically, this means that some aircraft models may be able to use a size smaller servo than they would with other autopilots. This will further decrease the already small residual drag on the control system even further.
The final specs for each servo are:
SV32: 36 in-lb SV42: 55 in-lb SV52: 72 in-lb (available in the near future)
See the full servo documentation for complete servo dimensions and specifications.
Pre-Selects with AP74
As of Sun ‘n Fun, only the AP76 Advanced Autopilot Module (project currently on hold) was slated to offer true pre-selects on heading, track, and altitude. We have now decided to add this feature to the AP74 as well. This means that you can opt to set up the autopilot with heading, track, or altitude targets before you engage each mode.
As this feature is a late addition to the Autopilot, it will not be ready in the initial firmware release. Instead, it will be added in a follow-up firmware release. Also note that pre-selects are not possible without the AP74 or AP76.
What is Available on Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Servos + Mounting Kit Packages for RV-6/7/8/9
To make purchasing Autopilot hardware as easy as possible, Dynon Avionics has put together single part number, preconfigured mounting kit and servo packages for each axis of aircraft for which we have both items available.
Servos with Output Arms
The SV32 and SV32L are the smallest servos that Dynon Avionics will offer and produce up to 36 in-lb of torque. They have conventional output arms for use in push-pull control systems.
The SV42 and SV42L produce up to 55 in-lb of torque, utilizing a slightly larger servo motor than the SV32. They also have conventional output arms.
Standard arm servos and long arm servos (denoted by an “L” suffix) differ only in the length of their output arms. "L" servos allow for slightly more travel in aircraft that require it, but yield a smaller force available at the longer arm attach points. Due to the decrease in available force, long arm servo models should generally only be used in aircraft that require them.
AP74 Dedicated Autopilot Interface Module
The AP74 will be available in both the horizontal and vertical versions previously announced. It comes with a mounting tray and connector kit.
RV-6/7/8/9 Mounting Kits
Mounting kits for both axes of the RV-6, RV-7, RV-8, and RV-9 will be available.
Generic Push / Pull Mounting Kit
For aircraft that Dynon has not yet developed a mounting kit, but which definitely use a servo with output arm (as compared to a cable / capstan drive servo), Dynon has developed a generic kit that includes rod ends and other servo attachment hardware. Note that if you use this kit, you will need to determine an adequate location and mounting method for installing your servos.
See the servo application guide for information about servo combinations for aircraft that Dynon Avionics has not yet developed mounting kits for or has tested.
What is not Available on Thursday, October 9, 2008
The following items are still under development, and will not be available on October 9, 2008:
Autopilot Software for EFIS products: This is an early hardware-only release, allowing builders and installers to get aircraft ready for the final release of autopilot software. We do anticipate releasing final 5.0 EFIS software in November, 2008.
Capstan Servos: Servos that are equipped with a capstan for use in cable control systems will not be initially available. Popular aircraft that use these types of servos include the Zenith 601 (on the pitch axis), the Glastar series, and Murphy Moose.
Mounting kits other than those specified above will not be available until a later date. Keep an eye on the Dynon Avionics website for more information about mounting kits under development.
As previously announced, the AP76 Advanced Autopilot Module will not be available before the end of the year. However, customers that elect to purchase an AP74 now will be able to trade it in for full credit towards an AP76.
Finally, the ability to track a VOR or Localizer from a radio will not be available with the initial Autopilot firmware release. It will be released in a follow-up firmware release, due out shortly after the 5.0 release. Note that this only applies to radio-based navigation aids. GPS-based track and course following will be available upon the initial autopilot release.
There is a mounting kit that is available for the RV-4 pitch axis, since it is the same as the RV-8’s. However, there is no roll mounting kit available for the RV-4 and no current plans to produce one.
Similarly, there is an RV-10 roll mounting kit available, but no pitch mounting kit yet. We will be developing and releasing an RV-10 pitch mounting kit in the near future.