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US Air Force Buys iPads To Replace Flight Bags 348

redletterdave writes "Following the precedent set by commercial airliners, the U.S. Air Force plans to buy up to 18,000 iPads for its Air Mobility Command (AMC), replacing heavy flight bags with light and efficient Apple iPad 2s for the crews that fly cargo aircraft. The devices will reportedly be used by the crews on the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster aircraft. There are several benefits to using electronic flight bags instead of physical versions. For one, the iPad can instantly update charts electronically, while the AMC would require flying charts get reprinted every 28 days to stay up-to-date. By cutting publication printing and distribution costs, and exchanging 70 pounds of paper for a 1.3-pound iPad, the Air Force can save some serious cash, including more than $1.2 million worth of fuel per year."
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US Air Force Buys iPads To Replace Flight Bags

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  • E-paper (Score:5, Informative)

    by jader3rd ( 2222716 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:41PM (#38974505)
    Wouldn't a device with e-paper (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc) be a better replacement for books? Those devices have no glare, have all of the benefits listed, and all have a longer battery life.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:42PM (#38974533)

    That is only the fuel, you forgot the cost of printing those books, distributing them, making sure the latest version is on each aircraft, replacing damaged copies, etc.

  • by bongey ( 974911 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:48PM (#38974635)
    iPad != tablet

    Lt. Col. Glen Roberts, clarified the report, stating the commend "is looking for a tablet device, not necessarily an iPad"

    Seeing that there is custom DoD Android edition and clearances, where iOS has not . [] . There is even a DoD SDK.

    But one thing about the Air Force there are different commands and they all make different decisions . ASFOC will make one decision, AMC another and the ANG another, and they never cooperate, costing tax payers millions.

  • Not books (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:49PM (#38974653)
    These are more for diagrams and maps. e-paper is best for text only.
  • Re:E-paper (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:49PM (#38974659)

    Well actually the article which TFA refers to points out, "AMC said in a notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website Thursday that it planned to buy "a minimum of 63 and a maximum of 18,000, iPad 2, Brand Name or Equal devices" for the crews that fly cargo aircraft such as the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster. Lt. Col. Glen Roberts, AMC public affairs director, said the command "is looking for a tablet device, not necessarily an iPad."

    So it's not a done deal for Apple, yet.

  • Re:Battery (Score:4, Informative)

    by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:05PM (#38974907) Journal

    I'd be happy if they looked at a secure solution!

    The only tablets with FIPS certification right now are the Blackberry Playbook (which it had ages ago) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (which just got certified last month).

    Apple said they were working on getting FIPS certification back in 2010, but that never materialized.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:24PM (#38975211)

    So, go ahead and find me a USB port on the flight deck of a C-17. I'll wait <crickets> I thought so. ...

    Did you forget that *you* wrote that 28 Vdc was available.

    ... Whatever they're doing to keep their pads charged beyond normal battery endurance, it'll be a workaround hack (issuing external USB-connected battery packs along with the pad) or some significant auxiliary systems re-engineering of in-service military transport aircraft.

    Or it will be a simple DC/DC converter, simpler than the AC/DC converter that every iPad already ships with.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:33PM (#38975345)
    Adapters for 28V dc aircraft environments already exist: []
  • Re:Hrmm.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:44PM (#38975507)

    They are also wired into the electronics system, can integrate with the autopilot and other aircraft devices, and are not loose in the cockpit. Finally, another plus is that many and possibly all C-5 and C-17 aircraft in operation already have them.

    Which means that the iPad is replacing the paper copies as a backup system to start with. So, if the main system breaks, the iPad needs to work only long enough to find a reasonable field to land at, and not necessarily provide a full-flight's worth of operation. Considering that both pilots will have one, there will be two backups.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bongey ( 974911 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @09:08PM (#38975797)
    The C-17 already has AC power adapters. Had many times been deployed and plugged a laptop right in. The C-17 also already has a computer on board toughbook I think.
  • Re:Battery (Score:5, Informative)

    by Loadmaster ( 720754 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @09:47PM (#38976133)

    The C-17 has plenty of standard outlets on-board. There are two at the Load station and outlets every couple of feet above the sidewall seats. Plenty of outlets to be had.

    I know, because I was a C-17 Load.

    You know what it didn't have? A fucking microwave. Had a convection oven but no microwave.

  • Re:Battery (Score:5, Informative)

    by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @11:03PM (#38976801)

    If you want to do it in the most horribly inefficient fashion, yeah, that will work.

    Shunt regulators really suck for anything other than minuscule amounts of current, for a reference as example.

    A shunt reg has to burn more than just the voltage drop (the extra in the zener, to keep the voltage level). It has to be sized to draw slightly more than the device's maximum draw at all times.
    So - say full load on the ipad is 2A, idle is 1A. We design this to draw say 2.2A, a little room so it doesn't drop out on peak - so we're burning 28V * 2.2A = 62W all the time, while the ipad is getting 5W average, or 10W peak (out of the 62W).
    8% efficiency at idle. 16% at full load.

    A better setup is a normal linear reg (which can be made up of discrete parts, or integrated like the venerable 7805), which will basically only burn the drop (there is a small amount for ref, but basically negligible)
    So 23V drop * 1A draw = 23W burnt. total consumption 28W.
    ~18% efficiency at idle or full load (this one is linear..)

    Typically you wouldn't do this though, you'd use a transformer off the AC supply (assuming their is one) to get the voltage into the ballpark, then rectify and reg, to get efficiency up over 50%, maybe as much as 80% with decent design and low dropout reg. (transformers are heavy and bulky though - which is why planes use 400Hz).

    SMPS is of course, the best, some modes exceeding 90% efficiency - but that didn't always exist. A lot of old military transceivers used dynamotors, which is the most efficient non-transistorized way to do DC-DC conversion. kinda... funny in a way, so very primitive, but also sort of genius. brute-brilliance, i guess... Heavy, loud, and high maintenance, though.

    guess i rambled a bit much... hope it helps.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @04:46AM (#38979009)

    Always. In it's most simple case the AC needs to be converted to DC before being converted again to DC.
    In the most common case the DC is smoothed by capacitors that need to withstand 400V and a high ripple.
    In the most ideal case (anything larger than that cheap $5 chinese crap you normally get with a phone) you need to isolate the output from the input via a small transformer, and often feedback through optical isolation.

    In every case DC-DC converters are simpler than AC-DC converters.

  • Re:Battery (Score:4, Informative)

    by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @08:03AM (#38979897) Homepage

    They have to carry charts for every airfield they might conceivably need to do an emergency landing in.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:58AM (#38980643)

    And now if you'll circle back to the start of the discussion you'll see that a converter does have to be specially made because you aren't going to find a standard household powerpoint on a military aircraft.

    And you'd be wrong. The C-17 has several "standard household powerpoints" conveniently located at the feet of the passengers seated in the "jump-seats". I'm sure there are even more on the flight deck.

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