ForeFlight adds new weather radar layer

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
3 min read

ForeFlight’s interactive map is the first place most pilots go when planning a flight to view a composite display of aviation charts, terrain, airspace, weather and much more. One of the most useful overlays here is the weather radar layer, which provides a big-picture view of your planned route in relation to current precipitation returns.

The latest app update includes a new and improved radar layer, in addition to a few other new features in the app. Here’s a quick summary of what’s new based on subscription type, with full details included below:

Basic – New “Beta” radar layer, map annotations eraser, logbook filtering, hide airspace activated by NOTAM

Pro Plus – Interactive flight profile line in the Profile view

Performance Plus with Runway Analysis – Missed approach climb requirements, added support for Citation C700 Longitude and Dassault Falcon 2000

New “Beta” Radar Layer

ForeFlight transitioned to a new weather radar provider late last year, which affected how the precipitation returns were rendered in the app. As many pilots noticed after the update, the radar graphics looked pixelated, and there were often reliability issues with the refresh rate.

The ForeFlight team has been hard at work developing a new radar layer, and it’s now available in the latest version of the app as the Radar (beta) layer. The first thing you’ll notice compared to the original radar depiction is smoother, less pixelated imagery that updates much faster:

ForeFlight decided to keep the original radar layer around, for now, to allow pilots to compare it with the new layer during the transition. While the new layer is named “beta” to differentiate it from the original radar layer, the source data is the same as the original radar layer.

Logbook filtering

You’ll find a new filter button at the top of the Logbook screen, which lets you quickly filter your flights by date range, aircraft type, airport, instrument or night conditions, flight role and much more.

Map annotations eraser

When enabled, the map annotations tool allows you to mark up the main map using an interactive drawing tool. To allow for more control, ForeFlight added a dedicated eraser tool in the top menu, which allows you to erase specific annotations without clearing them all out at once.

Airspace activated by NOTAM

Certain types of special-use airspace, like many Military Operations Areas (MOA), are active based on a set schedule (e.g., M-F 13:30 – 16:30). Other MOAs are only activated by NOTAM, as shown in the details here for the Drifter MOA:

To help declutter the airspace view for certain flight planning scenarios, ForeFlight added a new setting in the Airspace section of the Aeronautical Map settings called “Activation by NOTAM.” When this setting is disabled, airspace that is only activated by NOTAM will be hidden. You can see here that the same Drifter MOA is no longer shown on the map when this setting is turned off:

If you do decide to disable the display of Airspace activated by NOTAM, we recommend always checking the separate NOTAM layer on the map to view the status of this type of special-use airspace before each flight:

Interactive flight profile line

Pro Plus subscribers can now interact with the profile view by tapping and dragging in this space to locate hazards and easily visualize the profile corridor along your route. Drag your finger left and right to move the line to view the height above terrain and hazards, as well as highlight hazards, obstacles, and airspace on the map.


12 replies
  1. Doug C
    Doug C says:

    I know ForeFlight took a lot of negative comments on the radar mapping becoming more “pixelated” after they made a change, but my two cents (for what it’s worth) prefers the pixelated over what I saw in this article. I’d rather have accuracy and distinction of weather shown vs. an artificial smoothing of the radar.

    • Doug Doster
      Doug Doster says:

      I really like the pixelated graphics. I’ve flown through a thunder storm and picked my way through heavier cells with this. I never went full IFR even through I was flying IFR thanks to the pixelated graphics. Not sure this is an improvement. The other was a nice supplement to the graphics on my GTN650 and a much larger screen. Hopefully we have a choice in settings.

  2. Rick Junkin
    Rick Junkin says:

    I agree with Doug C regarding the beta radar depiction. I prefer the pixelated, higher fidelity radar depiction of the current radar depiction with the Four-color radar option turned off. The beta presentation looks cartoony and dumbed down in comparison. The smoothing algorithm also makes the weather look worse or more contiguous. One the other hand, if you normally have the Four-color radar option selected there is not as appreciable a difference.

    The fidelity matters when making strategic weather decisions because I can get a good sense for whether a line is building or dissipating and where at a higher level of detail, and where breaks are forming. For instance he beta depiction runs yellow areas together where the pixelated depiction shows breaks of a couple of miles that indicate I may be able to work through or around them when I get there.

    I’d like Foreflight to retain that fidelity over making the picture smooth.

    • Rick Moreau
      Rick Moreau says:

      Rick and Doug, by the time it gets to your screen, the picture is like 10 minutes old and has changed more than the extra fidelity can represent.

      • Rick Junkin
        Rick Junkin says:

        Granted the data is aged. It’s the trend data that’s important. Data fidelity is is always useful to informing the strategic weather decision based on trends.

        I also prefer the look and “feel” of the original depiction much better than the cartoony look of the beta .

      • Doug C
        Doug C says:

        That’s a good point, Rick. I understand the latency in the map, but you reminding us [all readers] of that is a good call. I was simply implying I prefer the detail of the image in place of the further smoothing of it.

      • Doug C
        Doug C says:

        … and, in case anyone is interested, according to ForeFlight, the new “Radar (Beta) Layer returns data about 3.5 minutes faster compared to the original radar layer.”

  3. Tembek
    Tembek says:

    There are significant differences in severity and direction between the two versions. Why would the arrows change if the data is the same? Why would the severity be different: many “red” areas in the original become yellow in the beta version. The smoothing algorithm used in the beta version should average between highs and lows but should not reduce the severity amplitudes. I think there must be something wrong with the algorithm. Also if the data is the same how can the refresh rate in the beta be faster?

  4. Dave
    Dave says:

    Add me to the list of “why are they calling this an upgrade?”
    The pixels are informative and honest. Like the other pilots that have commented here, I too rely on the ForeFlight radar layer to help me navigate weather. It’s remarkably accurate as it is. Please don’t do the smoothing “upgrade.”

  5. John B in AZ
    John B in AZ says:

    The ‘smoothing’ may well be the result of transmitting the data in vectorized format, which takes less space than transmitting raster pixels and could be faster to transmit. It also likely has to do with how Boeing receives and ingests the raw data feed they get in the first place.

    That doesn’t mean it’s “better” but it could explain the speed vs. pixel/smoothing transition in the beta.

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    I miss the “lowest tilt” radar option for VFR flight planning. I found it very accurate for the non-flight-level work.

  7. Ron R
    Ron R says:

    I also prefer the pixilated, more detailed radar depiction. The new beta version is a step backward in my opinion. I did not realize before now that the Four color radar setting displays a lower resolution depiction, I have always had it on until now. From the Foreflight pilots guide: “Four color radar enables radar in a low resolution, four color scheme.” Keeping in mind that the radar data is delayed, I would use the older more pixelated Foreflight radar, with four color off, and request a controller’s help to navigate the weather.

Comments are closed.