Recent Android mobile phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, and Google’s Nexus 4 have built-in barometric pressure sensors, GPS, and compass capabilities. In other words, you have all the ingredients for a flight computer within the palm of your hand! Combined with XCSoar for Android, you can now turn your smartphone into a first-class glide computer.
For those readers who do not own one of these devices: Do not despair! There’s a good chance that your Android phone or tablet can still be used as a flight computer for Condor soaring simulation.
In this article I’ll show you how to prepare your device for glider flight. In a follow-up post I’ll show you how to get things set up in Condor so that you have everything to get started with cross-country flight simulation using the XCSoar flight computer.
As a Seattle resident, I am biased to use the Washington state area as the setup we’ll configure in this tutorial. You can obviously adjust the map and waypoints files to your preferred soaring location. Note that not all maps are available. Luckily you always have the option of building your own map. However, this is an advanced topic that I’ll keep for a future post.
Let’s get started!
Install XCSoar from Google Play
XCSoar is available through the Google Play App Store. You can find the app by searching for XCSoar on your phone’s Google Play app or by using the Web interface located here. When you search for XCSoar, you’ll find a few different editions of XCSoar. You want to install the standard edition with the blue icon.
Launch XCSoar and bring up the main menu by double-tapping the screen or pressing the menu button on your phone; then navigate to: Config > Setup System (2/3) > Site Files > Site Files. At the top of the window, you’ll find the location of the site files directory at “/mnt/sdcard/XCSoarData” (Galaxy S3) or “/Internal storage/XCSoarData” (Nexus 4). This is the location on your device where you’ll copy the files we’ll download next. You can exit the menu by selecting “Close” until you’re back on the main screen. Note how the main screen is blank at this point. This is because we haven’t yet installed the maps. You’ll do this in the next step. But first; exit XCSoar by selecting “Quit” from the main menu. Again, you should double-tap the screen or press the menu button on your device to access the main menu.
Download Site Files
Download site files from the XCSoar’s Download – Data Page. There are three types of files we’ll be installing on our device: maps, waypoints, and airspace.
- Map database:
- Under “Terrain/Topology”, select “Download Maps”
- Select the “High Resolution Map” under “US_WA_STATE.” This will download a file named “US_WA_STATE_HighRes.xcm.”
- Under “Waypoints”, select “Download Waypoints”
- Right-click the “download” link under “United States” and save the target to the Downloads folder on your computer (or any other location, as long as you remember where you placed the file). This will download a file named “United States.cup”
- Select “US Airspace” under “Airspaces.” This takes you to an external web site where you can find Airspace data under the second tab.
- Download the “Tim Newport-Peace” file. This will download a file named “xallusa.v13.01-10.2.sua.”
At this point you’re ready to connect your Android device to your PC, using a USB cable, so you can copy the files you downloaded to the site files directory.
Make sure your device is connected as an external storage device. You should be able to navigate the device’s file system from Windows Explorer. Consult your owner’s manual if you have trouble accessing the file system or leave a comment here to ask for help. Copy the three files you downloaded to the Site Files location under “/mnt/sdcard/XCSoarData” On my computer, the result looks as follows:
Now that we have all the necessary files available on our Android device, you can unplug the USB cable and configure the system to load these files. We’ll also configure the polar for our glider type to make sure the performance of our ship is taken into account.
Navigate back to the Site Files configuration window (see first step in this guide for a refresher). From this window we will select the appropriate file by tapping on the blank fields, selecting the file listed in the window, and hitting the “select” button. When completed for all three fields, your screen should like the one shown below:
You can now close the Site Files window. Back in the “Configuration Menu” you need to select Setup > Polar and then press the “List” button to bring up a list of pre-loaded glide polars for various models. To keep things simple, I’ve selected “ASK-13 (PAS).” Feel free to select your preferred ship but note that not all models are available in Condor.
Go ahead and close all dialogues. Your main screen should show a colorful map (assuming you downloaded your local area). Your system is now ready for its first flight!
In the next post I will show you how to connect XCSoar to Condor and we’ll make a first cross-country flight using our brand new flightphone.