Video-Based Flight Recorder Unveiled

A young Kelowna inventor has come up with an affordable video system that serves as a flight data recorder for light aircraft. Ephraim Nowak, 26, has created a “computer vision system” that records readings from the aircraft’s instrument panel and then uses “embedded machine vision technologies” to digitize the values for later analysis if required. Although it sounds complex, the SkyVU system’s advantage is that it uses the visual display from the instruments and doesn’t need to be wired into the aircraft. The Transportation Safety Board has been calling for the addition of data recorders in thousands of light aircraft to help it better determine the cause of crashes.

Nowak said he came up with the idea after visiting the crash site of a Cessna Citation that carried former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice near Kelowna in 2016. Prentice and two others were killed. The TSB was unable to determine the cause of that accident and recommended that they be mandatory in commercially operated light aircraft. Nowak said the system also has applications for maintenance and training. “In addition to assisting when something goes wrong, we find it’s quite useful to have video from a troubleshooting and training perspective as well,” said Nowak. The system will be tested in two Rapattack firefighting helicopters this summer and he hopes to have the system on the market by the end of the year. Nowak was one of five winners of the Entrepreneur Award presented by Mitacs, a federally and provincially funded organization that promotes the commercialization of scientific research