Wednesday 12 December 2018

The Supair Delight 3

The Supair Delight 3 is a delightful harness - it really lives up to its name!

This post is loosely related to the Bluefly (in the video below you can see some Blueflys on the Delight 3 flight deck), but is more of a general review of paragliding gear and how it can complement each other.

During over 20 years of paragliding I have only ever purchased three harnesses for solo flying - the harness I got with my first wing, then about eight or ten years ago a Kortel Karmasutra II (I added a pod about six years ago), and now the Delight 3. In this post I hope to describe why I choose the Delight 3, and after flying it for a bit, what I think about it.

In a previous blog post I described flying my Nova Mentor 5. In that post you can read about what kind of pilot I am (classic weekend pilot, and more recently with the occasional comp), and what it is like flying around Canberra (technical, mix of mini xc and ridge soaring).

I purchased the Delight 3 from Mark at Cloudbase Paragliding. It is in his shop here. He was great to deal with and shipped it to me very quickly.

Why the Delight 3?

The decision to move away from my older Kortel Karmasutura II was motivated by its weight and bulk. It is a very comfortable harness in the air, but it is really too heavy to carry up a hill too many times. It is also pretty big, and only fits in my glider bag with a lot of squeezing during pack up. It is lovely in the air, but on launch I was annoyed that it got in the way of my helmet when looking up at the wing, and the pod knocked me in the back of the knees during take-off. I have been looking for the right harness to come along for a while.

There were a few features I was after in new harness - lightweight, pod, integrated flight deck, and good back protection. The Delight 3 had all of these. I trusted the excellent reviews by Flybubble and Ziad and decided to order one. Read those reviews as well as this to consider if this harness is for you.

First Impressions

I have the Delight 3 size M. When I first put my 180cm - 77 kg frame into it I thought I might be right near the top of the size - it was not too small, but it was a bit tight around the hips. However, I was doing the adjustments under a hang point on the ground, and the risers were not wide enough apart to simulate being under a wing. On the ground, I initially let most of the adjustments fully out.

Since then I have flown it a few times in very rough thermic conditions and very gentle smooth ridge soaring. Every flight I have adjusted everything a bit tighter and now feel that the size M is perfect for me. All of the adjustments have ended up at about the halfway point. Adjusting a harness to match your flying style can be a bit finicky, and this is especially the case for lightweight gear. Now I have tuned the adjustments, the Delight 3 is exceeding my expectations.

The video below shows the harness in the air during a very early morning ridge soar at Lake George. Please forgive my sloppy camera work and editing.

Comfort On The Ground

The harness fits nicely into the Nova glider bag with my wing, and I still have room for helmet and lots of other things. I have been really surprised the difference 4 kg makes. Sure, it is much better for hiking up a hill, but I also notice how different it is just putting the glider bag in the car and putting it away when I get home.

When strapping in ready for launch it feels much more comfortable than my old harness, although the attachment arrangements are very familiar. The integrated flight deck sits a little awkwardly prior to launch at first, but it really only took me one launch to get used to ground handling with it. Overall I can ground handle much easier, actually tilt my head to look at the wing, and the launch process feels a lot tighter.

Pleasant Flying

After launch I found it easy to get into the pod and into sitting position. I still need to adjust my pod straps a bit more to make them tighter, and this will help pull the flight deck closed a little more. The small seat board allows some weight shift control, and when I managed to work out the adjustments any tightness was gone. I like flying a little more upright than many pilots, and the semi rigid back supports that really well.

I like the extra feeling this harness provides compared to my old one. The Mentor 5 is a high end B wing, and the extra feedback through this harness allows me to squeeze a little more performance from a broken thermal. In the rougher conditions I was thrown about a little, but not too much and it actually gave me more confidence that I could fly the wing more actively.

The flight deck position is good, and as you can see in the video above is perfect for the Bluefly :)

Quality Features

This is a top quality harness with some great features.
  • Flight deck. The integrated flight deck is large enough for two main instruments, and one or two little ones. For comps I will end up flying with a Bluetooth model of the Bluefly that I will use for audio, an Android phone running xcosar, the Kobo Mini + TTL_GPS Bluefly, and a Spot. There is enough room behind the flight deck for a backup battery, radio, lunch, and other random things. I like the added extras such as the little loops and clips for attaching instruments, and the hole for a charging cable from the backup battery to the phone. 
  • Reserve. The reserve configuration appears smart and accessible. I am flying with a full size reserve, and was able to pack it so that it fits, but can still be test thrown without too much force. 
  • Pod. Nice things about the pod include the magnetic closure clips - they just seem to work. The way the speed bar is attached makes it easy to access - but is it still kept out of the way.
  • Internal pockets. The internal pockets on each side under the risers are really handy. One side has the tree attachment carabiner and cable (the one I used for the camera in my test flight), and the other is the same configuration internally but without the cable. I put my camera on a selfie stick in that side. 
  • Passive safety. I am familiar with the benefits of passive foam back and under seat protection. I am probably alive because of this kind of protection after a bad accident a few years ago. 
Overall Impressions

I am super happy with this purchase - it really is what I was after. The harness is a great match for my high end B wing, works well with my instruments, is comfortable on the ground and in the air, and has a bunch of features that I wanted. I am not sure that I could suggest any improvements to the Supair designers.

Friday 7 December 2018

BlueFlyVario_TTL_GPS_v12 firmware update

Today I have released a firmware update for the BlueFlyVario_TTL_GPS_v12 (firmware version 12.219). This update changes the way data from the on board XA1110 GPS is cached by Bluefly processor and multiplexed with the normal Bluefly output. Updating the firmware on a Bluefly attached to a Kobo requires that it be removed, so this post also describes how you can use an xci file to adjust the GPS without having to update the firmware.

When the TTL_GPS_v12 model of the Bluefly was released the GPS module was upgraded. The new XA1110 GPS module communicates with the Bluefly processor over UART at 115200 baud. A few months ago some issues were found when using the Bluefly with LK8000 that we thought that were being caused by occasional errors in the communication. This knowledgeable article describes how to change the baud rate as a workaround.

However, additional testing discovered that in some circumstances (such as when tracking a lot of satellites), too much UART data was being sent from the XA1110 in a short time and the Bluefly could not keep up. This was causing errors in some re-transmitted GPS sentences, and some sentences were even being dropped. Location sentences are being transmitted successfully, which is why initial testing did not pick up the bug.

The firmware update described in this blog post allows the Bluefly processor to cache the GPS data in a more robust way. Many hours of testing suggests that all GPS sentences will now be transmitted without error.

Thanks to those Bluefly users who helped us workout the bug.

What models are affected?

The bug affects BlueFlyVario_TTL_GPS_v12 (with the XA1110 GPS/GLONASS module) shipped between initial release on 7 Jul 2018 to and 27 Nov 2018. Varios shipped from 28 Nov 2018 date have the updated firmware.

This firmware update does not apply to the Bluetooth_USB or USB models of the Bluefly.

If your vario is installed on a Kobo and you are running xcsoar you can see what version of the firmware you are running by starting (or restarting) the vario while you are looking at the Device monitor (Menu|Config|Devices|Monitor). See the image below which shows the firmware loaded on this device is version 12.218.

What should I do?

If you have firmware 12.2.18 there are a few options:

Option 1 - Do nothing. If you are happy with the performance of you vario, and it is installed on a Kobo on which you are running xcsoar, then you may wish to do nothing. This will be ok for some pilots, but if you are using your GPS tracks for competitions or want increased confidence in the performance of the GPS then I recommend option 2 or 3.

Option 2 - Change the baud rate. Changing the baud rate between the Bluefly processor and the onboad XA1110 is a workaround which provides a reliable fix. If your Bluefly is soldered to your Kobo, and you are running xcsoar, then this is probably the easiest thing to do. You can change the baud rate in two ways:
  • Use the baud rate update procedure described in the knowledgebase article.
  • Use the BlueFlyDebug_28Nov18.xci file to send the same commands to the Bluefly to change the baud rate, but without  having to disconnect it from the kobo. See Nev's extensive information on xci files here for more information on how they work. To to this:
    1. First download the xci file to your pc, then get it onto the Kobo in the xcsoardata directory. 
    2. Load this xci file to create the BlueFly menu using Menu|Config|System|Language,Input|Events
    3. Restart to apply changes. 
    4. Look at the monitor (Menu|Config|Devices|Monitor) to make sure the BlueFly is running by seeing the data is streaming in. The GPS sentences are the ones starting with $G
    5. Check that your new BlueFly menu is working and that you have two way communications with the Bluefly. (Menu|BlueFly|SimulateButton). You should hear a beep as if you were pressing the button on the Bluefly. If you don't hear anything from the Bluefly then there is probably a problem with physical connection and you will need to fix that before continuing. 
    6. Go into the GPS Adjustments menu (Menu|BlueFly|GPS Adjustments). 
    7. Press Menu|BlueFly|GPS Adjustments|GPS Command Mode. That sends the command PGCMD,380,7 which puts the XA1110 GPS into command mode. Note that xcsoar adds the appropriate checksum and end of line information to the command. 
    8. Press Menu|BlueFly|GPS Adjustments|XA1110 9600 Baud. That sends the command PGCMD,231,1 which adjusts the XA1110. 
    9. Fully shutdown and restart the Kobo. This ensures that the Bluefly, and its attached XA1110 GPS, are fully powered down and restarted. The baud rate changes to the GPS do not take effect until you have done this restart. 
    10. Have a look at the device monitor again. Now you should not see any GPS sentences. We have adjusted the data rate from the XA1110, but now we need to adjust the rate of UART 1 on the Bluefly process so it picks up those sentences. If you do actually see GPS sentences before you have adjusted U1 then you might not have successfully done step 6, 7 and 8. 
    11. Change the Bluefly U1 baud rate by pressing Menu|BlueFly|GPS Adjustments|U1 Baud 9600. 
    12. Look at the monitor for the last time and you should now see GPS sentences again. The GPS Tx baud rate is 9600, the Bluefly U1 Rx baud rate is 9600, and if you have the defaults the Bluefly U2 Tx baud rate is 115200, which allows it to keep up with the GPS information. 
    13. Note that I have also included buttons for adjusting U1 back to 115200, and also for adjusting the XA1110 baud back to 115200.
Once you have done that, you are still running the older firmware, but the U1 baud rate means that the Bluefly processor with that older firmware can keep up with the GPS data sending rate without errors. 

Option 3 - Actually update the firmware. To update the firmware you will need a USB serial adapter, the Bluefly must be removed from the Kobo, and you will need the ds30 loader from the firmware page. Removing a Bluefly from a Kobo can be tricky, and if you are not very practiced with good soldering techniques then it is likely you will damage the Bluefly, the Kobo, or both.

The firmware update procedure is the same as for the v11 as described here:
Alternately, you can ship the TTL_GPS back to me and I will update the firmware for you. If you want to do that please contact me and I will send you the address and instructions.