Laptop GPS mapping software needed for Helicopter application
We need a GPS solution for our helicopter program. We use our helicopter to search for missing kids and Alzheimer patients in a metro-city area.

We used to use a Garmin nRoute software, but the GPS position lagged too badly and it was pretty bulky. Then we went to the Garmin 7000 series that mounts on the cyclic. That works well enough, except the street labels turn on and off, depending on our direction of travel. For us to zoom in close enough, we can only see one or two blocks on the screen, and we're sometimes three to four blocks offset, which when we zoom-out we lose even more street labels. That doesn't work, especially when we're trying to talk ground patrol cars or firetrucks through residential streets onto a possible locate of our subject (They can see the street signs, we cannot and must rely on the G7000).

So, we're revisiting the laptop idea and are thinking the Garmin Mobile PC might be the best software. However, it looks like it's the same software driving the G7000.

Will the street labels turn on and off depending on direction of travel, using Garmin Mobile PC (Any hope of over-riding this setting)?
Is there any way to make it update more than once per second and hold the aircraft in the center of the screen, instead of lagging (jerking) again making reading street labels impossible to read?

Yes, they do make commercially available software, specifically for law enforcement applications, but it costs $25 - $40k just for the software and laptop... With the budget situation as it is, there's no money for that... Again, any help would be appreciated.
Ken in Regina
I'm on the road right now with a lousy internet connection so I'm going from memory and keeping it short. I believe Mobile PC is one of the few nav programs that will work properly with a receiver that is refreshing faster than 1Hz (once per second).

The i.Trek M7 Bluetooth receiver will refresh at up to 5Hz. I don't know if that's fast enough or not. I'm not sure what other models are out there with faster than the common 1Hz update. I seem to recall there may be some that update as fast as 10Hz.

I am not familiar with a G7000. If you mean the 7" (diagonal) Garmin 7200, one of the problems with it is low pixel count (480x234) for the screen size. Any netbook would have more than 4 times the pixels in a screen slightly larger. The problem is will the laptop you use be sunlight readable.

Ken has pointed out in another thread that increasing the GPS data refresh rate does not necessarily equate to better accuracy. At helicopter speeds there would be an advantage but while hovering it could still be subject to movement. I would think a larger display size and resolution would be the best place to start. Do you have a particular laptop in mind?

BTW, did you try changing your existing unit to North up to see if that reduced the appearance/ dissappearance of street names?

Thanks Ken, I'll research something in the 5 - 10 hz range for receiver sounds like the GMPC might be the right software. Yes Terry, the 7000 I'm referring to is the Garmin 7200 (sorry, didn't have the unit in front of me). As far as laptop, I'm probably going with a panasonic 'toughbook' that will 'video-out' to my 12.1" Avalex daylight readable & NVG compliant video monitor mounted in the helo. The monitor mounted in the helo has multiple VGA inputs, so one will be for the FLIR, then my hope is the other can be used for mapping and I can toggle between the two, or split, depending on what we're doing.... So, just to confirm, the higher refersh receiver will be more accurate in motion, but may be less accurate in the hover? (We usually fly now slower than 20 - 30 kts and very rarely pull into a hover for what we're doing...) Thanks again for your help, I think I'm going to pursue this...
The higher refresh rate will not be less accurate but may not assist in keeping the display stationary as you required.

Marvin Hlavac
Rono, welcome to Laptop GPS World. Most of these higher-refresh-rate GPS receivers come with software utility that lets you set your preferred refresh rate. You will be able to set the unit to run at 1Hz, 2Hz, 3Hz, 4Hz, etc.

If you do give it a try, please do let us know how it works out for you.

I currently writing some helicopter 3D GPS software. Pls let me know what functionality you would want and I'll let you have the software for free. To view previous software I've produced you can visit

I can also design specialist electronics to go with it - 3 axis gyros, accelerometers, compass..

Updates will be fast upto 100Hz on some designs.

rono, fwiw, i have mappoint 2009 and w/ a scale of 1/2MI it does show just about all the streets, even the rather small ones. i am pretty sure that streets and trips 2009 uses the same basic setup as mappoint, just that mappoint allows a lot more data mapping.

if you are doing 20-30kts i think this would be good for you, and i have never had it fail on me. you may want to check out the trial of street and trips too. only bad thing is is that i believe they are both setup to take 1Hz gps samples, but at the speed you say you are going, that shouldn't be an issue.

what is the resolution of the monitor you are connecting into?
Hi all, I've been offline for some time (holidays, travel, et-al). Just to update everyone, we got sidetracked on this project with a lot of other stuff (We've been using the 7000 series Nuvi and that's worked okay to back-up the map).

Our laptop is now being used as a MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) to connect to dispatch for updates, et-al. That took some doing, but we've got it integrated and it seems to be working. Now that's done, we're back to solving our mapping problem.

I bought the Garmin software and purchased an iTrek M7, however I can't get the M7 to connect to the computer (want to use the USB). Went to iTrek site and looks like the site is down, and read on another forum that the itrek M7 is discontinued. If the part is defective, looks like no hope. That said, any other comparable receivers that are faster than 1 hz? I think 5hz is what we need and I know that Garmin Mobile PC will work that quickly. The monitor we use is 800x600.

Thanks all, I'll do a better job keeping you posted on this project, I'm near the end (i hope)!!!
Ken in Regina
How do you know the M7 isn't connecting to the computer? Symptoms?

What do you need to get it going? USB Drivers (XP and Vista)? User manual? Configuration tool? I have them all.

The iTrek will not communicate with its configuration tool over Bluetooth. You must use USB.

Terry thanks, i have it plugged into the USB; but still no go.

Symptom: When I power on the computer, i get the small pop-up in the lower left, saying the computer has found the iTrek M7; however when I go to Garmin Mobile PC, no GPS receiver; so I have it search for a receiver and it cannot find it.

The receiver itself flashes orange, indicating it has a satellite fix; but when i go to the iTrek software there's no satellite signal strength. I've messed with adjusting the different com ports, but honestly folks, everything else on the command screen could just as well be "Mandarin" because it makes no sense to me...the manual also does nothing to decode any of that jibberish either (seems more interested in telling you how to Bluetooth connect it to your smartphone)...ok, sorry for the rant, just frustrated and no offense to you folks that do understand that...

I admin there's a good possibility that this is an 'operator induced failure'...but I need the system to work by tomorrow (We have the aircraft scheduled to be available for installing the laptop, et-al).

So, for hard symptoms here's what I've got:
Mobile PC cannot find it
I know the computer 'sees' the GPS receiver as it states so on start-up
I don't know which com-port its on, and none of the software indicate its working

Any ideas, I'm open to anything (Including the possibility that something simple is not turned 'on' which is probably very likely)

Thanks all,

Garmin Mobile PC will not work with the iTrek M7 over USB as the data rate (115,200 bps) exceeds Mobile Pc limits. Use Bluetooth!

What I was saying is that to use the configuration tool to set the refresh rate of the iTrek M7, you must be connected by USB. The USB - serial driver should tell you what COM port to look at. Set the config tool to look at that port. Once the refresh rate is set as you want, it will work via BT with Mobile PC.

You can determine the COM port by checking in Windows Device Manager.

Thanks Terry,

Two follow-up questions:

#1- I don't know that the computer has bluetooth enabled (Gov't laptop, so I need their IT person to activate it); so if that's not possible, how fast will it work over the USB cable (If I have to leave it connected)?

#2- How do I know which COM port to use? The iTrek software command screen gives me a choice of like 13, where do I look for which com port is active?

Thanks again for your help on this.
To access Device Manager in XP;
Start-Control Panel-Performance and Maintenance-System. Choose the Hardware tab and click the Device Manager button.

Click on the plus sign next to Ports(COM&LPT) to expand that section.

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