DIY Cell Phone Alti-variometer


[Vlad-Andre] used some of his free time to build an alti-variometer. He does some para-gliding near restricted air space and wanted a backup altitude warning that would help keep him below the mandated altitude. His solution uses the SparkFun Weather Board in conjunction with their BlueSMiRF dongle to measure altitude and transmit it via Bluetooth. From there, he wrote a program to grab the transmitted data with his cell phone and display the information. His application also has the ability to set altitude warnings and log changes over time.

Using this system he is able to get altitude data with 3.5 inch accuracy. Because the capture application is written in Java it should be easy enough to make this work on other cell phone models. The project is clean and works well but we estimate the cost of the parts to be between $250-300, making it out of reach for those who don’t have a specific need for these types of measurements. This is especially true for paragliders who have much less expensive options available to them.
[Thanks Carl-Emil]

7 thoughts on “DIY Cell Phone Alti-variometer

  1. Nice. Seems like a lot of paraglider pilots are hackers. I have to shut off my mobile phone when flying because the RF is strong enough to disrupt the variometer circuitry. The ability to separate the phone from the sensor is a good thing.

  2. I think I know this guy. If it’s who I’m thinking of he’s a bit of a dick because he likes showing off his expensive gadgets. He’s always “Oh yah! These are real expensive but I got them at half price because I’m awesome. No I can’t get you any.”
    Again this might not be who I think it is but the gear looks familiar.

  3. Oh no! I might be heading into restricted air space. Just a minute while I dig out my cell phone – then unlock the keyboard – then scroll thru to the app – then start the app …..waiting ….waiting …..waiting – there we go – nope, I’m ok. SMACK. Guess he needed a spare app to check for the approach of the ground.

  4. I think some readers have missed the point of hackaday!!!!
    “Expensive” is NOT based on intrinsic worth! It’s a statement based on point of view!
    I hack thing to make my expensive photo hobby cheaper, he hacked things to make his expensive aviation hobby cheaper, YOU hack thing to make your expensive hobby cheaper. Leisure aviation may be considered an expensive hobby if it is beyond a prospective buyer’s means. In example leisure aviation is beyond my personal means therefore I would consider it very expensive, but building an old school photo darkroom is not, although some people I know would consider photography an very expensive hobby. I have no desire to build an alti-variometer or to spend 125 buck on the parts of one but after reading the article I was pleasantly suppressed to see a USB temperature and humidity sensor from Sparkfun Electronics because that’s cheep for a commercial application I’ve been trying to solve. So based on the commercial application point of view the same 125$ for parts goes from expensive to cheep. I’m glad I read the article and learned of the part not for a hobby hack but for a business application.

    Parting words to ponder….. Consider the difference between price and worth and priceless and worthless……

    Happy Hacking

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