It’s been four months since we launched Airspace Explorer, our flight tracking and airspace education app that’s available for free on iPad.
We’ve loved watching our small (40,000 downloads and counting) but growing community of users getting to grips with Airspace Explorer’s unique features and they’ve provided us with some incredibly valuable feedback and ideas for things we can improve.
So we’ve spent the last few months doing exactly that and I’m excited to share with you details of the update that just went live in the iPad app store.
But first, let’s address the giant robot in the room – Android. We’ve been delighted and amazed at the response we’ve had to the app, and we’ve also heard the passionate pleas for a version to be developed for Android.
As we’ve mentioned previously, Airspace Explorer is a lite version of a more comprehensive app we use internally to support situation awareness. We decided to build our internal facing app on one platform – and chose iOS. Standardising on one platform makes it easier, cheaper and quicker to deploy, support and evolve.
That makes sense for our business and our users, but externally we appreciate it misses a trick. Android dominates the market, and had we started this project with external users being the priority it’s highly likely we would have shifted our focus.
Over the last few months we’ve had to take a serious look at where we want to go next with Airspace Explorer, taking into account the costs and demands of providing the ongoing support we want to offer and that people deserve.
We’re not an app company and as such we’re simply not set up to support multiple platforms, especially given the huge range of devices Android operates on. So while I will never say never, I’m afraid we have no plans to bring Airspace Explorer to Android.
I’m sorry if that’s disappointing news, but I hope you can understand the reasons.
We also received a lot of requests for an iPhone version to make it easier for spotters to use Airspace Explorer out on the move, so some good news: we are actively developing an iPhone version that we hope to release later in the year. More news on that in a few months.
But let’s get back to the updates and improvements that are available to download right now.
Aside from a host of performance improvements and bug fixes, we’ve made a lot of infrastructure enhancements that will provide a better, more complete and more accurate experience.
- New aircraft database for improved identification of manufacturer, model and class
- Information attached to each aircraft dependent on zoom level – Callsign, flight level, heading and speed
- Greater variety of aircraft types recognised and model variants.
- New operator database for matching of aircraft against operators far more accurate.
- Improved flight matching between NATS radar feed and FlightAware to reduce duplication.
- New caching infrastructure to dramatically increase the number of updates the infrastructure can process each second.
- Vastly improved matching of aircraft with AirTeamImages, using their fantastic new advanced searching facilities.
A lot of this is background stuff, but I think it adds up to a major overall difference to the quality of the experience and accuracy of what you’re seeing. So please download the update and let us know what you think.
Equally we’re already thinking about what additions or improvements we’d like to make next (Augmented Reality?), so keep those suggestions coming too.
Before I sign off, I just wanted to say a big thank you to everybody that has taken time to download the app, play with it and send us feedback be that in the form of a review, on social media or directly to us via our feedback form. In particular, a huge ‘thank you’ to Jonathan Ansell, Philip Hart, David Andrew, Chris Murray, Jamie Bloomfield and Richard Ware, whose ongoing interest and enthusiasm has been phenomenal.
And a special mention to Derek Pedley at AirTeamImages and Andrew Whewell for their support and advice.
I look forward to hearing your views on Beta V2.
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