For many years now, VATSIM users have relied on either one of two, or a combination of both VATSIM map solutions – VATSpy and Vattastic – to see what’s happening in the virtual skies before, during, or after their flights. Then, just over 12 months ago, AccuMap was thrust into the community. The then desktop application was well received for its ease of use, innovative features, and modern UI, but widely slammed for the performance issues that users were encountering on everything up to high-end machines.
Fast forward to 2018, and the developers took down the Accumap v1 server in preparation for an entirely re-worked version 2. For months up until now, the volunteer-based team has been working tirelessly to resolve the issues reported in version 1, while bringing new features and integration to the update. Finally, on July 25, Accumap v2 entered closed beta testing. FSElite was invited to show a preview of what the community can expect in the new version while this testing is underway.
Interface and Features
While the general feel of the interface is largely the same as the predecessor, the Accumap team has added some innovative new design elements in order to present information in a cleaner fashion to the user.
The first thing you’ll notice when clicking through to the AccuMap website for the first time is the presence of VATSIM SSO – the single sign-on method used to tailor the experience follow to your needs.
Most prominently, the information sidebar has been replaced with an expandable and contractable info pane. Within, you have many of the expected information that you’d attribute with such an application – for aircraft, that’s things like callsign, pilot name, departure and destination, time online, flight plan, remarks, and much more, while controller information contains the controller position, name, rating, ATIS, voice room and time online.
This can all be hidden when not required so as to increase screen real estate for viewing the goings on in the VATSIM world.
Additionally, with no aircraft or controller selected, this sidebar now offers a vast amount of information to help users decide where to fly, including lists of currently logged-in ATC, a roll-call of pilots online, and a list of observers.
The bit that may bring some inspiration, though, is the list of top 5 popular airports – these are ranked based on combined numbers of arrivals and departures to the airport. Using this as a guide on where to fly will ensure you have a steady flow of traffic around you for your flight.
On the opposite side of the screen is a Controller drop-down which will populate with controls related to your ATC position if currently logged in as such. This allows you to set the areas withing AccuMap (for display to other users) as to where you’re extending coverage to, as well as active runways.
The menu bar along the top of the screen, despite being simple in appearance, is a very handy piece of kit, too. Not only does it house a button to learn a little more about AccuMap, and a menu to allow you to offer your contributions to the application, but it also gives you a personal menu and a live clock set to UTC/Zulu – the universal time of the sky. The personal menu brings some handy things within itself, such as some user preferences (a work in progress at the time of writing), and links to your personal Vataware and VATStats pages.
One of the biggest issues that faced users of AccuMap v1 was the resources that the application used. Now in v2, with the application being web-based, this is no longer an issue. While the initial stages of v2 will limit AccuMap to a user’s web browser, the developers do promise that multi-platform apps are on the way at a later date. Being that these apps are expected to be web apps, users can expect that using AccuMap alongside their simulator of choice will not impact frame rates like v1 had done.
Finally, an all too common issue with existing VATSIM viewers is the lack of accuracy in the ATC sectors. VATSpy can be updated but requires the know-how of someone to create an update file, to begin with, and requires that all of these updates be within the one file, and while Vattastic is web-based, it allows zero control to the user to update these sectors for accurate display.
The AccuMap developers are planning to combat this by working with Navigraph to ensure highly accurate data throughout the world, updated as changes are made. This will mean that AccuMap will show current AIRAC data for FIRs/UIRs, routes, SIDs and STARs. This is yet to go live, but in the meantime, the developers are working to ensure the accuracy of ATC sectors for the version 2 launch.
The development team recently announced that a public beta for AccuMap v2 will go live on Sunday August 5, with phase one of this beta being a web-based application, followed by phase 2 later down the track, bringing desktop applications for multiple platforms. The web application will be available via the project website.
AccuMap will remain a free service, however, nothing is truly free and the developers do support the infrastructure required to operate this service out of their own pocket, so donations are highly appreciated.
Is there something that you think current VATSIM map solutions don’t do well? Tell us in the comments below – the AccuMap developers love community feedback, and your suggestion could make it into the final release.