By Amy Wilder
Flying over terrain without the safety net of civilization—and the airfields that go with it—can be unnerving in the best of times. When things get just a little murky, the risk can increase exponentially. But backcountry flying just got a safety boost, thanks to CubCrafters.
The innovative light aircraft manufacturer, which specializes in FAA- and ASTM-certified as well as experimental category planes for remote backcountry operations, has announced its latest breakthrough—a state-of-the-art, thermal-infrared imaging system. Developed in collaboration with Hood Tech Aero, the cutting-edge system improves situational awareness in low-visibility conditions.
The integrated infrared camera system is designed specifically for backcountry pilots using Garmin G3X avionics. It features the smallest pixel pitch long wave infrared (LWIR) sensor available and complements Garmin’s synthetic vision display, providing pilots with enhanced infrared imagery on the G3X screen. The system shares the same scale, field of view, and horizon as Garmin’s built-in synthetic vision.
With the turn of a knob, pilots can switch between the synthetic and enhanced vision systems. The camera also promises the ability to pierce through smoke, haze, shadows, and even complete darkness, revealing essential details of terrain, such as roads, buildings, and more.
The lightweight, automated camera is wing-mounted and designed to be almost maintenance-free. It adds only a few ounces to the plane’s overall weight and consumes minimal power, ensuring it’s readily available whenever the pilot needs it.
While initially developed for Department of Agriculture predator control aircraft under a government contract, the camera is now extending to a broader consumer base. CubCrafters notes that it’s a great solution for late afternoon flights with the sun low on the horizon, hazy conditions, and remote mountain airstrips that may be nearly invisible in valleys and shadows.
The system is available immediately for new experimental category CubCrafters planes. The company said it also expects to complete retrofit kits and secure certified aircraft approvals by the end of the year, making the technology accessible to a wider range of aviators.