Rolls-Royce test pilots fly a wide range of aircraft. The pilots are required to carry out detailed flight checks, and plan fly-past manoeuvres that are accurate to the second. Historically, laminated cards served as a manual flight checklist, and the timing of a flypast relied upon sight of 'way-points', when visible, and maps. To digitise this process, in 2013, the Rolls-Royce Director of Flight Operations, Phill O’Dell, commissioned Compsoft to build the Flight Checklist App. The Flight Checklist ecosystem has evolved year on year since its inception. In November 2021, the app proved instrumental when Rolls-Royce and Electroflight broke the world air speed record for electric aircraft.
There were three key challenges Rolls-Royce needed to resolve with the app:
Compsoft Creative designed and developed a custom iOS app compatible with iPhone and iPad which allowed pilots to select their aircraft to view and process checklists. The UX was designed and tested in the cockpit using a high contrast approach to be visible in a wide range of lighting conditions. The buttons of the app are sized and spaced appropriately to allow interaction within a dynamic, shifting environment. Where possible, the UI was animated to the pilot’s finger to minimise the requirement for hand movement. In addition, for emergency checklists, the pilot could invoke these with a voice command, to minimise the need to directly interact with the app during potentially stressful situations. Finally, all the data for the app is controlled by a custom CMS which allows senior pilots to make changes, add new checklists, and create new customer user journeys throughout the application.
Compsoft Creative developed a custom Apple Watch app as part of the checklist app, which allowed the setting, and control of various timers. The watch app also included Apple Complications to display time sensitive information on the standard Apple Watch faces. Compsoft Creative extended the functionality of the watch app to allow remote control of the iPad app from the watch using simple gesture controls. This allowed pilots to control the app if it happened to be mounted on a device which was not immediately in reach.
The app included a number of timers, and used the haptics in Apple Watch to notify when these timers had expired. However, the haptics provided by the Apple Watch were not intense enough to always be felt in an environment where there was potentially extreme vibration and noise. To resolve this, Compsoft Creative sourced a wearable device and developed a custom smart strap, in partnership with Bremont watch makers. This wearable included motion control used to inform the app when it was on the pilot's wrist, and included a powerful haptic engine. Compsoft Creative extended the app to pair via BLE to the custom wearable, and send it custom commands based on the timers set-up by the pilot. The app’s UX was also updated to visually notify the pilot which timer was alerting using simple, customisable colour coded banner alerts, which showed and dismissed automatically.
Watch our video of Daniel, our MD, and Dave, one of our Senior Developers, chatting about the challenges faced, and the innovative solutions identified in adding the Wearable element of the Rolls-Royce Flight Checklist ecosystem.
“I worked with Compsoft from 2013 developing the Rolls-Royce Flight Checklist App. The Compsoft team worked closely with me and my colleagues to build and evolve an industry leading checklist app for use in a wide range of Aircraft. More recently, the Compsoft team utilised wearable devices to resolve issues we were experiencing in the cockpit. These updates were an integral enhancement to our success in breaking the world record for the fastest all-electric aircraft.
Compsoft were able to solve every issue we threw at them by applying their technical and design expertise. They delivered an exceptional project working alongside us, they really were an extension of our team."