Live Tracking is now technically realisable and, on the whole, can operate from your existing mobile phone. An installed 'app' will use the mobile phone data networks to send your position back to a central website. Other systems such as the satellite tracking SPOT are available but cost considerably more although they do work everywhere and from all altitudes. This article will concern itself with the mobile data network solution.
MOBILE DATA TRACKING
There are several tracking websites and associated applications. Both Airtribune and LiveTrack24 have been used at hang gliding and paragliding competitions and the technology is the same. Where they differ is on how well it is implemented and they handle and recover from out-of-coverage type of events.
Mobile networks are only designed for ground-to-ground use and carefully planned so that only one cell station frequency can be seen at a time. With altitude, more cells are conceivably visible (although the antennas are pointing towards the ground) and so this used to be an issue for the 2G networks. For 3G, there is no maximum distance from basestation and individual frequencies as such are not used so this no longer seems to be such an issue. However, above 1500' to 2000' expect 'coverage' to be poor.
We are some way off live scoring which works, if nothing else the trackers will need to know the turnpoints so that they can log more frequently when in the vicinity. Otherwise, their relatively low position sampling rate could conceivably miss just clipping a turnpoint. Increasing the rate regardless would just reduce battery life and potentially produce too much information to get back to the website in good time with poor signals.
Dedicated trackers are available, but their only real advantage is being a separate battery. The developments and firmware updates will happen a lot more quickly with the mobile applications. However, you need confidence that they will not drain your battery to nothing before you arrive.
This website is used by many pilots and will be trialled by the UK Comps Panel in 2015. By using living tracking we are taking a step towards live scoring, but in the short term it starts bringing the competitions to a wider audience and can be useful in a lost pilot situation. The following simple steps and guidelines will help you get started:
- Register with LiveTrack24 at http://www.livetrack24.com/register, setting yourself a username and password
- Install a tracking application on your mobile phone fromhttp://www.livetrack24.com/apps/index. For the purpose of these instructions I assume you will have made the wise choice of selecting my "Tracker" for Android.
- Once installed, you will need to launch the application and enter your username and password so that it can send data back to the website. On Tracker this is a single button called "CONFIGURE", press it, tick "LiveTrack24" and move the screen to the bottom to enter these details.
- Set up your details and "Log every" to 3 seconds. I also recommend setting "Start after" to be 200m.
- Try it! Pay particular attention to battery life while it is running for how you have it configured. I strongly recommend turning off WiFi (and Bluetooth) to greatly extend the battery life of your phone.
- When register for the BOS / Nationals, include your LiveTrack24 username
When at a competition, the following steps will get the best and most stress-free use out of your tracker:
- Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth, and fully charge your phone at the start of the day
- Optionally carry a backup phone / spare battery, although Tracker will stop at 20% always useful in case this is insufficient for some reason
- Check that the settings are still as you expect
- When rigging, assuming you have entered a distance for "Start after ... m" you can now press START and stash your phone in your harness so you don't forget. Should you be also using text messages an initial message will be sent when you do so to confirm everything is running.
- Forget about the tracker, and go fly.
- When you land, remember to press STOP as one of the first things you do. If you have top landed, or are relighting and plan to fly again, remember to restart before re-launching.
- If you are using v6 onwards and have ticked and configured "IGC Logger", you will now be able to email your Tracker phone tracklog direct to the scorer