Comparison to Other Networks
“Online flying” is not a new concept. While it’s reasonable to assume that PilotEdge is a competitor to the other online services, the reality is that the service is designed for a market which has received almost no exposure to the world of online flying: real-world pilots.
As a result, we don’t expect a mass migration from other services to PilotEdge. Instead, we anticipate working with a whole wave of pilots who have never flown online before. (Many who have never used a PC-based flight simulator!)
That said, if you already fly online, you’re probably curious about how PilotEdge is different.
Multiplayer sessions and servers
Flight simulators have had the capability to create “multiplayer sessions” for years, allowing pilots to see each other in a single, virtual sky. Operations in these peer-to-peer and server-based sessions are usually for entertainment purposes, and live ATC interaction is rare.
Other online networks that provide ATC
There are online environments that do provide Air Traffic Control services. Hobbyist networks like VATSIM and IVAO provide an enjoyable experience for a massive, global audience. They are run entirely by volunteers, with a goal of providing ATC coverage across the world.
The founder of PilotEdge is a seven-year veteran of the VATSIM network, and has accumulated over 4,000 hours as a VATSIM controller. This experience provided considerable insight into the operation of a successful online ATC environment.
While quite popular, these hobbyist networks are just not capable of delivering a reliable, repeatable experience for real-world pilots. Here’s why:
- ATC presence is not guaranteed.
- ATC quality is not guaranteed.
- Traffic density is typically much lower than in the real world.
- The skill level and interest of pilots is inconsistent.
- PIlots need to refer to an active controller list to determine which frequency to call rather than using published frequencies. Radios do not currently account for terrain interference.
Flying on these networks can be great fun, and even educational under just the right circumstances. Yet it can be confusing and distracting for real-world pilots looking for an environment that mirrors their real-world flight experience.
Additionally, these networks are simply not equipped to cater to the needs of commercial flight training organizations.
PilotEdge provides a reliable, repeatable online flying experience for real-world pilots and discerning flight simulation enthusiasts. The network was designed from the ground up to specifically address the challenges faced by other networks:
- ATC presence is guaranteed during the network’s published operating hours. This is achieved by compensating the controllers for their work.
- ATC quality is guaranteed by way of a rigorous Quality Assurance process that is simply not practical to implement on the hobbyist networks. Controllers are hand-picked to join PilotEdge, while all-volunteer networks are obliged to work with literally anyone who wishes to try their hand at becoming a controller
- Traffic density is greatly increased as a result of the following measures:
- Rather than attempting to provide coverage across the world, PilotEdge serves a limited geographical area. This effectively compacts traffic that would have been spread out across the continent into a smaller region.
- Real-world airspace is full of seemingly random VFR traffic that is “squawking VFR and not talking to anyone.” While other online networks have almost no traffic of this nature, PilotEdge employs a system that generates “drone” aircraft matching this profile, based on actual flights that were conducted by real people on the network. Drone aircraft are indistinguishable from human-controlled aircraft in their appearance and behavior. (The drones remain clear of Class A/B/C/D airspace, where they would otherwise be communicating with ATC.)
- Events that are properly organized have the power to transform the experience for online pilots. PilotEdge will use highly-focused, well-publicized online events to encourage pilots to fly within specific areas, during specific times. Events will be held on a regular basis.
- PilotEdge is tailored to a specific audience: real-world pilots (and flight simulation enthusiasts up for the challenge of flying in a virtual environment designed to support real-world training and proficiency). The monthly subscription fee is likely to deter anyone that falls outside of this profile.
- PilotEdge models two-way VHF radio operations, including transmission/reception limits based on altitude, and non-towered CTAFs. Pilots set the real-world frequency for the facility they want to reach. If the facility is in range and open (based on the overlap of real-world operating hours and the network’s operating hours), pilots will receive a response from someone serving that role. The system even takes into account the real-world transmitter locations for each facility. For example, it will be difficult to maintain contact with an Enroute facility when flying out of some remote airports. Pilots will actually need to climb higher before they are able to start working with the controllers … just like in the real world.