Recently, we talked to Brian Frost , Lightspeed’s Executive Vice President of Product Innovation and Quality, for a behind-the-scenes look at why and how the Delta Zulu ANR headset came to be. He told us how the engineering team integrated multiple technologies and apps to turn aviation headsets into a personal safety system for pilots and their passengers. In this second technical dive, Brian explains what technical enhancements are on the drawing board, and how user reactions to Delta Zulu surprise even him.
We’ve heard some questions from customers about firmware updates. How often do you think releases will be made and why?
“Firmware updates are being made about every 6 months. What drives them is that we are getting feedback from headset users, getting it into our systems, and figuring out how best to apply that into the product. After we make the changes, we have to test the hardware, software, and app to make sure they’re working correctly together, and we have to refine the user experience well. We put the product through rigorous test cycles internally, then we do an alpha test with small group of pilots, then a beta test with 30–50 pilots. We also put the app through a full test cycle on all the mobile devices that we support.”
Why did Lightspeed decide to provide two different power management options with the Lightspeed Delta Zulu?
After many months of research and focus groups, we determined that the piloting community would benefit from having both the rechargeable Lithium-Ion and the AA (Alkaline) battery powering options available with one headset. It was a 50/50 split from the customers we talked to as to which they would prefer. The rechargeable battery was a feature carried over from previous headsets, such as the wireless Tango, but we needed a stronger life for these. Currently pilots can charge the Li-Ion battery using the provided UAC to USB-A cable in flight or at home. BUT, in the next few months, customers will be happy to hear that we will start offering a portable Lightspeed Battery Charger (also with its own charging cable), so you won’t have to take your headset out of the hangar to charge the battery. This will be just another charger you have on your kitchen countertop along with your cell phone or iPad to help keep your batteries at 100%, charging overnight.
Is there anything that has surprised you about Delta Zulu since its launch?
Yes. The HearingEQity and preset tuning features have turned out to be even more impactful and meaningful to pilots than I thought it would be. I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback. There are subsets of the hearing loss community for whom this technology can’t provide 100% correction in the cockpit, but it’s a dramatic help. I was working with a pilot at Sun ‘n Fun running the hearing test with the app. It turned out that he had profound hearing loss in a couple of areas, so I took a voice profile in our presets and was able to completely custom tune it for him. He went from not being able to understand a word from his friend talking next to him to being able to understand random text read by a friend he couldn’t see. That really enables him to fly safely now. He walked away wide-eyed. It’s been very exciting to see that response.