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Thread: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Schleicher ASW-24
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    SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    Pete-98 suggested here in the Forum that the Sailplane Tracker is the current optimum tool to see what's happening. I thought it would be good to make a special entry and comment on that site - just for the record, and also, to help people understand how to use the site.

    the web site is... http://www.ssa.org/sailplanetracker/default.asp?

    At the moment, Mozilla Fire Fox is not displaying the SSA Tracker properly, so use Google chrome - it works fine with the Chrome browser.


    When you look at the displayed page you see the map of the USA on the right, with the date displayed below the map, and you can see the names of gliderports in the left column.

    Frist, display the map of the USA if it is not already displayed: click USA in left column.

    The black pointer triangle on each row of the left column is the action button. Click on the black pointer triangle to activate the display.

    Then, select the correct date of the flights below the map.
    Then, go back to the left column, scroll down and highlight Williams Gliderport (Ca).
    Click on the black pointer button, and you will see all registered SPOT tracks flying from Williams on your chosen date.

    Click on the map to zoom in

    scroll across the time line to see locations of each individual ship, and any given time.

    That is a very cool page.

    Pete-98 tells us the work was contributed by volunteer pilot, who's name I don't have at the moment. A nice contribution to our soaring community, much appreciated by all.
    Last edited by Peter Kelly; 09-15-2013 at 10:42 AM.
    Peter Kelly

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    74

    Re: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Kelly View Post
    At the moment, Mozilla Fire Fox is not displaying the SSA Tracker properly, so use Google chrome - it works fine with the Chrome browser.
    I'm not sure what your definition of 'not displaying' is but, for me, FF displays the traces but the SSA site is pretty consistently at least 30 minutes behind the traces you can see on the individual SPOT pages. And sometimes the SSA page seems to outright miss messages. This was true on Sat. and I remember it being true during contests. For instance, this year at Hobbs it could be futile trying to follow the gaggle due to lack of updates. But if you went to a specific pilot's SPOT page you could get 'current' info.

    In my experience, if you want reliable following, go to SPOT. It's too bad because having everyone on the page at once is great.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    636

    Re: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    Even on spot page, the data can be delayed up to one hour, occasionally much more.
    one more thing to add about the SSA tracker, is that by clicking the weather checkbox you can get cloud overlay. What's so cool about it is that it is animated, and stored. So if you want to check how the clouds looked on certain day in certain area, just scroll to that date in the tracker.
    unfortunately the tracker does not recognize when someone using their spot for other activities such as driving, which can be confusing.

    Ramy

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Schleicher ASW-24
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    Re: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    Thanks Andy and Ramy for those inputs and observations. Very valid and much appreciated comments for everyone's awareness, I'm sure.

    As for the Fire Fox (FF) display of the SSA Tracker--- I was using an older ( as in out of date) version of FF on the VSA computer at the gliderport, and, just as advertised on the SSA intro page, I had to switch over to Chrome in order to see the traces this past weekend. Larry was out flying, instead of updating the VSA computer! We might have to cut his pay in half if he doesn't start doing a better job of keeping the software on our VSA computer up to date! Oh wait zero divided by two is still zero (never mind that previous suggestion). Let's not cut his pay.

    I had a personal email exchange with a SPOT technician myself last month, because I thought my unit might need replacing- since it wasn't reporting properly. They said the SPOT system was undergoing maintenance at the time when my SPOT was not reporting. In my case there were no reports for several hours on my position, or for several other pilots flying that afternoon.

    As pilots, who are always expecting cause and effect relationships, or as computer savvy people, who are able to diagnose and repair system errors, we are frustrated by the SPOT system. It's unfortunate the SPOT system is not more reliable.

    I looked into the DeLorme system called "inReach", but cannot verify that it would be any more reliable or responsive in actual instant/ reliable reporting. All of these systems rely on various communications links and massive amounts of routing to get a given pilots position displayed, within a few minutes of real time, onto other peoples personal computer screens. The inReach costs more than what SPOT charges ($150 / yr for tracking reports). InReach has various "plans" but just a "Seasonal-Recreational" plan (4 month min) will cost $40 / mo. Or, you could get a "Safety" plan which debits your credit card/ account $0.25 for each track point reported. That could add up over a couple of four hour flights, but $12 isn't unreasonable for a weekend of reliable flight following (6 reports / hr x 4 = 24 x 2 = 48 x .25 = $12) ( plus the $10 for the monthly charge). For 10 of such flights per month for 6 months that would be $600 (24 / flt x 10 flts x 10 mos = 2400 reports @ .25 ea = $600 (plus $60 (at $10 per month)). But you could check into their Expedition Plan - that would/ might be cheaper for you (unlimited reports for $65 / month (4 mo. min)) (65 x 6 = 390). In any case, don't take my word for it (or my fuzzy math); check it out yourself on the inReach site ( Google it - like I did).

    IMHO, dealing with and understanding the inReach system is very akin to dealing with subscription and "hidden" charges that are found in systems such as phone companies (cellular or land line(coax cable or twisted pairs)), TV (sat or land line) or computer connections. None of the companies I have referred to above are philanthropic organizations - that's for sure.
    Peter Kelly

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Santa Rosa, CA
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    Re: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    Peter,
    Sorry I was flying and not updating the Pilot's PC. (NOT!)

    I too have been perplexed by the SPOT service. I haven't flown much this year, but have done so vicariously using by viewing the SPOT pages from home. So the large gaps leave me wondering at times.

    I agree with Peter, InReach's pricing structure is like trying to pick a Cell Phone vendor, then attempting understanding the huge bill after you sign up. As far as I know they could all be using the same satellite system, just different ground links.

    So I visited the SPOT FAQ page to see if I was doing things correctly. The only real thing I discovered is:
    Keep the Spot 12 inches from any other GPS system.
    It sends only one message at a time, they say it will "interleave" messages into the tracking. Some of the FAQs are not that clear, but the more I read the more I am sure that it stops sending tracking messages for about 20 minutes if I send an OK or Custom Message.

    Below is what I copied from the FAQ pages: ---------------

    SPOT accepts interference from other electronic devices and should not be used in proximity to anything that generates strong electrical fields such as airports, radio towers, other GPS devices, etc. Other devices should be at least 12 inches from SPOT to prevent distortion of GPS coordinates and interference with message transmission.

    Track Mode and Check-in or Custom Message mode can be activated at the same time. The device will interleave the messages minimizing breaks in track information when sending messages. Only one message mode (Check-in or Custom Message) can be active at one time.

    OK messages may not be used in conjunction with any other feature. If you wish to activate Tracking, you must either wait for the OK cycle to complete or cancel it by turning the unit off and back on.

    You must let SPOT complete the 20-minute OK cycle outdoors in the open to ensure best message delivery success. At the end of the 20 minutes, the light over OK will stop blinking to indicate the cycle is complete. If it is still blinking after 20 minutes, then you have put the unit into tracking mode. Since they share the same button, if your SPOT is in Tracking mode, you must cancel tracking before you can send an OK message. A good rule of thumb is if the OK light is already blinking then you cannot start something new. OK cycles do not have a cancel function. To terminate an OK cycle before it’s natural 20-minute end, you must power the unit off.

    Help and 911 may be activated at the same time. Tracking will automatically cancel if you activate HELP or 911.

    SOS mode will deactivate all other modes.

    SPOT highly recommends that you use only non-rechargeable Energizer™ Ultimate 8x AAA Lithium Batteries to achieve reliable performance.
    Always carry extra Energizer™ Ultimate 8x AAA Lithium batteries with you.

    If you are in an emergency situation and you have alkaline or a different type of non-rechargeable AAA lithium battery with you, SPOT may be able to intermittently transmit messages but you may experience the low battery light and sharply degraded performance and battery life.

    ----------------
    Overall, the price of the SPOT is pretty good for the service delivered.
    ~ Larry Roberts

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    636

    Re: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    I've been using regular alkaline batteries, and other than the shorter life, I did not notice any difference. For most people who fly much less than I do, regular alkaline batteries may last for almost a whole season...

    Ramy

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    636

    Re: SSA Sailplane Tracker - See Gliders inflight in Real Time!

    I should add couple of things:
    1 - To show up on the tracker you need to either register in the SSA web site or on the tracker web site http://glideport.aero/
    2 - It works fantastically well on iphone/ipad. Way better than the extreemly poor spot site. And as I just learned, you can even bookmark individual airports and add them to your home screen.

    Ramy

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