Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Windsock Pole Support




One might imagine that to think up a method to stake/anchor a windsock pole wouldn't be much of a problem, but finding a satisfactory solution ended up vexing me for several years.  

If you're like me, you'll want something light and portable, and that will go into hard ground without too much effort, and conversely, come out again without a struggle.

You'll want it fairly stable too, or it will lean in soft ground, or sand.  Too short a prong, and it will fall over if the wind picks up.


A pound-in stake requires something to pound it with, and a suitable rock, or whatever isn’t always handy.  And a mallet is just more weight to hump for those really out-of-the way launch areas.  And a pound-in stake can be troublesome to remove sometimes.

If none of these issues bother you, however, just grab a section of rebar, sharpen one end on a grinder, attach a section of pipe with some hose clamps, and away you go. 

Weld on a T-bar, or an L-bar, to help stamp it into the ground, (and pulling it out later) and you're even better set up.

I’ve tried this approach, along with a bunch of things to stake windsock poles over the years, but my favorite so far is a spiral, screw in style dog stake.  My local Dollar store had them for sale a while ago, for a buck plus tax, and I'm sure millions of them went out to other dollar stores and pet stores across North America.  I’ve also seen them on Amazon in the four to eight dollar range.   

I used hose clamps to attach a short piece of plastic pipe with an interior diameter just slightly bigger than my pole.  It’s very stable in all ground, (short of frozen ground) and the stake goes both in and out without much effort.  

Mine weighs in at 350 gr, (12.3 oz) including the clamps and pipe, and after I cut the dog chain ring off.  They are 16" long, so I just toss it in the wing bag with my pole and sock and I'm ready to hike.


An alternative, completely store-bought option you might consider are one of a variety of fishing pole holders. 

I bought the pole holder below at a garage sale, but because it's so heavy, I only use it on the rare occasions such as group events when I use my fairly heavy, very long, "Blue Sky Powered Paragliding" pole.
This one looks to be somebodies homemade project, but I see similar looking rigs for sale at fishing supply places, and Amazon.  The pipe is 12" long, on a 20" stake, with a 14" L-bar coming off to the side at an angle.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paraglider Wing Mount for GoPro


Want a GoPro wing mount for paraglider wings that can be made for under only a couple of bucks?

I used the plate that came in the GoPro retail box, which is a real, working mount, but which many people just throw away.  Hopefully you didn't, but regardless, the project can be made instead with a standard flat adhesive mount fixed to a piece of plastic cut from a VHS box, about 4" square.

I bought these ¾ cup magnets magnets from Lee Valley tools.  The part is 99K3905.
You get six cup sets for $4.80, of which you'll need four to complete this project.


http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=58750&cat=1,42363,42348&ap=1
The other advantage to these cups and the steel washers they will attach to is their countersunk holes, which allows them to be very securely attached to things using pan head screws or nuts/bolts. 


Any rare earth magnets could of course be substituted for these Lee Valley guys, but they would have to be mounted in some less reliable way than with nuts and bolts.

Each of these rare earth magnets comes with a countersunk steel base plate, and a shallow ferromagnetic cup that the magnet will fit into. "Cupping" these magnets has  the effect of focusing the magnetic field - increasing the magnets pull in one direction, while reducing the magnetic effect behind the steel base and sides of the cup.

A description of this effect can be found here, in the column “Making your magnets work harder.” http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=40077&cat=1,42363#7

These cupped magnets alleviated some of my fear of having 4 strong magnets loose in my life, that might accidentally come near any sensitive electronics, credit cards and so on.  The mount when stored isn’t anywhere nearly as “hot” as uncupped magnets would be, as the field  around and behind the magnets seems very weak, but they cling to their steel washers tenaciously.  

To make the mounting plate, I just drilled a hole in the display mount that new GoPros come with, and  bolted on the magnets using #6 machine screws and acorn nuts.  Any square plate could be used, however, along with a flat adhesive mount, but the plate will free up your adhesive mounts for something else.
I used plastic from a VHS tape box to make the other side, and because I’m obsessive, I covered it with nylon fabric using contact cement.  The countersunk washers that are included with the magnets are held on with #6 bolts and acorn nuts from Home Depot to keep in line with the GoPro acorn nut aesthetic, and also, because the acorn nuts are smooth, and the mount could be worn against the skin if it was clipped to a T-shirt.
Using only four magnet sets feels like more than plenty to secure the camera to the wing.  Each one has a holding force of about 16 lbs, so the camera isn’t going anywhere, short of a catastrophic event of such magnitude, that the safety of my camera will not be foremost on my mind. Side view showing the cupped magnets attached to the countersunk washers.
Side view showing the cupped magnets attached to the countersunk washers.
                               And a view of the pilot from the GoPro and Wing Mount in action. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adding headphones to a ski/snowboard helmet



I wanted a second helmet for cold weather flying and a ski/snowboard helmet seemed like a logical choice.  But I also wanted to add headphones, partly for motor-sound attenuation, (because I don't like ear plugs) but mainly to also have a communications and/or music option when I fly. 

You can use whatever headphones you like, starting with basic sound protection head phones if all you want is hearing protection, or add NAC communication headphones, or any other Peltor offering, right up to top of the line Peltor Powercoms.  

I started with this guy, a pretty standard-looking, snowboard helmet that I picked up used, but in good shape.  I don’t think these things cost much more than fifty bucks or so brand new, however, because they are not specialty branded for aviation.
I unsnapped the removable earmuffs from this helmet and tossed them.

Then I marked where a pair of OpsCore style, "FAST" helmet rail mounts would go.  (Ten dollars from Aliexpress/eBay.)  These rails will not only be a mounting platform for the Peltor headphones, but can also accommodate cameras, and lights, and PiccatinnyWeaver rail adaptors.  And they neatly cover up the cut section you will be making, leaving a neat, professional appearance.  I drilled ¼” holes on each side which will both mount the rails and fasten new, slightly-longer, chin straps that will allow room for the headphones.
Shown below: Emerson Airsoft ARC rail helmet mounts.  Ten dollars, with free shipping from aliexpress. 
Next, I popped out the helmet’s Styrofoam insert.  (Which took a little effort.)  I used a flat head screwdriver to pry it out, a bit at a time, like opening a can of paint.  It’s snug, and the insert may be spot glued in a couple of areas.  Mine was.  Eventually I heard the glue crack, and out it came.  

I used a rotory (Dremel) tool with a cut off wheel to grind off the rivets holding the old chin straps.  Then used 1/2” webbing to make new, longer length straps, using the hardware off the old straps.

Once the rails were positioned, I carved away some of the helmet material, to let the headphones ride up a little.  Without this cutting, the headphones won't work with any ski helmet I've looked at.
Then I did some corresponding reshaping of the Styrofoam insert.  It was no trouble to reshape the lining to fit my cut styrofoam.
As you can see from the first picture at the top, the straps are going to have to be longer so they can fit around the headphones.  You will need some good quality web strap material, of the same width as your existing chin strap, so you can reuse the chin strap clips.

Reassemble the helmet, and try it on, using duct tape to temporarily attach the new straps to the outside of the helmet to figure out the exact length they needed to be.  Then cut to length, heat sealed the ends with a match.
I  folded them over, and glued the fold flat using a little epoxy and a clamp.  
I punched a ¼” hole in the folded ends once they were dry.

Then I used a ¼ - 20 T-nut with the sharp points ground away. (I'm referring to the four sharp, prongy looking thingys seen below.)  T-nuts without the prongs aren't available at my HomeDepot, but can be found online (eBay) or you can buy a set purpose-made for attaching straps to MICH helmets, but cutting, grinding, or otherwise removing the prongs from commonly availabel T-nuts is simplicity itself.
Finally, I attached the straps using ½” long machine screws and a washers.
The rails fit fairly well to the contours of the new helmet, and now the unit is ready to attach Peltor style rail mounting hardware.  These are the clips that attach the headphones to the helmet. I found an inexpensive source here: http://cryeprecision.com/P-ACCPA100000/Airframe™-Peltor™-Adapter-Set
They were only $8.60 plus shipping. 




I bought some "hard hat"  headphone ear defenders off Amazon for under fifteen dollars, http://www.amazon.com/3M-Peltor-Optime-Attachable-Earmuff/dp/B0017YEMYI/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1381365622&sr=8-2-fkmr2&keywords=peltor+hard+hat+ear+defenders and used the phones, and the steel wire clips to integrate with the Crye adapters, and that was it.

You could of course just attach these hard hat headphones to your ski lid, (once you made an appropriate cut in the helmet shell) and using a single T-nut at the appropriate spot, but you would still have to lengthen and spread out the straps.  And the whole project would probably look kind of cheesy.
I don't mind homemade gear, but I don't like it to look homemade.  Those FAST rail ARC rail things, make the project easy, and the final outcome looks reasonably slick.
If all you want is music, you can look at my post on adding music speakers to NAC headphones.

Or check out the post on Peltor Powercom Plus headphones.  

Bluetooth is probably the future of PPG comms, however.
Pilot Jeff Schaber has worked out a mod for adding a SenaSmh5-FM motorcycle Bluetooth comms set, (which runs about$96) to Peltor headphones.  These incorporate a pair of speakers which will fit inside the Peltor headphones, and a boom mic.
You can read his post (105306) on the Yahoo group PPGBiglist, and see build photos here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ppgbiglist/photos/album/1666397605/pic/list 

Want to further pimp your lid?
Add an NVG mount to attach your GoPro.  Aliexpress has them with shipping for $11.95  My homemade NVG GoPro mount link can be found here.
I have come to prefer shooting GoPro footage with the camera right on the front in my NVG mount, as there is no danger of getting a piece of my helmet in the shot, as has happened several times in the past using an adhesive mount on the top/front.
And search eBay or Aliexpress for "Helmet Velcro".  I like having a little 3M velcro on the helmet to attach my iPod and helps keep my goggles secured.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rescue Flotation devices for PPG/SAR - REVIEW


STEARNS - MAN OVERBOARD AUTOMATIC INFLATABLE LIFE RING

Throws like a baseball and automatically inflates is under five seconds.
Provides over 17lbs of buoyancy when fully inflated,
Inflates to 23" outside diameter.
Ring has three reflective panels per side. 
Breakaway, Velcro-sided storage pouch.
Two webbing straps on the ring for towing. 
Inexpensive rearm kits – Three for $35.59 http://www.columbussupply.com/products/?productid=3811 
This device takes up very little space.  It is just about exactly the size of a paperback book (of about the 500-page range), and very light at 369gr. (13oz)  The dimensions are 6" X 3.5" X 2" It will fit in one of the side pockets of my Nirvana Rodeo harness.
It comes in an orange, polyester, Velcro-sided storage pouch.  The "breakaway" sides allow the inflating device to pop open when immersed in water.  The case has elastic loop, that allowed me to add a nylon belt, (not included) I can wear it around my waist, or with the belt looped over my neck.  
It could also be rigged to be permanently attached to the comfort bars of a paramoter
NOTE: It is not US Coast guard approved because of its limited buoyancy. 
On the plus side, the thing is light, compact, and better than nothing.
$139.00 from Stearns
$50-$89 bucks on eBay.  (I e-stalked them on eBay and managed to pick one up for $39)

MUSTANG SURVIVAL - RESCUE STICK
Incredibly easy to use, the Rescue Stick™ provides rapid flotation assistance to a person at risk of drowning. Simply remove the baton shaped Rescue Stick™ from its waterproof bag and throw near the person. Once contact is made with the water it inflates in seconds to a large horseshoe shape keeping the victim afloat and their head above the water until help arrives.
Measuring only 14" in length and weighing 15.5oz, the Rescue Stick™ is the most versatile rescue flotation device available. Easily stowed in a boat, vehicle, backpack or by the pool it will be accessible when and where you need it.
The Rescue Stick™ is an invaluable tool for police officers arriving first on scene to provide emergency flotation when no water rescue gear is available. During a swift water rescue, fire departments can throw the Rescue Stick™ to the victim to keep them afloat while a rescue plan is put into action. Lifeguards can easily throw the Rescue Stick™ to someone in trouble to keep their head above water until rescued. Recreational boaters can throw the Rescue Stick™ to a man overboard while maneuvering to get them out of the water.
                Can be thrown accurately 100 feet or further
                Automatically inflates in seconds when immersed in water providing rapid emergency flotation
                Offers 35lb of buoyancy - twice the flotation of a typical life jacket
Easy to repack and reuse - insert a new bobbin and screw in the replacement handle containing

$149 on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Mustang-Inflatable-Rescue-Stick-Automatic/dp/B000XBB24E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363014747&sr=8-1&keywords=rescue+stick+mustang
$120-$149 eBay. I've never seen one drop much below that.
Rearm kits run between $45 and $55 http://www.amazon.com/MUSTANG-REARM-KIT-RESCUE-STICK/dp/B001J318CQ

SIDE BY SIDE
If you or your organization is serious about SAR, I'd go with the Rescue Stick.  It's bulkier, and more expensive, (and also more expensive to rearm) but the additional buoyancy could make a significant difference.  The Stearns unit is tiny and compact, however, and quite a bit cheaper in price, and would be easier to keep more or less permanently attached to your motor.   And as I said, it's better than nothing.
If you fly around water and beaches long enough, it seems to me that sooner or later a throwable flotation devi

Reducing RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) in PPG Communications

This post is a summary of some suggestions on ways to mitigate or eliminate RFI (radio frequency interference) when using handheld radios and communication headsets.  These suggestions came from recent posts on the Yahoo group PPGBiglist.

Robin Rumbolt, a PPG pilot and engineer at Oakridge National Labs made a video on how to combat radio/electromagnetic interference from PPG motors.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeEo54Rau2Y&feature=youtu.be
He explains that if you are getting static in your headset the cause may be the proximity of your radio to your spark plug and ignition wire, which during operations also generates a radio signal that can result in static on your radio.  This RFI can also override the functionality of your sub-channels  if you use them, and even mess up your GPS.

He suggests you first try relocating the radio, or using a lower power setting on the radio if that's an option.

If that doesn't resolve the problem, Robin said that the best way is to eliminate the electromagnetic interference is by shielding the ignition wire.  He shows how in the video, and to accede to many requests for assistance, he sells a DIY kit to do this for $35.00.

He suggests that you take this in steps:
-Start by just replacing  the spark plug, and trying a resistor plug instead. (The resistor counterpart of your existing plug has a letter "R" in the label.)
-If that doesn't work, use a regular plug and replace the cap with a resistor cap. (Don't use both at the same time, however.)
-Then try shielding the cable as per the video instructions above.

If this still doesn't,t completely eliminate the interference, then try shielding the kill switch wire in your throttle cable. Robin's $35 dollar kit also includes a length of shielded cable for this as well.

Keith Pickersgill, of www.xplorer.co.za had this to say about killing  static, or perhaps even random shuffling on your iPod Shuffle while flying:
"Move the MP3 player to as from the radio antenna as possible. Use the shortest possible earbud leads. Shorten the earbud leads by passing them through a ferrite bead (snap core choke) a few times. Your earbud leads are acting like an antenna, bringing surplus RF energy into the MP3 player."

The more wraps the better. Here is what mine looks like, with six wraps around a fairly large ferrite bead of about 12 gauge or so.  This is six wraps around the bead, which also helps manage some 15" of speaker wire.
Robin Rumbolt agreed about the ferrite bead:
"Radio Shack sells a couple of different kinds of snap core chokes - 273-069 or 273-104. (See http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3012599)
Wrap the wire a couple of loops through the choke just after it comes from the iPod. That might help if the EMI is getting in through the iPod wire."
"The choke adds inductance to the wire. Inductance stops currents from changing rapidly. Hence, high frequency currents are blocked or at least greatly attenuated. Pushing the PTT button causes your radio to transmit. The high requency signals from the radio causing frequency currents to be generated in the cable. The choke "chokes" them. Simple! Lot's of other stuff going on, but that's the simple explanation."

The only down side is that if you are flying with pilots who don't have this modification,  they
may still transmit with all their noise and static.

Pilot KJ in Biglist post #105013 adds:
"I use (substitute) USB cable for the Tach and kill switch wire as well. Even the cheap Ebay
tachs that come with a single wire work well once equipped with that cable type.  Audio cable works far less well, probably too much capacitance. Unlike a TinyTach these are not potted so a new cable is quite easy to install."

Gene Davies had this to say about radios:
"We build lots of ground ops headsets and flight helmets, and one thing we have found is to stay away from the ICOM line of av-band radios. They are predisposed to (RF) feedback problems and are almost completely useless with a headset. ICOM even put a disclaimer on one of their web pages that these radios are for ground use only."
"The VERTEX-YAESU radios do not have this problem and you can find a new one for a pretty decent price at several on-line pilot shops. Despite the claims otherwise, they do not work particularly well with commonly used electret microphone elements. We prefer the use of a specially designed electret or an amplified dynamic mic element such as ones produced by Acousticom."

The pilots who contributed to the original discussion can all be contacted at the open forum PPG Biglist.  Robin can be reached at flyguy@knology.net


NB: If you are looking to dramatically improve your airborne radio range and radio signal many times overwith minimal expense and just a few hours work, look into the "Wonder-Whip" radio antenna for Paragliding and PPG flying a project post by Keith Pickersgill of Xplorer Ultraflight, Cape Town, South Africa at http://xplorer.co.za/wonder-whip/

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Peltor PowerCom Plus Review: Wireless communication for PPG


PELTOR POWERCOM PLUS REVIEW

Most PPG pilots are familiar with helmets that come with the ubiquitous NAC 2000C Intercom system combining Peltor communication headphones with built in PTT button on one ear cup, and a gooseneck microphone on the other. These headphones work in conjunction with 2-way radios that we wear on our clothes, or harnesses, and are connected to the headphones by a cable. 

I've just test flown a set of headphones from Peltor, that actually have 2-way radios built in, which eliminates the need for an external radio, radio harness, connective cabling, and more importantly also eliminates any time spent hooking into the system.  It really makes a difference to be able to just put my helmet on, push a button, and be commed up.  Nice.

And because the internal radio electronics are so light, the phones weigh barely more than my NAC headphones, 366gr as opposed to 331gr. That's only 35gr more, or just a little over an ounce!  However, by eliminating my radio (A Garmin Rino 130) I lost 8oz (229gr) and another 3.5oz (100gr or so), getting rid of the spiral cable, and a further 6.9oz (197gr)  getting rid of my radio harness. In my case alone, my PowerCom Plus' meant a reduction of 1.3 lbs (591gr) off my flight weight.  Very nice.

The headphones provide hearing protection and noise reduction up to NRR 25dB, and the two-way radio has 22 channels and 38 private sub-channels at 460 MHz with a two-mile range. 

There is no visual display on these headphones to indicate power levels or channels, but instead, they use "Ghost Voice" a proprietary name for the verbal messages the user hears when he/she activates the power button and scrolls through the functions. At first, I thought that the lack of display was a handicap, but the three-button operation is both easy, and intuitive, and it means you can easily change frequencies, or power levels, without taking off the headset.  And that means even while flying. 

SPECIAL FEATURES
SURROUND MODE: The PowerCom Plus models have exterior microphones on the ear cups. These allow you to choose to listen to ambient noise around you, such as conversations, announcements, perhaps even warnings, all while safely suppressing potentially dangerous levels of external noise like motors. Even a sudden dangerous sound like a gunshot is instantly supressed to no more than 82 db.  There are five sensitivity levels and an OFF level.

The dual mics are stereo and omni-directional so you can even tell what direction ambient sound is coming from.


VOX MODE: VOX is Latin for voice.  On two-way radios it means Voice Activated Transmission. 
This feature is great for flying in turbulence, as you don’t need your hands to operate the PTT.  And a student pilot will have one less thing to think about.  There are five levels and an OFF level, and you can access VOX mode, and turn it off again anytime you want, by a quick double tap of the PTT switch.

In VOX you are still operating in Simplex mode, (in contrast to a telephone conversation which operates in Duplex mode) so only one transmission at a time is possible, and the aviation radio communication convention of saying, "Over" remains useful. 


If you choose not to use VOX, the PowerComs are adaptable to a Remote PTT switch on a patch cable, that can be clipped to your finger.  (Part #TK56) $64.57 from Amazon, or you can use the built in PTT button on the right ear cup.


I spoke to a PowerCom specialist at Peltor who recommends adding a foam windscreen for paragliding operations, particularly in VOX mode, so that wind won't activate and key the mike.  (Part #M995)

You can order a Peltor Boom Microphone Windscreen from $11.99 (plus shipping) from Optics planet. http://www.opticsplanet.com/peltor-comm-spare-parts-boom-microphone-windscreen-m995.html however, you can substitute a great many other manufacturer’s windscreens for a whole lot less.  

Foam mic windscreens for telephone headsets can also be used.  This $3.99 (incl. shipping)  eBay guy fit perfectly. Mic Foam Headset Lapel Windscreen Gooseneck Conference Table Pro Bulk 10mm#0647 It has a a 1.78” (44mm) length, and 10mm inside diameter, which stretches just enough to fit snugly over the boom mic, and enough room to add a mini - 4.5" (2.5mm) zip tie if you want.  

An eBay search of headset windscreens, came up with a variety of other options, including bulk packages.  Not quite a dime a dozen, but as low as about ten bucks for five. I ordered these guys to try them out. EZ32 32MM Large Headset Lapel Microphone Mic Windscreen 
Foam windscreens don’t last forever, so it’s nice to have spares.  

I'm also thinking about wind tape.  I heard of this lately, HYM1000 Single use protective microphone tape, (moisture and wind proof) that may help cut wind further, even if its mostly designed for hygiene

protection of shared radios.

THE AUXILIARY PORT:  can accommodate a variety of patch cables for cell phones, alternate two-way radios, and other electronics like iPod or MP3 players.  I asked the Peltor rep about sound quality for music when using the optional 3.5mm patch for an iPod.  (Part #FL6BT) The response was,  "While the headphones are true stereo, they are not designed for music.  "They provide reasonable sound quality. But they are by no means equivalent to dedicated music phones."


Fair enough.  But that made the purchase of the Peltor patch cable (at approximately $80.00 plus shipping) less attractive, and part of the appeal of the PowerCom was to get away from wiring altogether, so I opted for the music mod that I did for my NACs.  I ordered another  set of  ($4.95 including shipping) motorcycle helmet speakers off eBay, from the same dealer I dealt with before.


Within two weeks the new speakers had arrived and I fit them inside the ear cups behind the soft foam separation.  Unlike the NACs, these new earcups were pretty crowded with electronics already, but there was still lots of room for the new speakers.  (This time I used a small file to make a very discreet cut in both the ear cups and the plastic base of the ear pads to allow the speaker wire into the phones.)


These auxiliary speakers terminate with a 3.5mm plug already, and this are now permanently fixed to my helmet ready to be plugged into either my Yaesu scanner or my iPod.  Whenever I Velcro my iPod to my helmet, the cabling remains essentially wireless, at least without cables running off the helmet to points on my body.


Others may prefer just to wear standard iPod earbuds with the wiring running under the headphone pads.  This will work well on the PowerComs, which unlike the NACs, have soft foam instead of a hard plastic plate, and thus there won't put pressure on your ears like the NACs cause.


Running the wires under the earpads isn't especially uncomfortable, but  my Peltor rep had a suggestion for this too: Peltor Gel Filled Ear Pads, (Part #HY80) are a desirable and luxurious upgrade, whether you plan to run wires under them or not.  And they work on NAC headphones as well. These gel pads are very comfortable, and conform to every head perfectly.  They feel cooler in hot weather, and actually improve the sound seal for better attenuation. The standard foam seals that come with the headphones will degrade over time, eventually resulting in poorer acoustic performance and discomfort.  Gel seals are available from Amazon or direct from Optics Planet for 65.99. I've seen them as low as $45.74.



COST:  PowerComs are crazy expensive straight from the bigbox distributers.  Amazon has them for $592.00 at the moment.  There are eBay based dealers as well, but if you e-stalk them a little, you'll see that they regularly go for less than half that price. Just have a look at the number of "completed auctions" (in advanced search) that will have sold over the last few months.  I actually picked mine up brand new on an auction, for under $100.00, and over the last year I've seen several go for around that price.   And there are usually plenty of used units around as well.

Compare those prices with new NAC headphones and cabling from any reputable Paraglider Supplier.  NAC (standard) comms are $140.00 (US Wingnuts.) And then you have to factor in the price of a decent radio.  My Garmin 130, costs around $300.00, but that is more radio than most pilots probably need, it being more about the other features like a built in altimeter, and mapping programs, and stuff.  However, even the simplest Cobra radio is going to set you back $50 to $100 bucks.  And then consider the weight penalty, and the inconvenience of cables.

So if a NAC setup is ultimately going to cost a minimum of $200.00, you might want to check out the PowerCom option and its Santa-Sack full of options.


And if you're searching for a helmet, I'm still very happy with my $89.00 OpsCore knockoff from eBay.  Whatever your helmet, you will need some kind of hardhat style connection points for any style of Peltor headphones. That is, if your helmet/phones don’t have them already.  Basic hardhat connectors can be had for as little as $10.00 for the style that will adapt to most regular flight helmets, or skater/ski style helmets.  All Peltor headphones, (headband, neckband, or hardhat) all have the same snap-in connectors for interchangeability.



OTHER FEATURES:



SQUELCH MODE: Five levels, and an off level.  Squelch helps filter unwanted radio frequency noise, that's that background static, or the hiss that you sometimes hear as background noise in your headset.  Squelch mode is a no-brainer operation - If you hear static, try another level.  When set properly, the speakers are quiet between transmission.
TWO POWER LEVELS:  Low power will mean lower energy drain on the batteries, but upping the power level for extended range may be selected as required.

REVIEW:  

Two thumbs up.  I really think these phones are cool.  I'm happy with the weight savings, but even happier losing the hassle factor of clipping on, and into a radio/harness.  I like the boom microphone they provide, compared to my NACs flexible-wire gooseneck.  It is quite a bit smaller and can be retracted to become smaller still, and it becomes very low-profile when folded up and out of the way.  I've had a few blown launches when the larger, stiff, goose neck on the NACs caught the brake line.  Remains to be seen how this mic will fare in a similar event, but we'll see.



The VOX feature has a fraction of a second delay between speaking and transmitting which takes a little getting used to.  The first word spoken triggers the mic, but is not heard by the other party. So I got in the habit of beginning each transmission with a random word, (I chose the word, “Transmit."  So a typical message message might be, “Transmit, This is Paramotor One. I’m coming in to land. Over.”  The listener hears: "K-K-K-(satic)-mit, This is Paramotor One..."

As sender, you know how the message is going through, because you can hear your own voice transmissions in the ear cups, somewhat like the NAC feature called Side Tone.

Surround is very useful on the ground for carrying on pre-flight conversations, but listeners reported cleaner sound when it was turned off for on air transmissions.  It took some time to get used to the feature, as at first kept pulling my phones off my ears whenever someone walked up to me, the way I had to do with my noise cancelling NACs.  Eventually, I got used to it, and found that it's a very nice feature.

On one flight, I was picking up some electronic hiss, in the air.  I never experienced it with my NACs but it just might have been distant other traffic on that channel.  Squelch took care of it on the ground. But I need a few more tests to know what is really going on. 

At volume level four, (out of five) I could barely hear my ground party when flying.  This wasn't a problem on my next few flights, and I suspect operator error from below, in that she might not have been holding her Rino radio close enough to her mouth, and was also sitting in a car which might have been causing interference.  Static can be  caused by RF but also old batteries,  Tilting a handheld radio can reduce range as well.

It was easy to switch channels, and increase volume to five with Ghost Voice while flying.

The buttons were hard to manage while wearing winter gloves and I had to remove my right hand glove to change modes. I wonder if this could have been lack of familiarization with the button location, because on the next flights wearing lightweight gloves, I had no problems.

PTT is on the right hand.  This suited me because I have a left-hand throttle.  But this mght take right-throttle people some time time to get used to.  However, the VOX feature largely eliminates the need for PTT, and using a remote wired finger PTT is also a possibility.   Or just switch out your throttle for left hand usage and start enjoying the use of your right hand for camera adjusting, and etc.  Heh.

Once I got my buttons sorted out on the ground, these headphones really are as convenient as I'd hoped they'd be.  One button to turn on, and I was commed up. 

NOTES:


VOX: Voice activated transmission.  Emergency Double-click on PTT to engage/disengage.  Five levels decreasing in sensitivity from level one.  OFF - Hold Level One for one second.
OFF:  The headphones will automatically turn off after two hours, if no buttons are pressed, or you can press and hold the middle control button.  For some reason, the manual neglects to mention this.




Friday, April 26, 2013

Chase-Cams: Homemade, How-to, and Where-to-buy


HOMEMADE VERSIONS
The Original ChaseCam
The maiden flight (with build instructions) can be seen here:

The first ChaseCam can be credited to Doron Dekel, an engineer living in Toronto.  He introduced his MK4 edition in the video above, way back in August 2010, and has been tinkering with it ever since. 
I watched some of his very early experiments as he was originally testing the idea, including seeing at least one GoPro get destroyed in a prop strike. Maybe its because I saw this happen myself, that I can appreciate better than most people, the effort, and expense and personal risk that went into these early experiments.  No one thinks much of it today, but until Doron resolved all the issues, most people would have though the idea of tying something to a brake line, and dragging it behind a flying paraglider would be pretty nuts.

My first experiment with my own home-made ChaseCam, also helped me appreciate Doron's contribution to the sport.  As I went about sorting out the optimal length of the tow-line of my own ChaseCam concept, I recall feeling how strange the camera felt with the extra drag on my wing.  And I remember how weird it looked as it swung and oscillated behind me, like I was being chased by a particularly demented and very angry eagle, up very, very close.

Trust me.  If I hadn't known the concept had already been tested and proven by Doron and others, my first flight test would have been my last, and had it been up to me, the ChaseCam would never have been invented.

Doron also invented the “Wing Scruncher”, a method of reducing the area/size of trike wings smaller (after launching) to make them faster, and is currently experimenting with a device to wheel-assist the footlaunching and landing backpack paramotors.

Further detailed instructions on Doron’s homebuild can be found here:

Some ChaseCam how-to’s have no mention of a "breakaway link" at the trailing edge of the glider to ensure that the chase cam will fall away in the event of a tree snag.  Doron uses keychain rings at either end of the tether, which will open up at about 10 kg. (22 kg) I’ve experimented with a 4” (100mm) zip tie which has a breaking strength of about 7 kg (15lbs)  Much better to lose the camera then have a crash.

Coke Bottle ChaseCam
Coke Bottle ChaseCam
Coke Bottle ChaseCam
ArrowCam

COMMERCIAL CHASE CAMS

WingmanCam
$199.00 AU Looks like a nice pro-build unit using expensive, but lightweight carbon fiber tubes.

GoPro FollowCam
$225.00 This is a version developed by and sold by Paratoys.

CopilotCam
$69.95 This one is pretty new, and looks interesting, at the very low price.
I think it incorporates some out of the box thinking, including the idea of hanging the camera upside down, and shooting in inverted mode.