A member of my Northern German soaring club has used the dark winter evenings to work on a new device which helps us to enlighten our airfield's traffic pattern. We can now spot our students and other gliders in the pattern and watch what is going on around our field - even those low flying ships behind the bushes become visible. The new device works with FLARM and FLARM-equipped gliders. We are still testing it, but the first results are amazing. On my desktop, I can watch Aukrug's gliders working in the pattern – well, to be honest I could also look out of the window…
The FLARM®-Radar Project does not provide the same kind of tracking like for example SPOT or Delorme InReach do. It thus does not replace the more expensive systems, but it is a good addition to existing systems to live-track gliders in your local area. The graphic design looks funny, as you will find "real" gliders in different colors on your screen. A great feature is: You don’t need to copy take offs and landings into a paper sheet anymore. FLARM Radar will give you all the necessary data and you can later feed them directly to your club’s accounting system, to calculate flight-times (and money).
The FLARM Radar was invented by the Swiss glider pilot Simon Moser, and his friend Dominic Spreitz helped to further develop the project. They used a Raspberry Pi - the smallest computer you can buy - and connected it to an old FLARM device. This unit can be installed somewhere on the ground (best on you tower). The Pi plots the FLARM data and sends them via internet to the FLARM Radar server, where the user’s interface is generated. You can click here to watch two short demonstration movies. If this does not work on your computer, feel free to try Simon's demo device. While during the weekends my club has activated the pattern tracking you can try to follow us here. As this is a real time tracking, all these systems are only working during European daytime!
If every club in Northern Germany had a FLARM Radar on the airfield, we would probably be able to use the signals of all these different "ground controls" and follow our cross country pilots during their whole flight. Unfortunately a single FLARM Radar does not have enough range to follow a low flying glider far away from home. So an XC-tracking is not yet possible but in theory it might work one day? Another good idea is to connect FLARM Radar to transponder signals and thus enable it to see powered traffic in the areas of glider ports. Fortunately most German gliders are still allowed to fly without expensive transponders…
Meanwhile, she has traveled a bit, flown a lot, and lived in the US.She is happy to now know glider pilots from the US too and says, “they are as amiable as everywhere on the world.” She feels fortunate to have found a temporary soaring home in Boulder, surely one of the best and most scenic places to fly on Earth!
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