NOVA revolutionises paragliding
Thermic Wizard® – the Thermalling Autopilot
The multisensor-units (MSU) measure the air pressure (if fitted INSIDE the wing they also measure dynamic pressure), acceleration forces as well as position in three-dimensional space. The highlight and an absolutely unique development is the 3D-sensor. It’s a bionic design that was inspired by the human sense of balance: Microscopic sized Monoaprilide Crystals move on a ultra-sensitive concave surface.
A minimum of seven multisensor-units has to be fitted to the wing (for comp flying 11 is the maximum). The main sensor must be placed accurately in the very centre of the top sail. The other six sensors have to me mounted near the leading edge and trailing edge of the wing tips and the middle of the wing. Three further sensors are attached to the harness hang points and in the centre of the cockpit. So-called Tension Measuring Devices (TMD) are fitted to the brake lines. These measure the brake pressure.
All sensors record data 50 times per second, and are synchronised with the tablet PC in real-time. The Thermic Wizard app calculates the airflow in the immediate vicinity of the wing so rapidly and accurately that the required brake inputs can be precisely calculated and sent to the ultrasonic-drive servo system.
The app has three optional modes:
- Auto:The Thermic Wizard recognised rising air and initiates a turn automatically. The app calculates the optimal turn direction, the ideal diameter of the thermal bubble, and the banking.
- Semi:The pilot decides whether s/he wishes to enter or exit the thermal. This permits the pilot to ignore weak thermals, or they can exit a thermal if they do not wish to climb to cloudbase.
- Instruction: In this mode the Thermic Wizard provides a commentary for students. This is an excellent function in case a student would like to learn to fly alone. In order not to harm paragliding school businesses, this function can be disabled. On request, NOVA can provide a quotation for the cost of the source code.
To mount the sensors, NOVA has developed a smart solution: ferrite magnetic holders. These allow the sensors to be mounted on any paraglider. The current models of the NOVA PRION, ION, MENTOR, TRITON and BION are now available in the “TW version“ – they are fitted with the Thermic Wizard as standard. In these models the multisensor-units are elegantly and aerodynamically laminated into the wing.
The miniaturisation of electronic components, ultra-modern position and motion sensors, high-performance tablet PCs, and energy saving data transfer technologies have permitted the development of the NOVA Thermic Wizard.
The project is a close collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Artificial Intelligence and received financial support from the European Union. “Artificial intelligence has always played an important role in Austria, a country with high mountains and inaccessible valleys. We actually depend on it”, explains Wolfi Lechner, managing director of NOVA. “This facilitated a fruitful cooperation with all involved partners.”
The development process is not yet fully completed. “The next firmware update will allow wings to network in flight. The app will show the climb rates and other data of pilots within a 500-metre radius. Of, course the Thermic Wizard is compatible with all current FLARM devices”, explains Christian Wehrfritz, IT specialist and managing partner at NOVA.
With a sparkle in his eye, Wehrfritz explains the next evolutionary design step for the device: “The Thermic Snoopy® will soon be available as an optional accessory. This is a 3D infrared thermometer that is capable of measuring the air temperature within a 500-metre radius of the paraglider – actually detecting thermals! If the Thermic Snoopy is combined with the next evolution of the app, the XC Wizard® app, the set-up works actually like a real autopilot. Using online-tools like Thermixc or XC Planner, the pilot plans a route while still at home. The route is loaded into the app. During the flight, the planned route and the information from the multi-sensors are matched with current real-time internet weather data, airspace restrictions as well as geographical and topographical data. It is incredible! I was able to close a 200 kilometre FAI triangle on my first test flight, and I am known as a less than mediocre XC-pilot.“
According to Wehrfritz, the XC Wizard is technologically ready – providing that powerful batteries, full GSM coverage as well as an extremely powerful tablet PC are used – but a number of legal issues have to be clarified with telecommunications companies and, of course, Google.
The NOVA Thermic Wizard is available from 1st April 2016. The recommended retail price for the Thermic Wizard (including all required multisensor-units, USM-servo system, batteries and magnetic holders but excluding tablet PC) is 3999 euros. The app is free and runs on iOS and Android. The Thermic Snoopy and XC Wizard App will probably be introduced in summer 2016 and will retail at 1416 euros as a bundle.