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Flarm FAQs

  1. What is FLARM? 
  2. What is PowerFLARM?
  3. Will the PowerFLARM have an IGC-approved data logger?
  4. Can I use PowerFLARM for OLC and US contests?
  5. Will PowerFLARM drive my XYZ device ?
  6. When and where can I buy a PowerFLARM, and how much does it cost?
  7. How hard is PowerFLARM to install?
  8. What is an ADS-B-1090 receiver?
  9. What is Stealth Mode?
  10. What is Competition Mode?
  11. How do traffic displays in gliders affect competition and competition rules?
  12. I've heard FLARM is mandatory in some locations?
  13. Who manufactures FLARM and PowerFLARM?
  14. Is FLARM and/or PowerFLARM approved for use in the US by the FCC?
  15. Is FLARM and/or PowerFLARM approved for use in the US by the FAA?
  16. Is a transponder required to be in my aircraft for PowerFLARM to work? 
  17. Can I have a transponder in my aircraft and will it interfere with my PowerFLARM?
  18. Why can't I use Classic FLARM (or other products including the older FLARM licensed module) in the US?
  19. What about software upgrades and backward compatability?
  20. What happens if there are a large number of gliders in range like at a contest?
  21. What are the differences between PowerFLARM devices sold in USA and Europe ?
  22. What are the differences between the portable and blind-mounting PowerFLARM "brick" ?

 

1.  What is FLARM?

Flarm BasicThe FLARM collision avoidance system was developed for glider pilots, by glider pilots.  The device shown to the right is the "classic" FLARM which has been in use since 2004 with over 13,000 units sold.  FLARM warns FLARM-equipped pilots of impending collisions plus gives the location of non-threatening nearby FLARM-equipped gliders. Classic FLARM only works if both gliders have FLARMs. FLARM knows about the unique flight characteristics of gliders, and stays quiet unless there is a real hazard.  Click to read more...

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2.  What is PowerFLARM?

PowerFLARM is the new unit that will be sold in the US.  PowerFLARM will be available in April 2011 and will be FCC approved for use in the US. PowerFLARM combines the FLARM collision-avoidance system with an 1090-ADS-B receiver (receives basic 1090 transponder replies, 1090-ES ADS-B transmissions, and 1090-TIS-B). PowerFLARM provides a comprehensive collision avoidance system which understands the flight characteristics of gliders and includes warnings for potential collisions with many non-FLARM-equipped aircraft.  Click to read more...

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3.  Will the PowerFLARM have an IGC-approved data logger?

Yes, the PowerFLARM flight recorder sold in North America will have IGC approval up to and including the three Diamonds... Click here to read about IGC approval details... 

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4.  Can I use PowerFLARM for OLC and USA contests?

Yes. PowerFLARM will include a flight recorder approved by IGC up through diamond badges and acceptable to both OLC and USA competitions.  

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5.  Will PowerFLARM drive my XYZ device?

PowerFLARM, like all FLARM products, has an NMEA output that includes traffic information and collision warnings (as well as basic GPS). Most current flight computers and PDA software already know how to accept and display FLARM information, including ILEC SN10, ClearNav, etc. Many also can declare tasks into IGC-approved FLARM devices.

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6.  When and where can I buy a PowerFLARM, and how much does it cost? 

This website is not involved with sales. As of this writing, we are told by the FLARM manufacturers that US PowerFLARM units should be available by April 2011 from most US soaring equipment suppliers, at a suggested  list price of $1695, with an introductory price if ordered in 2010 of $1495, and volume discounts available. Please contact your favorite supplier to discuss pricing, pre-order and delivery of your system.

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7.  How hard is PowerFLARM to install ?

PowerFLARM is pretty small. Often it can simply be velcroed to the top of your instrument panel cover.  The PowerFLARM will also be available as a "box" with remote display and remote antennas, which is more suitable for permanent installation in a glider. The Butterfly remote display screen is the same size as the on integrated into PowerFLARM and mounts externally or in standard  57mm panel hole.  Click here to learn about installation.

If you have a flight recorder that uses the IGC-standard connection (large telco style), you can plug PowerFLARM into your existing wiring.

Power-FLARM integrates both GPS and radio components and antennas. These require proper installation to function as expected, in particular so the GPS and radio antennas are not shielded by carbon or metal. See more details on this question in the discussions on "Limits Of Operation" .

Darryl Ramm provided an actual-size paper-model of the Power-FLARM that you can build if you want to see how it fits in your glider. Thanks Darryl !

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8.  What is an ADS-B-1090 receiver?

An ADS-B receiver listens for traffic information. The PowerFLARM 1090 MHz ADS-B receiver decodes 1090 MHz transponder replies (including Mode A/C, Mode S, and Mode S with Extended Squitter), ADS-R traffic rebroadcast messages, and TIS-B traffic information broadcasts. Read about ADS-B here...

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9.   What is Stealth Mode ?

Stealth Mode reduces your visibility to other gliders traffic displays, and reduces the number of gliders you can see. It still displays any glider that poses a a collision hazard, and other gliders in a 45 degree cone ahead and about a 2 km radius, but does not display climb rates. Stealth mode addresses some contest pilots' concern that they don't want people following them. If you don't want people seeing you, the price is that you can't see them either. Stealth Mode can be enabled and disabled via configuration files, front panel controls on some units, and from other devices attached to a FLARM (PDA, flight computers). The setting of Stealth Mode is recorded in the flight log.  Stealth Mode is not recommended by FLARM Technologies as it reduces situational awareness. For more information see FLARM in Competitions.

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10.   What is Competition Mode ?

Competition Mode reduces the sensitivity of the FLARM collision warning. While it reduces false alarms while flying in very high congestion, it requires quicker reaction from the pilot in the event of an alarm.

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11.   How do traffic displays in gliders affect competition and competition rules ?

Seeing other gliders on a traffic display could potentially make a difference in competition.  Any device that shows you there is a glider half a mile ahead which you might collide with, also shows you there is a glider half a mile ahead whose thermal you might join. 

The "stealth mode" was developed in response to concerns that people would use FLARM displays to follow gaggles and leech.  However, experience seems to be proving that FLARM is not as useful as feared in this regard, and the advantages of collision avoidance are felt to make any small competitive advantage worthwhile.  For example, while the latest WGC did have a rule requiring stealth mode, it was completely unenforced and the majority of pilots flew with stealth mode off.   Also, legislating against anti-collision devices or legislating reduced performance of anti-collision devices could have  unfortunate legal consequences in the event of an accident. For more information see FLARM in Competitions.

In summary, in international competitions, FLARM is allowed, and stealth mode is left to the local organizers to decide and police. They are largely not doing the latter.

FLARM is in a grey area of  US rules currently, since it uses radio communication. Transponder detectors (like Zaon PCAS ) and other anti-collision systems are in the same gray area. We believe the rules committee will clarify this situation and officially allow anti-collision systems for the 2011 season.  US rules have not yet taken up the question of stealth mode. Typically, the US rules committee waits for experience and listens hard to the pilot opinion poll on questions like this. We forecast the same standard procedure, so your experience and opinions on stealth mode requirements are likely ultimately to determine the outcome of this question.   

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12.  I've heard FLARM is mandatory in some locations ?

FLARM Technologies has stated: The founders of FLARM prefer to keep fitments of FLARM systems voluntary; aviation is held back by too many well intended rules, pilots should be able to decide themselves on the merit of the system. Regardless, the safety benefits of FLARM have been found so compelling that FLARM is compulsory:
- On all glider airports in Southern France
- In all GFA (Gliding Federation of Australia) -sanctioned competitions since 2007.

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13.  Who manufactures FLARM and PowerFLARM?

The FLARM® is manufactured and sold by FLARM Technology, located in Switzerland.  The technology is also licensed to 3rd Parties (Product link). More than 9,500 devices manufactured by FLARM® plus over 3,500 devices manufactured by licensed 3rd parties are in use in many countries and continents.

FLARM has dealers in most countries where FLARM is widely used.

PowerFLARM is a joint project of FLARM Technology and Butterfly Aviation.

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14.  Is FLARM and/or PowerFLARM approved for use in the US by the FCC?

The PowerFLARM will be FCC approved for use in the US before delivery. The classic (previous) FLARM devices do not meet US FCC requirements, and should not be used in US.  We hear from the manufacturer that PowerFLARM FCC approval is near, and expected by the end of the year. The similar unit marketed to the mining industry has already been approved, and shares many components.  

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15.  Is FLARM and/or PowerFLARM approved for use in the US by the FAA?

These is no requirement for FAA approval.  Adding a PowerFLARM to your aircraft is similar to adding a logger, GPS, or flight computer which do not require FAA approval. 

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16.  Is a transponder required to be in my aircraft for PowerFLARM to work? 

No.  PowerFLARM does not require your glider to be transponder equipped.  Glider-to-glider collision avoidance is best handled with the FLARM-to-FLARM collision avoidance technology which is superior to the transponder generated information for use by PowerFLARM.  Obviously, the PowerFLARM is not providing any collision avoidance information to GA aircraft. 

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17.  Can I have a transponder in my aircraft and will it interfere with my PowerFLARM?

Yes, of course you can have a transponder, and it will not interfere with PowerFLARM performance.   

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18.  Why can't I use Classic FLARM in the US?

The "classic" FLARM does not meet US FCC requirements therefore has never been made available for sale in the US. Also, the classic FLARM does not have a powerful enough radio transmitter to work properly in the USA environment. The same applies to products from other manufacturers which include an older FLARM module (e.g. the LX Colibri FLARM, which is a Colibri Flight Recorder with the LX recording engine and a FLARM module).

FLARM technologies will not certify and market the classic FLARM in the US. PowerFLARM is their only US product (in two flavors, self-contained and box with remote display). We are not aware of plans by other manufacturers such as LX to seek FCC approval for their FLARM devices. We hope they do so, of course. You will get more up-to-date information from dealers and manufacturers than from this website.

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19.  What about software upgrades and backward compatibility?

FLARM Technologies periodically releases improved versions of the algorithms and communications protocols. Everyone must run the same version for the system to work. Each version is delivered with an expiration date. A few months prior to expiration, the next version is released. You must copy the new version onto the FLARM memory card sometime before the expiration date. At the cut-over time (synchronized by GPS clock) all FLARMs automatically switch to the new version.

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20.  What happens if there are a large number of gliders in range like at a contest?

FLARM has been used in World Gliding Championships for several years.  In these situations, it is possible to have 30 to 40 gliders (and more) within range of each other.  The FLARM system is designed to handle this.  Click here to read more about it ...

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21. What are the differences between PowerFLARM devices sold in USA and Europe ?

Due to FCC regulations the US versions have reverse SMA RF connectors for the FLARM antennas (elsewhere 'normal' SMA is used). Also, the supplied antennas are optimized for performance in North America and may need to be replaced if the device is to be used somewhere else.

Because PowerFLARM in Europe is marketed for powered aircraft, there are a couple of other differences:

  • USA PowerFLARM includes IGC-certified-through-diamonds flight recorder, European model does not
  • European user interface does not show as much target information (climb rate, etc) as it runs the simplified GA user interface

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22. What are the differences between the portable and blind-mounting PowerFLARM "brick" ?

  • the portable unit has a display and batteries, while the "brick" does not
  • the "brick" has additional output port for connection the remote display
  • the "brick" uses a USB memory stick, and includes a panel-mount USB socket and cable assembly. The portable unit includes a uSD slot on the front of the unit by the display
Comparison of the features

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