One of the fastest ways of paying back the investment in a tablet computer is when it is used as an aid to navigation when flying to multiple locations in a helicopter.
Recently my colleague Jeff and I had to visit multiple remote locations via helicopter to perform some GPS work for a client. We were using a couple of excellent GPS units (the Trimble Geo XH) to very precisely locate some forest sample plots that timber cruisers would measure a few days later. It was somewhat ironic to me that we only used the Trimble GPS units to navigate the last couple of hundred meters – the majority of the navigation was done with an iPad 3 and a geo-referenced PDF in Avenza’s PDF Maps app.
Most of the time we used a PDF map that displayed the plot locations on top of a fairly recent aerial photo. This made it possible to pick out potential landing locations while travelling between drop off points and quickly and easily determine where the plot was relative to our location. Using the measuring tool in PDF Maps provided a quick way to check distance to the plots from our location. I also used the GPS App “GPS Kit” with the plot locations imported as a GPX file as an aid to navigation.
I think the only complaint we had was the lag that occurred when traveling quickly –our true location was often a couple of hundred meters behind our actual location. However, this did not create any significant issues as long as we waited for the indicated location to catch up when we slowed down near a drop off location.
Over the course of about five hours of flying I think the use of the iPads saved us at least half an hour of flight time. On occasions when I have had to visit many more locations in a day of flying, the savings increases dramatically. I have had days in which we had to navigate to up to 80 different locations. On those days we saved at least an hour of flying time – an hour of flying time is about $1200. We also reduced the fatigue for the pilot and passengers.
As you can see in the photos we got to visit some spectacular locations in the mountains of Vancouver Island. We also got dropped off in some pretty challenging locations. At most of the drop off locations the pilot had to hover with only part of one skid on the ground. Have a look at the video where Jeff got dropped off on a stump:
It was a great day – one of those days that I thought to myself “I can’t believe I am getting paid for this!”