Sometime last year, I got to use a borrowed bluetooth gps receiver. Since then, I have used various combinations of gps receivers with smart phones and software that can munch on the data and spit out something useful.
Last month while flying from NY to Portland, I used my macbook to log gps data using –
cat /dev/bt-serial-port-1 > gpsdata.txt
That gave me raw NMEA data from the GPS device. Used GPSBabel to convert that data to Google Earth KML and here is what I got.
What I really wanted to do was to track my flight training sessions on gps and plot them on google earth. There were various problems. First was that I did not have a bluetooth GPS unit of my own. I borrowed a Teletype GPS receiver from Siddharth (another gadget fiddler) sometimes. Other was that I did not have a smart phone kinda device to log that data on the move. Last november, I picked up a Nokia E50 from India which runs a decent version of Symbian. I tried a bunch of cool GPS software for symbian but none of them did what I needed. There were also a lot of problems with the GPS receiver’s accuracy.
There were a lot of sophisticated options available if I had a palm or a windows mobile device. So I borrowed a Tungsten T for a few days and among other experiments, tried the combination with Soaring Pilot. That worked really well. Soaring Pilot is designed for glider pilots but it worked well for my use too. So I went and bought a Treo 680 hoping that I can mount it on the yoke. It turned out that basic SoaringPilot features worked fine on it but when transferring the logged data out of the device, it crashed and rebooted the whole device. Bad! Maybe the next version will fix these problems.
I was back to where I started.
A few weeks back, Mrinal posted a GPS route which he recorded using his Nokia phone. I was thrilled to know that it recorded altitude data too. More than that, it could export the data to google earth format directly. That was *exactly* what I was trying to do. After some initial problems with making the Nokia E50 talk to the bluetooth GPS, I finally figured it out and the results have been amazing.
So, a few days ago, I was flying with a friend who has his own airplane. We flew for about 4 hours in total. He has been trying to log hours like crazy for his commercial rating. We flew down south from Aurora Airport to north bend and then flew for a few miles over the beach at 1500 ft. following US101. That side of Oregon is *really* beautiful. Here is the Google earth file to prove it. Load this file, zoom in and try tilting. With the ocean on one side and lush green jungles on the other, it was just amazing. After a fuel fill up break at Corvallis, we headed back to Aurora airport.
After a successful data log, I decided to log my first solo flight to the West Practice Area. Here is the result. Load in google earth, zoom and tilt for best results. There is a lot of data missing from the point I took off and then just before I landed back at Hillsboro Airport. That is because of the crappy 8 channel GPS receiver I have. I ordered a better unit yesterday and it should be here by tuesday.
For now, I am happy with what I can do with my existing resources.