We've made SkyDemon Light as intuitive and simple to use as possible, and we certainly hope that most of it will be self-explanatory. However reading this guide will give you a good overview of the capabilities of the service, and ensure that you know how to get the most out of it.
You can contact us if you don't find the answers you're looking for on this page.
If you have gotten as far as this documentation, that means SkyDemon Light has successfully started and you should be confronted with the main map. If you've ever used our SkyDemon Plan product you'll recognise that the map is the same, and if you haven't, it will still appear similar to the UK CAA chart.
A SkyDemon chart is quite different to a printed chart, or a chart that is a fixed size and designed for printing. We developed our own vector-based mapping engine so that we can do things with airspace and other entities drawn on the map to enrich the planning (and flying) experience. For instance, you'll notice that in SkyDemon Light, no airspace above the level you are planning to fly at (with added safety margin) is shown. As you change your planned level, you'll see airspace come and go.
To move the chart around, press the left mouse button somewhere on the chart that isn't a waypoint, and move the mouse. The map will pan around with the mouse cursor. When you've got it where you want it, release the mouse button and you'll see all the new map features spring into life.
To zoom in and out, either use the mouse wheel (if you have one) or the zoom buttons on the toolbar just above the chart. If you have a mouse wheel you'll notice that the zooming is very smooth. Unlike products based on a fixed-size chart, ours can be smoothly zoomed to just about any level, and our software is quite clever about which features are shown and hidden at which zoom levels. If you expect to see a feature such as a VRP or town but it's not there, try zooming in a little.
The SkyDemon chart is one of the clearest charts you'll ever see, because much of its data only appears when you ask for it. To see the vertical boundaries of a piece of airspace, for example, just move the mouse pointer over it and you'll see the full details of all objects under the cursor. You can even find out about the runways at airfields this way.
Planning a route with SkyDemon could hardly be easier. Press the New Route button and type in your takeoff and landing airfields, then press Create Route to create the route. You'll notice that as you type an airfield name or identifier, a list of suggestions is displayed below the text box. Use the down arrow or the mouse to select an option. The box turns green when SkyDemon understands which airfield you are referring to.
TIP: You can also enter lat/lon coordinates instead of an airfield name.
Once you have created a route you'll see it on the main map, as a thick magenta line. You can click and drag this line in order to break your route up into many legs, which of course is nearly always necessary in this country. Press and hold the left mouse button when the cursor is over the leg, and as you move the mouse you'll see the cursor "snap" to recognised waypoints such as towns, VRPs and radio navigation aids. When you're happy with the position, release the mouse pointer. You don't have to route via recognised waypoints; an unnamed point in space works just as well.
You can also plot your route using only the map, if you wish. After clicking on New Route to clear your route, go back to the map and just click on consecutive waypoints to built your route. As long as the last waypoint in your route is selected and you click on another waypoint, your route will continue to be extended. Sometimes it's preferable to plot a route graphically like this.
You can click and drag on turning points in your route just like you can drag on the route legs themselves. In fact, any part of it can be dragged to virtually anywhere else. You can't plan multiple routes at once, though; only a single route at a time (with single takeoff and landing) is supported in this tool.
TIP: There is no support for user-defined waypoints in this tool but once your route is plotted you can drag its start, finish or any intermediate waypoint to an unnamed location in space.
In the bottom right corner of the SkyDemon screen you'll see a heading called Statistics, and under this is a realtime reading of the total distance and time of your planned route. You can see this change as you modify your route.
Obtaining a NOTAM briefing from the route you have plotted could hardly be easier: you don't have to do anything! SkyDemon downloads and displays NOTAM automatically as you work, so that a current briefing is always at hand. There are two types of NOTAM briefing in SkyDemon Light: the textual narrow-route brief, and visual representations of NOTAM on the main map.
Your textual narrow-route brief is in the window at the top left of the screen entitled "NOTAM Narrow Route Brief". This is a list of all the NOTAM applicable to your flight, assuming the flight will take place in the next 48 hours. This is very similar to the output you will get from an AIS narrow-route brief, though we don't bother showing you low-level NOTAM such as kite-flying if your route is planned more than 1000 feet above them.
TIP: When you see a magnifying glass in the NOTAM narrow route brief, you can click on it to highlight the NOTAM in the main map. This makes it very easy to quickly identify how a NOTAM in the list relates to your flight.
You may have noticed that on the main map, lots of magenta-shaded circles also appeared when you started planning. These are graphical representations of enroute and warning NOTAM. Having these depicted graphically is a great way to see at a glance which notices are likely to affect your flight, but bear in mind that aerodrome NOTAM and some NOTAM which are very large are not plotted on the main map, therefore the definitive safety briefing always has to be the textual form. As always, you can move the mouse cursor over the NOTAM on the main map to read their full text.
One of the objective of SkyDemon Light is to help you prepare as thoroughly as possible before flight and to ensure that if your planned route penetrates any designated airspace, you are made aware of it. If you try planning a route through a piece of controlled airspace a warning is therefore displayed in the lower right corner of the screen, in the Flight Details window. Warnings appear for each piece of airspace your route penetrates, assuming it's controlled airspace, a danger, restricted or prohibited area, a MATZ or TRA promulgated by NOTAM.
TIP: You can click on the magnifying glass in an airspace warning and the piece of airspace will bounce in the main map to bring your attention to it.
There is no way to make the planning warnings disappear other than to alter your route such that it no longer penetrates the associated airspace. If you intended to penetrate the airspace, no problem; the warnings are simply there to make you aware in case you weren't.
Once your route is planned you'll want to set the level at which you plan to fly, the indicated airspeed you'll be cruising at, and the enroute wind so that SkyDemon can calculate the headings you'll need to fly for each leg. The Flight Details window at the bottom right is where these things are set, and we've already encountered it because planning warnings are displayed there.
To change the level at which you plan to fly, click the blue text where it says Level. The text will change so that you can type over it. Either type an altitude in feet, or if you prefer, a flight level starting with FL. Press enter to confirm your change, and you may of course see the planning warnings and NOTAM narrow route brief change to reflect your change of plan.
TIP: You can also set different levels per leg, if you wish. To do this, first set the general level for the flight as above. Then double-click on a leg to bring up its properties. Uncheck the "Use Route Level" box, then type in the level for that leg.
To change the indicated airspeed you will be observing, click on the blue text where it says IAS. The text will change so that you can type over it. Simply type a speed in knots and press enter to confirm the change. You will see the Time statistic update to reflect your new speed.
You can optionally enter the enroute wind aloft, which you will need to obtain from the Met Office website or another source of winds aloft data. If you do choose the enter the wind, SkyDemon can then calculate your headings to fly for each leg and accurately work out your groundspeed and total time. If you don't enter the wind, SkyDemon simply assumes nil wind. Click on the blue text where it says Wind and enter a wind vector in the form 265/12, signifying a 12 knot wind coming from 265 degrees.
SkyDemon can create a PLOG suitable for printing, with a plan of your route including (for each leg) the tracks and headings flown (true and magnetic), speeds and levels. To create a PLOG, press the Create PLOG button on the toolbar. A window will pop up asking you for some optional information about the flight. You don't have to fill this in, but if you do, it will appear on the printed PLOG.
The first optional field is the takeoff time. You can leave it blank or you can pick a date from the calendar (by clicking on it) and enter a time in UTC next to it. If you check the "Populate ETA Column" option, the ETA column on the PLOG will be filled in automatically for each leg based on the takeoff time you have entered. If you don't check it, the ETA column will be left blank for you to fill in yourself in flight.
The other optional fields are for the aircraft callsign and type. Many people like to have these included on their PLOG for posterity, but if you don't, that's fine. Press OK, and your PLOG will appear in a separate browser window. If you're happy with it, you can use your browser's Print button to print it like you would any webpage.
TIP: You may notice that on the PLOG your groundspeed isn't quite what you expected, even with a nil wind. This is because SkyDemon calculates your true airspeed from your indicated airspeed and planned level, and also takes into account a climb and a descent, which will obviously affect your speed during those phases of flight. Performance characteristics from an average light aircraft are used.
Once you have planned your outbound route you can simply click the Reverse button to reverse the route, then of course the NOTAM briefing may be very slightly different, your times will be different (if you have entered a wind velocity) and you can print another PLOG for the return journey.
SkyDemon Light allows you to save routes that you often fly. Just press the Save button on the toolbar and type a name for the route, and it will be saved to your computer. Saved routes are in the industry-standard GPX format, which means you can import them into other tools (such as Google Earth) or upload them to your GPS*. To load a route that you previously saved, press the Open button on the toolbar and select the route from the list.
* SkyDemon Light works in your browser and therefore has no direct access to your GPS unit, but you may be able to locate third-party software that will take your saved route (in GPX format) and upload it to your GPS unit.
We designed SkyDemon Light as a simple tool to provide just the most basic of safety-related briefing functions, and we hope you like it. If you do, you might be interested in upgrading to our full SkyDemon Plan product, which does a lot more. We have also established a free discussion forum that you can join to talk about SkyDemon Light and its features.