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  1. #1
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    introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    My name is Keith Smith, I'm the Founder of PilotEdge, a new online
    service that provides real-time ATC for flight simulators. After a brief email exchange with Matt, he suggested I might want to make a forum post about what we offer, so here goes..

    My background, very briefly, starts as a 10yr old who discovered aviation and computing at roughly the same time, starting with a Commodore 64 and SubLogic FSII. I have to think I'm not the only person here who knows what those are I learned to fly by using sims, but it wasn't until my early 20's that I started taking flying lessons. I discovered VATSIM after a 4yr break during the training. It was a great resource for getting back in the saddle and working on my comms. I completed my PPL and went on to obtain an instrument rating.

    I currently fly (and very much enjoy) a Lancair 360 out of Lincoln Park (N07) in northern NJ.

    VATSIM wasn't without its issues, but on a good day, if you knew how to use it, knew the right controllers and all the planets aligned, you could have a meaningful training experience. I tried for 7 years (without success) to recruit real world pilots to that network and
    during that time was able to recruit precisely _0_ people, despite receiving thunderous applause at presentation after presentation, and demo after demo to rooms full of pilots. Their experience when they went home to try it simply didn't mirror what we showed during the demo (which was stock with great pilots and controllers, of course).

    So, I started thinking about building a new, commercial-grade network which would overcome the known limitations of VATSIM, namely:
    - the lack of consistent, predictable presence of ATC
    - the lack of consistent, predictable quality of ATC
    - a radio system that in no way mirrors the operation of a real world
    radio in terms of frequency usage and non-towered operations
    - too wide of range of skill and interest level among the pilots
    - lack of traffic density as a result of the global coverage and not
    enough pilots to fill those skies (outside of a handful of scheduled
    events each year)

    As a result, PilotEdge was launched to the public just over 2 months ago on Oct 1, 2011. It offers guaranteed ATC presence and quality, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week in the published coverage area (currently the Los Angeles ARTCC, with roughly 100 public use airports). This
    will expand to include the Oakland ARTCC in the coming months. There are no plans to expand the public network beyond that point unless the traffic density supports it.

    The ATC presence is guaranteed by compensating the controllers for their time and using a robust scheduling system. The ATC quality is guaranteed because unlike other networks, we are able to pick and choose who is allowed to control on the network, and train them to our
    exacting standards.

    The network is based on voice usage 100% of the time, there are no text transmissions (outside of Private Messages which are used for technical support from time to time). The radio system was built completely from scratch and closely models the operation of a real
    world radio:
    - there is no 'controller list' showing you who's online
    - you dial the frequency for the facility you're trying to reach using real world publications (be it a clearance delivery, ground, tower, TRACON, or enroute facility). You can even call on the published approach frequencies for flight following.
    - if you are out of range from a given controller or another pilot, you won't hear them. The range is based on your altitude and the altitude of the other pilot or the altitude of ATC's transmitter. We have modeled the location AND altitude of all of the radio transmitters within the Los Angeles ARTCC, including the one near the JLI which is located on a 4-5k MSL mountain top

    On a few occasions in the early days, we neglected to swap pilots to the appropriate frequencies during their flights and lost communication with them as they descend to lower altitudes. We resorted to relaying messages to them via other airborne aircraft which were cruising in the flight levels and were able to reach them on the same frequency, even though we couldn't!

    Also, you can enjoy 100% voice communications at the non-towered airports. You'll hear other aircraft if they're within range, and on the same frequency. That means than down low, you'll probably only hear aircraft at your airport, but once you reach 1000ft or so, you'll hear traffic at more distant airports. We calcuate all of this every 3 seconds or so.

    The traffic density issue is solved in two ways. For one, the coverage area is smaller (packing what would've been a global level of traffic into a smaller area), and we augment the live traffic with previously recorded VFR aircraft (drones) which fly 24/7. As of now, there are ~550 of these aircraft flying around northern and southern California.

    These are VFR aircraft that fly only in Class E/G airspace (where ATC communication is not required). Drone operations range from helicopter tours through the Grand Canyon, to VFR pattern work, air work (steep turns, slow flight, stalls, simulated engine out), cross country
    flights and even military operations (many of which are a hoot to watch or follow, I gotta tell ya!). These are NOT computer-generated or AI flights. These are flights that were recorded by a real person and are being played back 24/7 through a custom utility that we built for the network.

    Now, all of these benefits come with two sacrifices:
    1) the network is not free. Remember, the controllers are paid to be there. The upside is that the cover charge 'keeps away the kiddies'.

    2) the coverage area is not global...it's not even national (nor is it ever likely to be). We support the Los Angeles ARTCC (ZLA) right now and will add the Oakland ARTCC (ZOA) soon. ZLA has roughly 100 public use airports, as does ZOA. When all is said and done, our coverage area will be approximately 600x400nm, allowing for a 90 minute flight in a 737, which we think is sufficient for most operations, particularly since the enroute phase of flight offers little in the way of educational or even entertainment value.

    So, who is this for? If you're a student pilot, instrument student or commercial training outfit (flight school or sim center), the benefits of this system should be quite obvious.

    However, we think it might also attract the attention of the discerning sim enthusiast who sees value in having quality ATC every single time they fly, even if it means flying in a more restricted area, and is willing to pay a modest amount per month for it $19.95/mth, or less if you're flying with a partner VA, a list of which will soon be forthcoming on the site).

    This network is NOT for you:
    - if you are not willing to fly within the Los Angeles ARTCC
    - if high quality, guaranteed ATC presence is not a important element of your flying, or is simply not worth paying for
    - if your existing only flying network consistently meets 100% of your needs.

    I suspect that as cockpit builders, the service we offer WILL be of value to you, so I'm eager to see the reaction!

    Check out the site, there is a 2 week free trial (we ask for credit card info for a number of reasons, but you will not be charged until the end of the trial) for anyone who wants to give it a shot.

    The supported platforms are FS 2004, FSX, Prepar3d (unofficially), and X-Plane 9/10. You can install the FSX client on another machine but it's not recommended at this time. We'll be releasing a modified version of the client which lends itself to better execution across the network fairly soon. Right now, the installer ships with the incorrect version of SimConnect, you'll need to grab the FSX SP2 SimConnect installer (I can post a link if needed) if you do plan to run the PE client on a machine other than the one where FSX is running.

    We also send position updates for aircraft at 5Hz, so the fidelity is considerably improved over what is available on other systems. We also send light, gear and power settings across the network, so you can actually see when aircraft switch on their strobes and landing lights
    prior to takeoff, etc.

    Again, I'm happy to answer any and all questions and look forward to hearing your reactions to the service. It's not for everyone, but if you're looking for the next level of ATC interaction, there is really nothing out there that offers what we have, and certainly nothing that can be used on a commercial basis.

  2. Thanks Salire thanked for this post
  3. #2
    10+ Posting Member s4sha's Avatar
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    I am SO surprised that no one on Mycockpit has responded to this post!

    Pilotedge adds the "missing dimension" to flight simulation. You can have the most fantastic setup, with overclocked PC's, multiple displays, collimated displays, builds utilizing real cockpits, etc., BUT-- you haven't experienced IMMERSION into virtual flight operations unless you've experienced Pilotedge. If you live and breathe aviation, if you have transformed some portion of your home into a makeshift Cessna, Beechcraft, Airbus, Boeing, etc. then you owe it to yourself to try flying online with other pilots, in real time, with real controllers, following real procedures.

    Whether you fly for real or not, it really doesn't matter- people don't "choose" aviation. Aviation chooses certain people. It gets in your blood, and in most cases it becomes part of you, a permanent part of your core being. All of you know what I mean.

    Recreating actual flight with simulation technology is what brings us "sim nuts" together, to share ideas to help get our individual projects that much closer to what we envision. AND we're all proud of our sims.

    I can tell you that I truly believe that Pilotedge will revolutionize the simulation industry, both on the home sim level and on the primary and commercial training levels. Be a part of the foundation of something great. The more pilots that join, the better the whole experience becomes. For a few bucks a month, Pilotedge has changed my life. Seriously.

    Check it out: www.pilotedge.net

    All the best,

    Scott A. Forsha
    C172 project, X-plane

  4. #3
    500+ This must be a daytime job
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    Scott,

    Likely no one posted, including myself until now, because Pilot Edge (PE) only covers LAX and Oakland ARTCC's. Yes, there are a lot of public use airports in the area, but for a heavy metal flyer that number is reduced down further. For GA, it might be better, but on the PE website they list that the area must be within posted operational areas to be covered; although, they state 24/7 service. So, it's not 24/7 for both ARTCCs, it's selective in those areas.

    Additionally, they also state on the website that have no plans to extend their coverage area, so that means you will be stuck within in those areas. Yes, PE is nice for people just learning ATC, but VATSIM has improved a great deal and if you use programs like VatSpy, you can determine a great deal about the 5 W's and H of VATSIM ATC. In addition, the VA Airlines like Delta Virtual, SouthWest Virtual, Northwest Virtual and so on have pilots in the hundreds on their rolls. Thus, there is a lot of pilots flying, but it's a mattter of timing because people do have different availability times to be online flying.

    I can honestly say that VATSIM has tightened the rules over the years and the "kiddie" factor is almost 0. I fly a lot of time on VATSIM in a fullsize B737 cockpit at home, and I can attest that using VATSIM is great. Even though it could go further to improve things, it has faults; however, so does PE have faults. All things being equal in regards to actual ATC, they sound about the same, except one you pay for and the other you dont.

    PE does offer a 2 week trial, so it is there to tryout and it'll be great for some people. I'd be happy to try it out, but requiring my credit card for a trial? Or, never going to expand? Or, $19.95 a month/$240 a year...that's rather costly over VATSIM. Then again, PE says who they're for and who they're not up front, so at least they're honest!

    BSD

  5. #4
    500+ This must be a daytime job Sean Nixon's Avatar
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    I discovered Pilotedge a few weeks ago and have to agree with everything BSD has said.

    I believe it's a good product, but not for the mainstream flightsim community.

  6. #5
    Executive Vice President, MyCockpit


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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    I certainly missed this post, it should of been a news item. If anyone knows "COMA24" and would write to him and get updated information, I'll definitely post it on the news page.

    Matt Olieman

  7. #6
    Executive Assistant Geremy Britton's Avatar
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    Yep, i missed this post too. Strange. Great concept though, if it could be brought to a much bigger scale more people would be temped to pay and therefore could charge a much reduced amount over a much greater quantity of people.
    Geremy Britton
    Executive Assistant, MyCockpit Inc
    Head of GLB Flight Products
    www.geremy.co.uk

  8. #7
    PilotEdge *****
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    I'm subscribed to the thread (as you might expect), so I saw the responses.

    I'll answer the suggestions/comments as best as I can:
    1) regarding expanding to a "much wider area". It costs around $7500/mth to staff each facility. The reason norcal isn't on a full time schedule is that doing so would take us to a $15k/mth burn rate. We're just not there yet. Staffing the entire country would cost over a hundred thousand per month...it's not on the cards, and was never the design goal of the network.

    Having dedicated, guaranteed staffing is a huge benefit (for those that are interested in ATC), but it comes with two costs:
    a) can't staff too large of an area
    b) it costs money

    2) The $19.95/mth or $240/yr figure is only accurate for the monthly pricing option. If you select the annual option, it's $179/mth

    3) Regarding the trial. It currently requires a credit card (although the card is NOT charged until the end of the trial). This is going to change. We have been working hard on revamping the system to allow trials that will not require a credit card. We're working on it.

    4) We're actually going to be introducing an hourly model in the near future, too...somewhere around $5/mth + $1-2/hr. This is for the infrequent fliers who want to use the system, but can only do so sporadically.

    5) Regarding the number of airports for heavy metal, we have full time (15x7) coverage of SBA, SBP, SMX, BFL, BUR, VNY, ONT, PSP, LAX, LGB, SNA, SAN, NYL, LAS & GCN. Throw in the Fri-Sun coverage in norcal, which includes SFO, OAK, SJC, MRY, RNO, FAT, STS, APC, RDD, & CIC, and the number of city pairs is actually pretty decent.

    6) I struggle to agree that the experience of flying on vatsim is the same as flying on PilotEdge. I have a boatload of time on both networks. The radio system is completely different (we use r/w freqs, top to bottom, at all times, it doesn't vary based on staffing). If you fly LAS-SNA on PE, you'll tune to LAS delivery, ground, tower, departure, then a center frequency. Then you'll be sent to 2-3 socal freqs, SNA twr, then ground. Yes, it's likely to be the same voice on some of those freqs, but you'll still be changing freqs. Do the same flight on VATSIM, and you might have 0, 1 or 2 controllers that you're likely to work with (LAX_CTR, LAX_APP). Or, the controller(s) might leave during your flight. You have no way of knowing.

    If your goal is to fly anywhere you like with other pilots, and ATC presence is NOT a requirement, VATSIM is clearly the winner. If you are willing to fly in a more specific area and ATC presence is really important to you, PE has the advantage there.

    This is why choice is such a wonderful thing I would never propose PE as a general replacement for VATSIM...they're two very different networks.

    If you have a home cockpit that cost you many thousands of dollars to assemble, then for $179/yr, you can have 15x7 voice ATC coverage, guaranteed. For those who are passionate about realistic ATC, that might be of interest.

    If anyone has any questions or comments, fire away! Also feel free to listen to the audio recordings (updated every hour) if you'd like to hear more of the network in action.

    I don't disagree with the comment that this isn't for everyone. I do want to make sure the pricing, coverage model, and benefits are understood so people can make an educated decision.

  9. Thanks Matt Olieman, iwik, blueskydriver, Sean Nixon thanked for this post
  10. #8
    300+ Forum Addict manhattan's Avatar
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    Quote Originally Posted by coma24 View Post
    My name is Keith Smith, I'm the Founder of PilotEdge, a new online
    service that provides real-time ATC for flight simulators. After a brief email exchange with Matt, he suggested I might want to make a forum post about what we offer, so here goes..

    My background, very briefly, starts as a 10yr old who discovered aviation and computing at roughly the same time, starting with a Commodore 64 and SubLogic FSII. I have to think I'm not the only person here who knows what those are I learned to fly by using sims, but it wasn't until my early 20's that I started taking flying lessons. I discovered VATSIM after a 4yr break during the training. It was a great resource for getting back in the saddle and working on my comms. I completed my PPL and went on to obtain an instrument rating.

    I currently fly (and very much enjoy) a Lancair 360 out of Lincoln Park (N07) in northern NJ.

    VATSIM wasn't without its issues, but on a good day, if you knew how to use it, knew the right controllers and all the planets aligned, you could have a meaningful training experience. I tried for 7 years (without success) to recruit real world pilots to that network and
    during that time was able to recruit precisely _0_ people, despite receiving thunderous applause at presentation after presentation, and demo after demo to rooms full of pilots. Their experience when they went home to try it simply didn't mirror what we showed during the demo (which was stock with great pilots and controllers, of course).

    So, I started thinking about building a new, commercial-grade network which would overcome the known limitations of VATSIM, namely:
    - the lack of consistent, predictable presence of ATC
    - the lack of consistent, predictable quality of ATC
    - a radio system that in no way mirrors the operation of a real world
    radio in terms of frequency usage and non-towered operations
    - too wide of range of skill and interest level among the pilots
    - lack of traffic density as a result of the global coverage and not
    enough pilots to fill those skies (outside of a handful of scheduled
    events each year)

    As a result, PilotEdge was launched to the public just over 2 months ago on Oct 1, 2011. It offers guaranteed ATC presence and quality, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week in the published coverage area (currently the Los Angeles ARTCC, with roughly 100 public use airports). This
    will expand to include the Oakland ARTCC in the coming months. There are no plans to expand the public network beyond that point unless the traffic density supports it.

    The ATC presence is guaranteed by compensating the controllers for their time and using a robust scheduling system. The ATC quality is guaranteed because unlike other networks, we are able to pick and choose who is allowed to control on the network, and train them to our
    exacting standards.

    The network is based on voice usage 100% of the time, there are no text transmissions (outside of Private Messages which are used for technical support from time to time). The radio system was built completely from scratch and closely models the operation of a real
    world radio:
    - there is no 'controller list' showing you who's online
    - you dial the frequency for the facility you're trying to reach using real world publications (be it a clearance delivery, ground, tower, TRACON, or enroute facility). You can even call on the published approach frequencies for flight following.
    - if you are out of range from a given controller or another pilot, you won't hear them. The range is based on your altitude and the altitude of the other pilot or the altitude of ATC's transmitter. We have modeled the location AND altitude of all of the radio transmitters within the Los Angeles ARTCC, including the one near the JLI which is located on a 4-5k MSL mountain top

    On a few occasions in the early days, we neglected to swap pilots to the appropriate frequencies during their flights and lost communication with them as they descend to lower altitudes. We resorted to relaying messages to them via other airborne aircraft which were cruising in the flight levels and were able to reach them on the same frequency, even though we couldn't!

    Also, you can enjoy 100% voice communications at the non-towered airports. You'll hear other aircraft if they're within range, and on the same frequency. That means than down low, you'll probably only hear aircraft at your airport, but once you reach 1000ft or so, you'll hear traffic at more distant airports. We calcuate all of this every 3 seconds or so.

    The traffic density issue is solved in two ways. For one, the coverage area is smaller (packing what would've been a global level of traffic into a smaller area), and we augment the live traffic with previously recorded VFR aircraft (drones) which fly 24/7. As of now, there are ~550 of these aircraft flying around northern and southern California.

    These are VFR aircraft that fly only in Class E/G airspace (where ATC communication is not required). Drone operations range from helicopter tours through the Grand Canyon, to VFR pattern work, air work (steep turns, slow flight, stalls, simulated engine out), cross country
    flights and even military operations (many of which are a hoot to watch or follow, I gotta tell ya!). These are NOT computer-generated or AI flights. These are flights that were recorded by a real person and are being played back 24/7 through a custom utility that we built for the network.

    Now, all of these benefits come with two sacrifices:
    1) the network is not free. Remember, the controllers are paid to be there. The upside is that the cover charge 'keeps away the kiddies'.

    2) the coverage area is not global...it's not even national (nor is it ever likely to be). We support the Los Angeles ARTCC (ZLA) right now and will add the Oakland ARTCC (ZOA) soon. ZLA has roughly 100 public use airports, as does ZOA. When all is said and done, our coverage area will be approximately 600x400nm, allowing for a 90 minute flight in a 737, which we think is sufficient for most operations, particularly since the enroute phase of flight offers little in the way of educational or even entertainment value.

    So, who is this for? If you're a student pilot, instrument student or commercial training outfit (flight school or sim center), the benefits of this system should be quite obvious.

    However, we think it might also attract the attention of the discerning sim enthusiast who sees value in having quality ATC every single time they fly, even if it means flying in a more restricted area, and is willing to pay a modest amount per month for it $19.95/mth, or less if you're flying with a partner VA, a list of which will soon be forthcoming on the site).

    This network is NOT for you:
    - if you are not willing to fly within the Los Angeles ARTCC
    - if high quality, guaranteed ATC presence is not a important element of your flying, or is simply not worth paying for
    - if your existing only flying network consistently meets 100% of your needs.

    I suspect that as cockpit builders, the service we offer WILL be of value to you, so I'm eager to see the reaction!

    Check out the site, there is a 2 week free trial (we ask for credit card info for a number of reasons, but you will not be charged until the end of the trial) for anyone who wants to give it a shot.

    The supported platforms are FS 2004, FSX, Prepar3d (unofficially), and X-Plane 9/10. You can install the FSX client on another machine but it's not recommended at this time. We'll be releasing a modified version of the client which lends itself to better execution across the network fairly soon. Right now, the installer ships with the incorrect version of SimConnect, you'll need to grab the FSX SP2 SimConnect installer (I can post a link if needed) if you do plan to run the PE client on a machine other than the one where FSX is running.

    We also send position updates for aircraft at 5Hz, so the fidelity is considerably improved over what is available on other systems. We also send light, gear and power settings across the network, so you can actually see when aircraft switch on their strobes and landing lights
    prior to takeoff, etc.

    Again, I'm happy to answer any and all questions and look forward to hearing your reactions to the service. It's not for everyone, but if you're looking for the next level of ATC interaction, there is really nothing out there that offers what we have, and certainly nothing that can be used on a commercial basis.
    Hi.

    Here's a short question: I live in the UK, can I fly on your system?

    Thanks.

    TONY.

  11. #9
    PilotEdge *****
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    Tony,

    Your physical location doesn't matter, as the service is provided over the internet. You will only receive ATC service if you fly the aircraft within our published coverage area.

    You can fly the aircraft in the UK if you wish, but there will not be any ATC coverage. The radio will work, though, in the sense that if someone else was flying nearby and was tuned to the same frequency, they would hear you, too. The value of the system outside of the coverage area is fairly minimal, though.

    We have a few pilots from the UK, Spain, France, Switzerland, Russia and Poland who fly with us.

  12. #10
    500+ This must be a daytime job Nick1150's Avatar
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    Re: introducing PilotEdge, professional ATC for flight simulators

    Hello there,

    I missed this thread.

    It has been weeks now that I am thinking of joining PE. I have a full 737-800 sim in Athens.

    First things first... This is a great and absolutely original project, and congratulations for the idea and the making of it.

    All of my flights are on VATSIM / Europe / Greece network and I am a little less than 600 hours of online flights time. Yes you are right, VATSIM is great, but only when it has ATC coverage. When happenings occur, its great, but one has to find the time to attend. So I would appreciate a full ATC service.

    $179 / year is fair to me, that's not the issue. You also have 9 hours out of service, which is fair, people have to get a sleep. I suppose those 9 hours are during the night. Since there are 10 hours difference between Greece and US/LA and your ATC service is provided 8am 11pm Pacific time, I suppose that in my country the service provided is 18am - 09pm Greek time, so that means that on working days (Monday to Friday) I can fly during the afternoon, (let's say around 19:00), which is a good thing , but during the weekends there will be no morning coverage at all for us in this part of Europe, so this is the downside for me

    I am convinced for a trial period, but I have experience locally in the Greek / European territory and I was wondering what is the difference flying in LA. Are here any nice gentlemen who fly in both continents and possibly share their knowledge/experience with us, swapping from EU to US ? I could use their experience in this...

    Lastly, I would like to ask about the software used to connect PE . As you may know most of our projects here in MC.org are too complicated consisting of many PCs and a server. Personally I run 1 server + 4 clients + 3 projectors + many hardware modules to achieve the final outcome. In order to make all above work together one has to be extremely cautious in what he installs on his systems. For instance, eventhough there are hundrends of free scenery files out there I only use payware and only the ones I feel that are really important to have. After years in this hobby I learned that free is expensive, and that a "wrong" installation can cause days of work in formats, setups, etc, etc. To make the long story short, Is the software used compatible with Squawkbox installed on a client or I have to uninstall Squawkbox to avoid conflicts ? Can this software be used in a network environment, not in the FSX machine that is ? Does it need screen space to be visible, or it can work minimized without be seen ?

    I would like to thank you in advance for answering my questions, and hope to see you online soon,

    Regards,

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