OziExplorer is one of the exceptions. They are enjoying some well-deserved export successes and today I’ll be primarily reviewing this navigation program for use in a cockpit environment.
So, let’s buckle up and go for a spin!
The program works by loading a scanned map into the computer. These raster map images can be any type of map: from World Aeronautical Charts (Sectionals) to Enroute Charts or approach plates. The maps need to be calibrated (geo-referenced), which means you have to give the latitude and longitude of a minimum of two points on the map. That’s easiest done with airports or where the lat/long lines cross on the chart but you only need to do this with maps that you scan in yourself. It’s far better to get the latest bunch of current charts for your area from a company like Aviation Computing (www.avgpsmaps.com). These charts are already calibrated and are automatically accessed according to the area you fly in.
The beauty of this form of navigation is that no longer you have to unfold and spread out your maps across your co-pilot’s lap. In essence, OziExplorerCE takes the familiar maps, displays them up in chunks of 2x3”, plots your aircraft’s position right in the middle and keeps on scrolling for you. It also makes it very easy to zoom in or out with these charts.
Of course, for backup I still carry my stack of paper charts, all neatly folded along the proposed track, but it is a lot easier to steal a glance at the bright display as the map moves automatically…
OziExplorerCE is the CE version of the original program.
They are two different programs and if you are planning on scanning in some maps of your own you will need both programs as well as a free utility (Image to Ozf) that transforms the scanned maps into ones that can be read by your PDA program.
So, ideally, you plan your trip using the full OziExplorer on you PC and then transfer your waypoints and other data to your PDA for use by OziExplorerCE as it relies on map calibrations provided by the PC version.
OziExplorerCE comes with a World Map and there are a few basic (but free) maps available for each continent. Here in Australia there is a Political as well as a Relief map of our island nation available for free downloading. These will be handy for planning some long trips but generally you’d want to get your own, more detailed charts. These do not have to be limited to aviation charts but can be any type. Aviation Computing has an excellent set of general but very detailed maps of our continent (1:250.000 scale) and you can see some of these in the screenshots. There are also maps that cover the Aussie outback tracks or incredibly detailed relief maps.
These days, there really is no excuse for getting lost out there – except perhaps if you run out of battery power!
OziExplorer is a brilliant program with a myriad of options and a lot more powerful than just a scrolling map. I don’t know Des Newman, the creator of OziExplorer, personally, but either he’s a top-notch programmer or has some good folks working for him. The program looks very professional, has some excellent help and tutorials (on the PocketPC as well!) and the functionality is incredible. As with all good programs, you can look forward to frequent updates and Des also lets you in on improvements he’s working on. He is honest about aspects that are hard to implement. One of the frequent requests involves the fact that the maps display in North Up mode only. When I fly I like to have my destination at the top of the map. Makes it easier to identify features of the landscape but harder to read the names of places when you fly south. Wouldn’t it be neat if the names on the maps could be twisted around so that they’re always easy to read? Talking about an impossible request!
A more realistic request (I least I think so!) would be to implement “Hot Keys” where the hardware buttons take up some program-specific functionality. I’d like that especially for zooming as it is hard to hit some of the tiny icons in turbulence. I know that Screen Control does essentially this but still…
OziExplorer differs in many ways from a program like AnywhereMap (reviewed earlier on this site), which has automatic route planning functionality and is made specifically for pilots, but the two can be used together when you use a Bluetooth GPS. With a simple press of a button you get access to the other program without having to exit the first one, as is the case when you use other types of receivers. This means that you can quickly review an approach plate or look up a frequency and switch back again to your original program.
It’s very easy to create waypoints: touch the screen with a stylus (pencil will do too) and WP0, WP1, etc. are inserted. The same when you want to create a route: RW001, RW002, etc. You can also do all the planning on your PC at home and upload the routes to your PocketPC.
Another aspect you’ll appreciate is that OziExplorer can automatically look for more detailed charts. Suppose you fly from Albany, Western Australia to Perth. Initially, the WAC (Sectional) is displayed until you get to the VNC (Visual Navigation Chart) boundary, followed by the VTC (Visual Terminal Chart). If you’re instrument rated you can check your progress on any of the approach plates. And, should you need to consult a TAC (Terminal Approach Chart) or ERC (Enroute Chart) in the meantime, they’re only a few clicks away.
Some of the things that impress me about OziExplorerCE is how fast it is. Detailed maps load quickly. Planning a route is very easy and can be done right on the screen. When you fly off the edge of one chart, the next one loads automatically.
Here are some more interesting items:
* Auto-zoom function. When you enter a route waypoint proximity zone the map will zoom to the value specified in Route configuration. For example, you may have the map at 50% zoom for normal travel so you can see more area but you might specify 100% zoom to use when a proximity is entered.
I always engage auto-zoom when using Control Vision’s AnywhereMap as it is such a handy feature when approaching your destination and OziExplorerCE not only can auto-zoom but also automatically look for more detailed maps!
* The track detail dialog is useful for measuring distances - draw a track from point A to point B - open the list of tracks and the distance is shown (on the PC version there’s also an incredibly handy utility to calculate an area in a dozen different units. How big is that lake? Plot a few points around the perimeter and choose if you want it in acres, square kilometres or whatever. Neat!
* You can select a "Mode" of operation - the Modes are Air, Land, Marine. This results in a change in some of the terminology (think knots vs mph vs kms for instance) and also the way route auto-prompting works. Obviously, this extends the use of OziExplorer to all areas of our mobility which is another great plus.
Other miscellaneous points:
There are frequent updates which install easily on top of the older version.
There is a screen Control button which overlays on your current chart and makes it easy to manipulate the map with just your fingers (great for when flying in turbulence) or when you just lost your stylus.
You can always see at a glance which maps are available for the area that you tap on
Finding the GPS coordinates of any point on your maps is as easy as tapping your stylus
Excellent tutorial with demo maps and help file on the PDA.
Available in 7 languages
If you want to give OziExplorerCE a try, download it here (www.oziexplorer.com) and find out which of the many features I left out!
The unregistered version is limited to maps in BMP format but once you’re satisfied that this program can cover all your navigation requirements, the registered version is able to tackle just about any map format you can throw at it. And all for just a measly USD100 for the two programs!
Check out the very informative –no nonsense- website at www.oziexplorer.com