Exploring New Horizons with ForeFlight Voyager on Apple Vision Pro

Learn how ForeFlight’s team built a new way to experience the future of aviation with 3D dioramas, live aircraft views and collaborative exploration.

Written by Brigid Hogan
Published on Jun. 17, 2024
Exploring New Horizons with ForeFlight Voyager on Apple Vision Pro
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Aviation software company ForeFlight has once again taken a bold step into the future of technology with its latest product, ForeFlight Voyager for Apple Vision Pro.

“The 3D terrain, live aircraft, and zoom and rotate capabilities all combine to create an immersive experience,” explained Staff Engineer Aaron Farnham, who played a pivotal role in the development of Voyager.

Voyager is designed to deliver a highly immersive experience by allowing users to view airports and aircraft operations around the world through a 3D diorama. One of the standout features is the integration with Apple’s SharePlay technology, enabling users to explore the world’s airports together, adding a social dimension that Farnham noted is “far more exciting in the device than it sounds in print.”

The development of app was driven by ForeFlight’s tradition of early adoption of Apple products. ForeFlight’s strategic foresight into spatial computing not only aligns with current technological trends but also sets the stage for future innovations in aviation software.

Farnham emphasized, “We have found tremendous value in being early in these products, so we considered it a no-brainer to have something for day one of Apple Vision Pro.”

 

“We have found tremendous value in being early in these products, so we considered it a no-brainer to have something for day one of Apple Vision Pro.”

 

One of the most significant challenges was the constrained timeline, but Farnham’s team was prepared to take on that challenge.

“I think ForeFlight is one of the best app development companies there is,” he stated. “Once a feature is ready, it is out the door in pretty short order after we have done a thorough quality check.”

Built In caught up with Farnham to learn more about ForeFlight’s dedication to innovation and excellence.

 

A group of ForeFlight employees stand in front of a small plane on a runway.
ForeFlight

 

Why did ForeFlight need to build this product?

Aaron Farnham
Staff Engineer • ForeFlight

ForeFlight has been at the leading edge of every Apple product. We were on the iPhone AppStore, the iPad and the Apple Watch on the first day they launched. We have found tremendous value in being early in these products so we considered it a no-brainer to have something for day one of Apple Vision Pro. 

This does seem like it is the future for many aspects of aviation, but it might take a while for the technology ecosystem to really build up. We viewed its launch as an opportunity to see what can be done with spatial computing and how it can drive the future of ForeFlight products. Now that we have built some new things on top of this platform we can really see how it will shape what we do in other products, like ForeFlight Mobile, going forward.

 

“This does seem like it is the future for many aspects of aviation.”

 

What role did you play in developing and launching Voyager?

I am one of the Apple platform developers on Voyager, and I helped build out many of the search and discoverability features, set up our build infrastructure and shape the basic idea of the app. 

We are using many of the same tools as our iOS-focused teams since Apple bundled all the Vision Pro technology into Xcode. We did take this opportunity to try out Xcode Cloud for building and distributing the app instead of the TeamCity infrastructure we use for all of our other products. Apple makes it incredibly easy to get this build-and-distribution pipeline going very quickly, and our original deadline was quite short.

 

A group of ForeFlight employees gather around a table with three laptops among them and focus on a large secondary monitor.
ForeFlight

 

How did you successfully work within such tight timelines?

From conception to shipping, the development process was just shy of three months, and we had various other deadlines for demos of the app during those three months. 

Our very first day of starting, we had just seven days to create a demo that was going to be shown around outside the company. We were able to achieve this by placing some of our most experienced Apple Platform engineers — who have a breadth of experience across all aspects of app development — on the project and giving each of us very clearly defined aspects of the app to work on. 

We were also able to leverage some of the teamwork practices we’ve developed over time on the ForeFlight Mobile team to ensure we did not step on each other’s toes.

 

How does ForeFlight compare to other companies in the industry when it comes to how you build and launch new products?

I think ForeFlight is one of the best app development companies there is. I am a bit biased, having been here for almost its entire existence, but we do a good job in delivering incredibly high-value products in a timely fashion and with a regular cadence. I’ve worked places where it takes 18 months to ship a feature that was code complete after just a couple months. ForeFlight is not that. Once the feature is ready, it is out the door in pretty short order — after we have done a thorough quality check. I am quite proud of how quickly we can ship in an industry that takes risk very seriously.

 

“We do a good job in delivering incredibly high-value products in a timely fashion and with a regular cadence.”

 

What teams did you collaborate with in order to get Voyager across the finish line?

The server and DevOps teams really stepped up for us. As I said, we had some short timelines and we were able to work with them to get new API endpoints set up for Voyager in an incredibly quick order. I think this was aided by having a very clear idea of what we needed and communicating that to them succinctly. On top of that, they are just great people and willing to pitch in where needed on short notice. ForeFlight is full of team members like that.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and ForeFlight.

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