Belite "patch" instruments

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cluttonfred

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I have had my eye on the Belite "patch" instruments for a while, which seem like the might be a good fit in a dead-simple light plane, though they are not cheap.

Does anyone have any first hand experience with any of their instruments to share?
 

orion

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I saw these for the first time earlier in the year. I can't speak for their accuracy and reliability (I didn't fly them) but their weight efficiency and readability are great. I think they would enhance any panel and if their reliability is good, should be more than sufficient even for higher performance installations. Cost-wise, they do seem reasonable for what you get and compared to more conventional alternatives.
 

Dan Thomas

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I have had my eye on the Belite "patch" instruments for a while, which seem like the might be a good fit in a dead-simple light plane, though they are not cheap.

Does anyone have any first hand experience with any of their instruments to share?
No experience with these but they should be (and appear to be) cheaper than the usual mechanical instruments that have to be assembled by hand from hundreds of tiny components. Belite's will be built mostly, if not entirely, by automated machinery and with no moving parts, and it would be the low production runs that raise the prices. Belite will have to be careful not to overprice them, because the aviation world is moving toward consolidated displays like the Garmin G1000 and there are other outfits making uncertified systems like it for homebuilts. One screen could replace all of the individual instruments. Belite's are a transitional system that might not be around for long.

Dan
 

Jay Kempf

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Bumping my own post...would love some feedback.
Raises an interesting question. Why are we still fighting with large instruments and lots of spaghetti behind an instrument panel. Why don't we have can bus to flat simple displays and a remote hardened black box with all the sensors and guts of the instruments. You could have wireless and/or wired network connections from one to the other. That would make the panel a trivial assembly and you could locate the guts of the instruments anywhere. Most automotive clusters are that way. I have this new Droid phone that is absolutely amazing in the things that can be done with all the onboard sensors and you can connect to wireless off board sensors. The screens are amazing for things like artificial horizon and the GPS functionality is absolutely impressive. And the whole thing is like 1/3" thick the front is all screen and it weighs nothing. I have looked at Arduino recently also as a way to build a control and sensor network for a project I am working on and that stuff is really becoming impressive as well.
 

autoreply

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Raises an interesting question. Why are we still fighting with large instruments and lots of spaghetti behind an instrument panel. Why don't we have can bus to flat simple displays and a remote hardened black box with all the sensors and guts of the instruments.
Well, in fact we do. The basic ones sell from 1500 US$ or so. Still pretty expensive, but a lot cheaper than "normal" instruments, even for the basic 4+cheap GPS.
 

Jay Kempf

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Well, in fact we do. The basic ones sell from 1500 US$ or so. Still pretty expensive, but a lot cheaper than "normal" instruments, even for the basic 4+cheap GPS.
What I was talking about was separating a nice screen from the large lump behind the panel and the remote sensors if necessary. So the panel is just full of screens and input devices. That way you can just mount instrument displays anywhere. Instrument panels could be lots of small places to put instruments instead of one giant thing to bang your knees and forehead on. Large black box could be behind the seat somewhere out of the way and easy to remove to be updated or repiared.
 

cluttonfred

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On the EFIS systems, it is interesting that Belite is doing the one-by-one approach. You are absolutely right that someone could should come along and do something similar as a more or less complete panel. My interest in the Belite instruments is for a Sky Pup ultralight and the very low weight, despite the need for power (could just be a 9v battery or a rechargeable pack) makes them very attractive.

In addition to the Dynon systems in autoreply's post above, I have always like the MGL Avionics products. Among their less expensive options...

They still make the Ultra Horizon XL, a monochrome LCD flat-panel display. If you skip the attitude sensor, electronic compass, etc. and just use it for basic flight instruments (airspeed, altimeter, VSI) and as an engine management system (rpm, cht, egt, oil temp/pressure, fuel level, etc.) you can get the whole shebang, including the senders, for about $1,500. It goes up to $2,600 if you want the heading and attitude sensors. The new Stratomaster Xtreme is similar to the Dynon model above and has all the same features and options as the Ultral Horizon XL, but with a color screen and basic GPS functions, for just a little more.

Even cheaper are the Velocity Singles and Infinity Singles, monochrome LCD instruments for standard 3 1/8 inch or 2 1/4 inch instrument holes. There are multiple possible combinations of just two instruments (FLIGHT-2 and EGT/CHT, or one of the engine monitors and a combo ASI/ALT) that would provide more than you need for basic VFR flight, except navigation, for under 1,000.

Looking for low cost, low weight and simplicity, my current plan is either an MGL E3 EMS and inexpensive Falcon analog ASI and ALT (all 2 1/4 inch) , or maybe a Belite EGT/CHT and a Tiny Tach in place of the MGL E3 EMS. Add a whiskey compass and I'm all set. Total would be under $800 for all.
 

Jay Kempf

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On the EFIS systems, it is interesting that Belite is doing the one-by-one approach. You are absolutely right that someone could should come along and do something similar as a more or less complete panel. My interest in the Belite instruments is for a Sky Pup ultralight and the very low weight, despite the need for power (could just be a 9v battery or a rechargeable pack) makes them very attractive.

In addition to the Dynon systems in autoreply's post above, I have always like the MGL Avionics products. Among their less expensive options...

They still make the Ultra Horizon XL, a monochrome LCD flat-panel display. If you skip the attitude sensor, electronic compass, etc. and just use it for basic flight instruments (airspeed, altimeter, VSI) and as an engine management system (rpm, cht, egt, oil temp/pressure, fuel level, etc.) you can get the whole shebang, including the senders, for about $1,500. It goes up to $2,600 if you want the heading and attitude sensors. The new Stratomaster Xtreme is similar to the Dynon model above and has all the same features and options as the Ultral Horizon XL, but with a color screen and basic GPS functions, for just a little more.

Even cheaper are the Velocity Singles and Infinity Singles, monochrome LCD instruments for standard 3 1/8 inch or 2 1/4 inch instrument holes. There are multiple possible combinations of just two instruments (FLIGHT-2 and EGT/CHT, or one of the engine monitors and a combo ASI/ALT) that would provide more than you need for basic VFR flight, except navigation, for under 1,000.

Looking for low cost, low weight and simplicity, my current plan is either an MGL E3 EMS and inexpensive Falcon analog ASI and ALT (all 2 1/4 inch) , or maybe a Belite EGT/CHT and a Tiny Tach in place of the MGL E3 EMS. Add a whiskey compass and I'm all set. Total would be under $800 for all.
Still all stuck in the aluminum sheet panel world with the standardized hole that comes from analog dial instruments. Why not a small black box bluetooth for an Android Pad for a screen. Already touch screen, high res, color, cheap, reliable, yadda. The flight instruments on my Android phone and potential for using it as a HUD are really good just off the GPS and onboard accelerometers. It would just need more sensors and app work to be a complete panel like a bluetooth engine monitor box that could be hung on the back of the firewall or slave to a fuel injection computer. All you would need is a hardened holder for the little touch screen computer. Reason I ask is all my powerplane designs look like gliders and have small panel area up front. If you could just put an ipad on a stick in front of you you could turn it sideways for ingress and egress or you could put it on a gimbal from one side of the cockpit and pull it where you want it when you want it. Wouldn't that be liberating. I could fly a small plane with my new Android phone just with the functions it already has and those were programmed by open source types. With a little effort it could be amazing. So I need a bluetooth airspeed indicator sensor, and an engine input manager, and I guess a fuel level indicator. What else would you need. The ipad screen is really nice. Phone screens are a bit small but not bad if close to you.
 

Dan Thomas

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Raises an interesting question. Why are we still fighting with large instruments and lots of spaghetti behind an instrument panel. Why don't we have can bus to flat simple displays and a remote hardened black box with all the sensors and guts of the instruments. You could have wireless and/or wired network connections from one to the other. That would make the panel a trivial assembly and you could locate the guts of the instruments anywhere. Most automotive clusters are that way.
That's what the new systems do. The G1000 has two screens in the panel, and the radios themselves along with the AHRS (Attitude-Heading Reference System) are in a rack under the baggage compartment of the new 172/182. The curious thing: the system weighs more than the old mechanical instruments and radios did; the screens are about 7 or 8 pounds apiece, the radios about the same as they used to weigh, the thick cable between the aft equipment and panel adds plenty (digital bus would be lighter), there are four cooling fans in there, too, then there are a pair of 12-volt sealed lead-acid batteries to run the system for an hour if the alternator fails. Lots of weight, but man, the system sure performs. There are no mechanical gyros, just piezo or laser devices that have no moving parts of bearings to wear out and never tumble in aerobatic maneuvers.

This stuff will get cheaper and lighter. As I said earlier, it's mostly made with machines now rather than by hand, using the same technology that makes consumer electronics. There are any number of factories that could churn these out; no more being tied to a few outfits who can build the old instruments. The prices right now are too high but a few more competitors will fix that. The one thing that could delay price drops is the slow recovery of general aviation from its long decline.

Dan
 

autoreply

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then there are a pair of 12-volt sealed lead-acid batteries to run the system for an hour if the alternator fails.
In the gliding world, people are more and more shifting to Lithium (LiFePO4). Interesting stuff, because it's so much lighter.

@ Jay, If I'm not mistaken, Dynon has the option for a remote screen via a D-sub (VGA) connection. The problem isn't the hardware. It's the software, or actually, making the software understand the hardware. Using USB and a standardized interface package already helps a lot and then actually turning your measurements into a fancy display is almost trivial. I think MGL has a version on Windows now? If you're serious about this, I'd have a look at the various open source projects that have this goal.
I'd start here
They have the complete moving map thingy done and that's a lot of programming saved. It also the only open source project I know off that's pretty active.
 

cluttonfred

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Random, thought--what about a poor pilot's heads up display? Not a proper military- or airline-style holographic dispay, but just a bright LED or fluorescent display (like your car radio) laid flat and projecting up on to a half-silvered plastic mirror at an angle above. With a couple of pressure sensors and a basic engine function unit, and perhaps an optional electronic compass, you could have ASI, VSI, ALT, RPM and basic engine parameters in one integrated display with both digital readouts and color-coded bar graphs, and the optional compass heading info. It could have an ordinary slip/skid ball built in to the front of the unit, too. It would likely need a photo sensor to adjust intensity automaticly to ambient light conditions and a battery back up, but power needs would be very small. That ought to be a very light and simple system much more along the lines of what Jay and other were describing, and you could have a second slave display as well, or run two independent systems in a two-seater for redundancy.
 

Jay Kempf

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They have apps for this on the new iphone and Androids. You just turn the app on and lay the phone on your dashboard and it has just the right lighted letters in the right orientation to be a HUD. Blew me away when I saw that. Free App! If the hacker/open source world can build it into a free app in their spare time it can't be too much work.
 

Topaz

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They have apps for this on the new iphone and Androids. You just turn the app on and lay the phone on your dashboard and it has just the right lighted letters in the right orientation to be a HUD. Blew me away when I saw that. Free App! If the hacker/open source world can build it into a free app in their spare time it can't be too much work.
And the phones already have three-axis accellerometers, magnetic compass, and GPS built-in. You don't even have to wire it to the airplane. Most of the newer Android phones also have auto-screen-brightness with a light-level sensor measuring the ambient light, so that's taken care of, as well.

The really interesting thing is that a lot of the newer Android phones also have HDMI-out ports, so you could keep the device down in the cockpit where it's easier to touch "buttons" on the screen, and then slave a second, larger display up on the glareshield with your "HUD".
 

Jay Kempf

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And the phones already have three-axis accellerometers, magnetic compass, and GPS built-in. You don't even have to wire it to the airplane. Most of the newer Android phones also have auto-screen-brightness with a light-level sensor measuring the ambient light, so that's taken care of, as well.

The really interesting thing is that a lot of the newer Android phones also have HDMI-out ports, so you could keep the device down in the cockpit where it's easier to touch "buttons" on the screen, and then slave a second, larger display up on the glareshield with your "HUD".
Yup, I have one of those with HDMI output, and dual core 1ghz processing and it will drive a full HD screen without an interpreter. And it also has a micro USB port as well as Bluetooth so you could have a wireless keyboard and pointing device in the cockpit on top of touch screen. Didn't think of the HDMI out as a aviation feature. Good pickup.
 

Topaz

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Yup, I have one of those with HDMI output, and dual core 1ghz processing and it will drive a full HD screen without an interpreter. And it also has a micro USB port as well as Bluetooth so you could have a wireless keyboard and pointing device in the cockpit on top of touch screen. Didn't think of the HDMI out as a aviation feature. Good pickup.
I've got a DroidX, which is the same but for the dual-core. For a glider, it might be all the panel I'd need for day VFR work. Not enough for IFR, mind you, but I have no desire to fly IFR. I know that there are some good aviation PDF displays out for x86/Windows equipment, and I'd love to see those ported over to Android or iOS.
 

Jay Kempf

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I've got a DroidX, which is the same but for the dual-core. For a glider, it might be all the panel I'd need for day VFR work. Not enough for IFR, mind you, but I have no desire to fly IFR. I know that there are some good aviation PDF displays out for x86/Windows equipment, and I'd love to see those ported over to Android or iOS.
Mines a Motorola Atrix on AT&T, no Verizon here. I was thinking that I could get it hooked up to say a smal bluetooth keyboard/trackball combo and use it as a moving map at least. But the idea of slaving it to say a 10" diagonal automotive headrest screen is a great idea. Wonder if you could split and do tow. One for HUD and one for the panel. The artificial horizon and virtual compass is really quite good. Better than anything I ever flew in an aging Cessna spam can.
 

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Mines a Motorola Atrix on AT&T, no Verizon here. I was thinking that I could get it hooked up to say a smal bluetooth keyboard/trackball combo and use it as a moving map at least. But the idea of slaving it to say a 10" diagonal automotive headrest screen is a great idea. Wonder if you could split and do tow. One for HUD and one for the panel. The artificial horizon and virtual compass is really quite good. Better than anything I ever flew in an aging Cessna spam can.
Take note that you need ridiculously bright screens or retro-reflective ones (I forgot the correct term, but LCD's which reflect sunlight internally). This severely limits your choice, or you have to implement some shadow (hand above it) or put it under a sunscreen.
 

Jay Kempf

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Take note that you need ridiculously bright screens or retro-reflective ones (I forgot the correct term, but LCD's which reflect sunlight internally). This severely limits your choice, or you have to implement some shadow (hand above it) or put it under a sunscreen.
Screens have gotten better but sunscreen understood in this discussion at least from my part.
 

Topaz

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Take note that you need ridiculously bright screens or retro-reflective ones (I forgot the correct term, but LCD's which reflect sunlight internally). This severely limits your choice, or you have to implement some shadow (hand above it) or put it under a sunscreen.
True and true. However, even the screen types in my DroidX are easily read outdoors. A minor issue if any sort of glareshield is included, as they already are in current 'steam-gauge' panel designs. Full-color e-paper displays are just now making their way out of the labs and are expected to show up on the first consumer products within two years. This is totally reflective technology comparable from a reading standpoint to ink-on-paper, and they only draw power when you update the display. Vastly reduced power consumption. Think the Amazon Kindle, but in full color. For night operation, current-technology instrument lighting would serve the same purpose.
 
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