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Thread: Caltopo, Geospatial PDF's, and ForeFlight

  1. #1
    cubflier's Avatar
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    Caltopo, Geospatial PDF's, and ForeFlight

    As a side effect of another project I'm working on I ran into a ForeFlight capability that I wish Garmin Pilot could do. It is the incorporation of Geospatial PDF's as map overlays. Has anyone tried this on ForeFlight before? I'm new to it but it does look a bit more detailed view than I'm used to.



    It looks promising if it's useable.

    Jerry
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    Last edited by cubflier; 10-11-2019 at 02:22 PM.
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  2. #2

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    Caltopo, Geospatial PDF's, and ForeFlight

    Good info! Topo maps were one of my biggest disappointments in Foreflight and one of the reasons I kept GP.

    For comparison, screen shots from my iPhone.

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    Last edited by stewartb; 10-11-2019 at 03:02 PM.

  3. #3
    cubflier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Good info! Topo maps were one of my biggest disappointments in Foreflight and one of the reasons I kept GP.
    I went with GP for the same reasons. However, the topo shading lacks the detail I wanted. I have bought the topo disk for my 660 which is fine but it would be nice use maps that CalTopo can generate on the ipad as an overlay given the ipads size and resolution. The detail of these Geospatial PDF's are quite amazing compared to the pilots terrain shading. The pictures I posted aren't doing it justice.

    Part of the purpose of this thread was also to give a thumbs up for CalTopo. The mapping capabilities of CalTopo is worth a try for any pilot especially if backcountry skiing is in the mix.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is photo shows slope angle shading as an overlay on a USGS topo map. To have this combination available in the GP app would be quite meaningful. Another feature in CalTopo that I'm finding useful is the ease at which you can create a detailed route through terrain and export it to a Garmin device. It does a better and cleaner job than the two mapping products (InReach Maps, Basecamp) that Garmin provides.

    Jerry
    Last edited by cubflier; 10-12-2019 at 12:49 PM.
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!

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    I'm playing with Caltopo but it isn't intuitive on a smart phone. I'll try later from a desktop. I agree that in a scale less than 2 miles GP topos aren't good. When I do ground-based stuff I've been using Gaia.

  5. #5
    cubflier's Avatar
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    Here is another comparison between Foreflight with a Geospatial pdf overlay vs the Garmin Pilot app in the same area.



    These are linked images so you can see the difference in the terrain detail difference in the two apps. Keep in mind the Foreflight with the overlay will only show the map you have selected and I would imagine there are size limitations to the PDF overlays. Toggling the overlay on and off in Foreflight is quite simple incase you want to fall back the underlying chart for aviation specific information. I did talk to Garmin about the possibility of including this feature and they seemed interested especially since Foreflight is ahead of the game here.

    The colored lines are detailed terrain routes that are divided into one mile segments numerically. Making these types of routes is quick and easy on CalTopo as compaired other options out there. The GPX output that comes from CalTopo imports directly to Garmin devices without any goofy auto-label clutter that is characteristic of some of the other options out there.


    Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  6. #6
    Paul Jackson's Avatar
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    I love the topo maps as an option to review terrain in a given area. Can you point out the link to where you are getting the files and cost?

    I played with the layers feature in Foreflight which allowed me to create a "skin" to place over the Sectional map rather than replace the Foreflight like the topo map does. I made float plane guides for the states of MN and WI with some notes on the lakes and color coding if operations are used. I found the flags I put on each to create a note with that skin are a bit hard on the eyes on a large view but when you scale down in actual use in the plane they aren't that bad. (There is alink under float operations to download the map files I created)

    The sky is the limit with adding data to Foreflight. I am working on scanning and uploading a pdf file that will display the State of MN info page for each airport.

    From Foreflight: Plates & Airport Diagrams (BYOP): The “Bring Your Own Plates” feature allows you to import PDF files that you can access in the Plates view or in the Airports view under the Procedures tab. Files imported this way behave the same as procedure plates and airport diagrams downloaded through ForeFlight, including support for georeferencing if geospatial PDFs are used.

    The State of MN guide has really good intel on cars and restaurants and hotels as well as camping info and airport contacts and should be handy addition to have in the cockpit. I am trying to get this done in the near future.

    I would like to see a sticky file here on the forum where we can upload Foreflight files for other SC.org guys to use. Heck we could even customize a BYOP to include if there is a SC.org guy in the area around an airport if you get in a pickle and need a helping hand.
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  7. #7
    cubflier's Avatar
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    CalTopo.com will get you to their site. CalTopo is a map generating tool so you can explore it's features to get the feel of it, then construct your own map set and down load it to Foreflight. There are plenty of youtube tutorials to get familiar with the CalTopo interface. There is a very small learning curve. I would start at CalTopo.com. Orient the map to your location. There is a search block to speed that process. Once you are in your local area then explore the preset layers available. Then customize a map to the look and feel that suits your need. From there you hit print. There are two options that will overlay in Foreflight. They are Geospatial PDF and MBTiles. I would start by printing to a Geospatial PDF. Next step is to copy it to Foreflight via email or iTunes. iTunes needs a connection but is so much easier than emailing files and copying via Foreflights share sheet. Furthermore, you can copy very large files via iTunes, whereas, email provider limitations kick in quite early.

    Once you have done this you just tap the layers icon in Foreflight and you are there. A note about MBTiles. This is the real way to go, however, there is a bit of complexity in understanding exactly what's in the MBTile structure. Ultimately a merge of the MBTile databases is necessary and that's not for everyone I would assume.

    I agree with your comment on a sticky type of repository.

    CalTopo is basically free but if you want to do any real huge map down loads a subscription upgrade is a good idea. Keep in mind that you could do a one time upgrade, make all the maps you want, and be done.

    Here is an example of the MBTile format in action.



    Good Luck and let me know how it works for you.

    Jerry
    Last edited by cubflier; 10-15-2019 at 01:16 PM.
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  8. #8
    cubflier's Avatar
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    Here is a screencast video of an mbtiles file as an overlay. I'm slowly assembling more coverage area to see how large a file the iPad can handle as an overlay. This one is about 100mb. I pruned out the higher zoom levels so that it will snap into view only when you zoom the screen in. The goal is to put the entire state of Alaska on it with another less cluttered (than sectionals) transparent layer of airport facilities and the like.

    One of the issues is that Caltopo limits the down load size to about 50mb worth of tiles and assembling them into one file requires a small amount of programming to merge two database files correctly. So far so good. I hope there is an interest in this stuff from Garmin Pilot users. My discussions with their tech support indicates an interest but they are not going to do it unless their customer base is interested.

    Jerry

    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  9. #9
    Farmboy's Avatar
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    Jerry it looks like you just created a service business.
    Pilots tell you the areas they want, you compile them and prune them, email them back.
    3 Beers per map and your afternoons are booked.

    Pb


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  10. #10

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    Jerry,

    Fyi, here's an iPhone screen shot of the Gaia open hiking map. I can add several overlays with adjustable transparency. These map apps are getting really good. The strength of this map, and probably the CalTopo map, is it can be zoomed in close. Garmin Pilot blurs out below the 2 mile scale.

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  11. #11

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    Foreflight, Caltopo, Google Earth, Sattelite pcs etc for off airport flying

    [QUOTE=cubflier;757069]I went with GP for the same reasons. However, the topo shading lacks the detail I wanted. I have bought the topo disk for my 660 which is fine but it would be nice use maps that CalTopo can generate on the ipad as an overlay given the ipads size and resolution. The detail of these Geospatial PDF's are quite amazing compared to the pilots terrain shading. The pictures I posted aren't doing it justice.

    Part of the purpose of this thread was also to give a thumbs up for CalTopo. The mapping capabilities of CalTopo is worth a try for any pilot especially if backcountry skiing is in the mix.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is photo shows slope angle shading as an overlay on a USGS topo map. To have this combination available in the GP app would be quite meaningful. Another feature in CalTopo that I'm finding useful is the ease at which you can create a detailed route through terrain and export it to a Garmin device. It does a better and cleaner job than the two mapping products (InReach Maps, Basecamp) that Garmin provides.

    Jerry[/QUOTE
    Hallo Jerry,
    taking your Rainy Pass picture as a trigger (flying through there with more detailed info definetely helps...and I used the same picture) here is what I did to get geo information as detailed as possible over and above what is offered commercially...
    So far I used Foreflight and the Alaska Gazetteer as navigation base for cross country and off airport in Alaska.
    What I have come up with is basically cutting Alaska into 5 regions and building my own "electronic-region-map" by using Excel and the topo maps of the 50ies to the 80ies of the government which are 1:250.000 up to the last corner in AK and which show very good detail as compared to Alaska Gazetteer. These maps "cut together" in excel get supplemented by caltopo, sattelite pictures,Google Earth Screen Shots and real fotos of the location and all sorts of sources and downsized to thumbnails which I can resize if needed - in offline modus. With the additional bonus of using the other Excel tables and add cabin infos, glacier maps, tide schedules etc.
    So Foreflight I use for navigation and excel "region-map" down to the last detail of my interest such as Icy Bay landing spots for example - see attachment - with guyot glacier landing spot in expanded mode...
    An integration or overlap with foreflight would be nice but I am not sure worth the effort - as I typically do not need the GPS dot once on that level of detail...
    The I-Pad then "only" needs to cope with the 500MB of one of those region-maps...Click image for larger version. 

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    Best regards
    Axel
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    For another option, TopoMaps App. Glacier map with optional hill shading. This is a darn good app with several map options.

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  13. #13
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    Thank you for the updates everyone. I'm working with CalTopo to gen a detailed map around Icy Bay and McCarthy. Very helpful when doing sight-see flights to see creek and detailed peak/lake names.
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