When an over-ocean flight experiences serious problems, knowing the position of seagoing ships could make the difference between a disaster or a survivable accident in the rare case where ditching the airplane becomes necessary. Aeronautical Data Systems (ADS) has just released the new Ergo Blue app for the iPad, and its sole purpose is to help users identify ships as an emergency aid for overseas flights.
To use Ergo Blue, the user simply inputs two airport identifiers, for example, a departure and arrival point or a diversion airport near the outbound coast and one near the inbound coast, then presses the “Vessels” button. Ergo Blue then displays the positions of ships near that route.
With airborne internet access, pilots can see real-time updates of ship positions and their tracks, but Ergo Blue also calculates predicted positions if connectivity isn’t available. The information about each ship includes the time, vessel name, its lat/long position, track, speed, and distance from the aircraft. The ship position information comes from automatic identification system data, which includes a live-streamed database of 220,000 ships. ADS plans to add fixed and mobile offshore drilling rigs to the database later this year.
Pilots and operators can subscribe to Ergo Blue for $49 per week, $89 per month, or $997 per year. The weekly rate is the minimum subscription length, and it offers an easy way to use the app for the occasional over-ocean flight.
ADS has completed testing of a VHF voice and data connection directly to nearby ships under an experimental FCC license. Once this capability is fully approved, ADS will offer the additional capability for Ergo Blue to automatically contact ships via a VHF portable radio connected to the user's iPad.
The app transmits the automatic mayday distress call formatted to maritime protocols on a continuous 2.5-minute loop, according to ADS, and the message includes the aircraft’s updated position. “All ships within VHF range (potentially 200-250 nm depending on altitude) will receive this call which is formatted to maritime protocols,” ADS said.