Why the Kobo?

Hardware

To date, eReaders are the only true sunlight readable display that can fully cope with strong & direct sunlight that pilots typically experience. Luckily for us, the Kobo is not just dumb screen, but also a capable/reliable minicomputer (equivalent to a basic 2010 laptop), and brought to us at low-cost due to its volume production at mass-market consumer levels (upwards of 17 million units produced). Both 5” and 6” screens are available.

Software

The ultra-reliable open-source soaring software XCSoar was ported to run on the Kobo back in 2013. XCsoar is now 15 years mature, and is backed by a enthusiastic and professional development group and large, worldwide user base. The software is suitable for beginners and advanced users alike; the beginner simply starts with a cut-down ‘configuration’ which can be mastered in minutes, after which the more experienced user can easily modify/tailor once acquainted.

Proven over 4 years and many 1,000’s of units

Since 2013 pilots around the world have been tailoring Kobo’s. Many units have been home-built by individuals, and there are a few semi-commercial sources around the world offering ‘modified’ Kobo’s. All the lessons have been learned and the trialling/testing period is over; its now recognised as a reliable navigation tool

Instruments

There’s a plethora of potential instrument choices, but the proven and recommended one is the ‘Bluefly‘ Vario+GPS. Whilst many pilots may already have a vario (just mute the Bluefly and keep as a backup) the barometer of course supplies barometric altitude, giving you a total solution of precision in all 3 dimensions.

What is the Bluefly?

The Bluefly is a small stand-alone GPS and Barometric sensor with an audio vario. Based in Australia, Alistair Dickie (Mr ‘Bluefly’) makes three variants (Bluetooth, USB and TTL), and its the latter ‘TTL’ version that was created with the Kobo in mind. Al has cleverly combined both the GPS data and Barometric data into one ‘serial’ feed (a process known as ‘multiplexing’), which is fed to the serial port on the printed circuit board (PCB) inside the Kobo. Unlike the mass of other ‘new-world’ small instrument providers who also supply ‘packaging’, the Bluefly arrives as a native PCB, enabling pricing to be kept to as low as just 30% of the nearest low-cost competition. Whist the Bluefly electronics are shrink wrapped after wiring (this alone is adequate protection), units supplied by Get High Stay High have a plastic shroud for additional physical protection, which is open at one end to maximise the audio (which can be muted). See more at blueflyvario.com

3. The £55 Bluefly GPS + Barometer

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Fully sunlight readable navigation aids for pilots of Sailplanes, Paragliders, Hangliders and Microlights