Who will this affect? Everyone who has a FLARM or PowerFLARM device of any make or model will be affected by a mandatory FLARM update by 31 March, 2015. This includes standalone models and integrated FLARM units.
Why is the update mandatory? Flarm technology GmbH, the original producer and license issuer for Flarm has mandated a series of free updates which improve performance and operation. To date they have had several Flarm updates the last being version 5.xx of the firmware released in 2011. From now on, there is likely to be a major Firmware upgrade every year and should form part of your annual maintenance. This latest update version 6 includes safety features that increase the effectiveness and robustness of collision warnings, further decreasing nuisance alarms by taking into account wind. It also includes new features to alert you about temporary danger areas such as skydiver drop zones, RC planes and UAV zones (requires an obstacle database). Position and message encoding has been changed with the introduction of optional “no-tracking” setting to address privacy from ground-based tracking solutions. Additional changes have been made to improve performance and system integrity.
When do you need to do this? The update will be available from the beginning of March 2015 and needs to have been applied by the 31st of March after which, the existing Flarm Firmware will cease to work.
How do you upgrade the Flarm Firmware? All Flarm devices have the ability to be upgrade either via SD/micro SD card or through serial connection to a PC. The majority of standalone or integrated Flarm units have an SD/micro SD card slot so the upgrade is very easy. You download the firmware update from either the Flarm technology website or the original Flarm manufacturer’s website and save it to the SD card from the Flarm. With the Flarm turned off, insert the SD card with the firmware upgrade file on it and start the Flarm. All Flarm’s look for Firmware upgrade files at start-up and if it is a more recent version than that installed on the device, it will upgrade. Once upgraded, the Flarm typically restarts, downloads any flights that are not already stored on the SD card and then finds a GPS position before listening for Flarm targets and transmitting the Flarm’s position with the new Firmware.
For older Flarm’s that may not have an SD/Micro SD card or card slot for upgrade you will need to connect the Flarm unit to a PC via a specific serial cable. Depending on the manufacturer, there are dedicated cables available that provide both a serial connection and power to the Flarm. In some cases it may be necessary to remove the Flarm from the glider to do this. If your PC does not have a free serial port you may need a good quality USB to serial port converter to connect the serial cable too. With the right cable and a Windows PC with a serial port you can download (from the beginning of March) an application called the “Flarm tool” complete with the Version 6 Firmware update from the Flarm Technology website. http://www.flarm.com/support . Configure the tool to use your PC’s serial port and then update the Flarm using the software tool.
For PowerFlarm devices there will be a specific firmware update available from the Flarm Technology website. Please make sure you use this specific PowerFlarm update loaded via SD card or from a PC and serial cable.
For built in Flarm devices such as those found in the LXNAV LX8000 or LX9000 there will be a new major firmware release including the Flarm update firmware. Upgrading these devices is the same as any other firmware update on the device and will be available from the manufacturer’s website.
How to get support and assistance if you have problems? The central point for assistance is the Flarm Technology GmbH website http://www.flarm.com but there will also be details on your manufacturer’s website specific to your Flarm.
Flarm’s not updated by the 31’s of March 2015 will no longer provide Flarm warnings.