by Kris Christenson
MnDOT Navigations Systems Radio Engineer
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine August/September 2021 online issue
MnDOT’s Office of Aeronautics has been working on several programs to improve communication services at Minnesota’s local general aviation airports. The first of these improvements – improved internet services – will be rolled out in the coming months.
Currently, most internet connections at Minnesota’s public general aviation airports are conventional DSL lines with max speeds of 1.5Meg down/768k up. When you are used to home speeds of 150 meg down and 30 meg up and faster, it is hard to imagine how slow and clunky this is until you are at the airport competing with a few of your aviation friends for bandwidth!
Minnesota’s general aviation airport internet service supports two main functions. First, it allows pilots to easily access the AWOS data sent via our National Airspace Data Interchange Network provider, AnyAWOS. AnyAWOS enables our one-minute AWOS Weather updates. You can get those updates over the internet at www.anyawos.com/k###, or access through our online mapping app at mndot.gov/aero/navigationsystems/awos-map-online.html. Second, faster internet supports our public-use internet kiosk MnWAS (Minnesota Weather Access System). The kiosks are available at each arrival-departure building for flight planning, weather updates or other needs a pilot may have to access the internet while traveling about.
Our vision for the future is to utilize wireless 4G LTE data service providers that deliver typical internet speeds averaging 25Meg down/5Meg up. We have tested this equipment for about 12 months in various spots around the state to make sure it is dependable for all the services MnDOT supports.
With these upgrades, our equipment will be able to support in-building Wi-Fi service. Pilots and guests of the airport will be able to access this service on their own Wi-Fi enabled devices. We recognize that most of the pilots going through the airports have their own device and may use it for filing flight plans and closing flight plans. We also know that in this new norm of teleworking, many pilots and guests alike will enjoy the access.
We also recognize that there is a growing need for internet services to be available on the ramp areas. This could be that last-minute weather check or downloading a clearance to your device before departure. We are developing a solution for this, and plan to provide outside Wi-Fi coverage to the ramp area right around the tie-downs and passenger loading and unloading areas.
Once Wi-Fi to the ramp is installed, pilots should be able to file a flight plan from their airplanes while sitting on the ramp at Detroit lakes and land at Morris, Minnesota and close their flight plan – all without leaving the cockpit or with the need for any data plan.
Beyond improved services for pilots and other airport guests, the improvements will add remote network management and cut operating cost by more than half!
We continue to look for new ways to improve internet connections and service. Look for future articles for more exciting news from your Navigation System Team.