Worried by the number of violations of restricted airspace by general aviation aircraft, UK air navigation service provided NATS has taken the unprecedented step of offering pilots a low-cost GPS device pre-loaded with chart details that are updatable monthly via free downloads.

NATS, working with UK-based Airbox Aerospace, has launched Aware, the brand name for its hand-held GPS product that will be on the market in January or February 2010 at £149 a unit.

NATS says that Aware "addresses the main causes of airspace infringement, namely uncertainty of position and lack of awareness of airspace and airspace changes". The air navigation service provider says it hopes that the device, with a screen size of 4.3in (110mm), "will become an essential part of every general aviation pilot's kit".

Each unit comes loaded with International Civil Aerospace Organisation 1:500,000 charts for the UK and the NATS airspace database. "The integrity of the NATS data is second to none," says Airbox technical director William Moore, adding: "Combined with Airbox's advanced GPS engine and a very low price, we believe that this tool will make a significant contribution to flight safety in the UK."

One of the main advantages of the Aware system is that pilots can keep the airspace definition in their units up to date at no cost, by downloading free monthly updates. Registered users will also receive email alerts on airspace changes.

Using the NATS airspace database, Aware system takes full account of aircraft position and altitude in relation to controlled airspace, so that the pilot only receives alerts that are relevant to the altitude the aircraft is flying. The system also alerts pilots to navigational hazards such as tall aerial masts.

But NATS warns that Aware "does not replace map and compass navigation, but rather supplements it by aiding a pilot's situational awareness".

Source: Flight International