E-reader Becomes Sailplane And Paraglider Computer

sail [Tweepy] flies unpowered aircraft, and he’d like to use the XCSoar flight computer app for gliders, sailplanes, and paragliders, but couldn’t find any hardware. XCSoar is an amazing app that can keep track of terrain, route, thermals, and a whole bunch of other variables that make flying more enjoyable, but running it on a device useful for a hang glider pilot is a challenge.

He eventually found a nearly perfect device in the Kobo mini e-reader. It’s e-ink, so it’s sunlight readable, uses a glove-compatible resistive touchscreen, runs Android, and is dirt cheap. The only thing lacking was a GPS receiver. What was [Tweepy] to do? Mod an e-reader, of course.

The electronic portion of the mod was simple enough; serial GPS units can be found just about everywhere, and the Kobo has a serial headers on the board. The case, however, required a bit of thingiverseing, and the completed case mod looks fairly professional.

With a few software updates, new maps, and of course the phenomenal XCSoar app, [Tweepy] had an awesome flight computer for under 100 Euro. The only thing missing is an integrated variometer, but a Game Boy will work in a pinch.

Comments

  1. JLO says:

    What a great application for e-ink. A true “ah ha” moment!

  2. thommm says:

    I fly gliders aswell, and last year I’ve seen this hack atleast twice I think. There are complete tutorials on many forums, but still, it’s a very nice hack.

  3. goja52 says:

    I really like the concept of the spacer to get more room inside the original case.

  4. pflopf says:

    Afaik the touch screen is not resistive, but uses ir-leds and detectors.

    • Andrew says:

      You must be new here.

    • Greenaum says:

      Nope, it’s either resistive or capacitive. I think I recall it having multi-touch, which needs capacitive.

      • Ryan says:

        First, it doesn’t run android, it’s embedded linux.
        Secondly, yes, it is IR grid. Had you actually used one you’d know this. No, my comment isn’t based off “I think I was something with kobo written on it a while back, and it was totally resistive!” I have one. The kobo site has this in specs. Tear the thing apart and you’ll see the sensors. It’s IR grid.
        I can forgive the touchscreen thing, but confusing an embedded linux device for android? That’s like calling a FPGA an arduino.
        This site is getting worse and bloody worse, now writers just repost the blogs of the people behind the projects, which, for the majority of the time now, is just things people have done with no more knowledge necessary than to get it working, not understanding a fraction of what they did.

  5. Fred says:

    Is it really running android? I also have a kobo mini and mine is running some sort of embedded linux.
    Nice build nonetheless.

    • Old'un says:

      XCSoar runs on Linux. AFAIR, the Nook runs Android (I have one squirrelled away somewhere…)

      • dombeef says:

        The nook touch(the eink one) definitely runs android 2.1, ive been using it for a while now, although this is a kobo eink reader, and from what ive searched up, you can install android 2.3 onto it, which is pretty surprising(im now considering one, since my nook cant run as many apps on the old software)

    • Greenaum says:

      Pretty sure it doesn’t run Android, I swapped my Kobo Mini for a Kobo Touch, there’s not a speck of recognisable Android on them. They are Linux though.

      How do people run Android on it? I’m surprised by that. Will give it a look…

      I like my Touch better than the Mini. Main difference is the bigger screen. Others are that the Touch doesn’t have chess, which is one of the many things that crashed my Mini. They both have annoying badly-implemented Sudoku though. And a surprisingly decent web browser. In general though software-wise they’re a bit shabby outside of narrow usage parameters.

  6. Markus says:

    You can even by it (kobo + XCSoar + gps) as a kit or a finished product with built in vario and extra battery here: http://www.goflyinstruments.com/store/ .

    The price is quite reasonable, less than I paid for my flymaster gps vario a few years ago, an this is a much more advanced instrument, if not as rugged.

    • rasz_pl says:

      all sold out, something about extended batteries not clearing china customs :/

      • Markus says:

        I think that was about to sort it self out soon:
        “I am currently waiting for 3 packages with batteries (using 3 different carriers and 2 suppliers). One package landed yesterday (21 May) in USA an scheduled delivery is next Thursday.Other packages are going by DHL (also should be here next week) and MalaysiaPostal (in 2-3weeks). After I receive all packages I will be good to fulfill old orders and accept new ones.”

        But yes, the lead time would probably be quite long if you ordered now.

  7. Pilot says:
  8. Pedro says:

    or…. he could just had bought a bluetooth gps for 20$.

    • Liam Jackson says:

      You’d still need to hack bluetooth into the kobo. A bluetooth serial adapter would work I guess but why add wireless and a second device to charge up?

  9. CJ says:

    Uhm, a GPS-based variometer is included in xcsoar…?

  10. Oddly enough the referenced one. Using a GBA to provide the feedback that the Kobo can not provide does not have any details that be found on a separate site.

  11. Alas, I checked and there’s no iOS version, although there is one for OS X. Given the built-in instrumentation of an iPad, including GPS in some models, it’d be a great port. No hardware hacks needed.

    –Michael W. Perry, Across Asia on a Bicycle

    • Mike Lu says:

      It’s unfortunate that GPS is over a $100 option on an iPad. Even the $200 Nexus 7 has GPS as a standard feature.

      • Greenaum says:

        My phone was about 70 pounds British ($100-ish?) 3 years ago. A Samsung Android, 320×200 screen. It’s got GPS. Course it has. Cos Samsung aren’t just in the business of ripping off hipsters and idiots. It’s got Wifi and Bluetooth and all the other stuff too.

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