Four-Armed is Forewarned
Altitude awareness is easily the most important aspect of skydiving and it’s no wonder that audible alert systems were one of the first technological inventions in the earlier days of skydiving. Like most things technical, significant advances have been made, and any device that provides information/feedback during a skydive is a valuable addition to any skydiver’s tool kit.
Larsen and Brusgaard, the foremost authority on altitude-measuring/awareness devices, launched a new product named the “Quattro,” in early 2014. With four user-programmable altitude notifications/alarms, the Quattro has become incredibly popular.
It’s important to understand what an audible offers skydivers involved in precision activities. Once relegated only to scream at a skydiver that they’d missed their point of deployment, audibles are now used for indicating user-controlled altitude alarms, while still providing feedback for deployment, hard deck, cutaway, or other altitudes warnings.
From a wingsuiting perspective, I cannot imagine anyone not owning a Quattro. With the ability to generate seven notifications in flight, wingsuiters have no reason to not be set for exact breakoff points, maneuver points, deployment, entry and exit gate-points for performance training, competition points, and the list goes on and on.
Wingsuiters fall at different rates, and with radically different wingsuits, everyone has different needs and wants. With this in mind, I’ve put together a few bullet points on where the Quattro benefits wingsuiter pilots.
COACHING: Frequently, wingsuit coaches have a “no more work altitude” that is different than deployment altitudes. For example, I want students to not perform tasks below 6000’ but frequently continue stable flight until 4,500. As a coach, I want these notification alarms in addition to my own personal alarms of 3,500’ and 2500’ and my hard-deck alarm at 1600’.
As an FFC/First Flight Course coach, students are given specific tasks at specific altitudes on the climb to altitude. The Quattro provides three “climb to altitude” alarms that a coach might use to remind him of those points where the student should be providing feedback or information. For example, students might be giving a verbal description of the skydive at 5000’ or indicating their countdown and waveoff point at 6,000’. In any event, climb-to-altitude alarms serve a multitude of value.
PERFORMANCE TRAINING: Wingsuiters competing in FAI Performance Categories need to enter their performance gate at 3000m/9842’ and exit the gate at 2000m/6562’ and while the mandatory Flysight can provide these entry/exit indicators, competitors can benefit from a pre-gate announcement that the Quattro can provide, in addition to deployment indicators.
ACRO COMPETITION: In Wingsuit Acro, the competition clock starts as the competitors exit. In non-compulsory jumps, synchronization is frequently part of the jump, and having set points for an action, particularly where wingsuiters may not be facing each other (back to back flying), an alarm or series of alarms can provide valuable timing information. The multiple alarms are also good for notifying competitors when they’ve reached their competitive deck, while still providing the “standard” three alarms for deployment, reminder, and hard-deck.
HIGH ALTITUDE JUMPS: Wingsuiters engaging in high altitude jumps are flummoxed that most audible systems cannot provide feedback above 10,000’. The Quattro is capable of informing the wingsuiter as high as 19,990.
Although the Quattro offers a broad spectrum of alarm settings, users are not required to enable them, and this is one of the features I appreciate most about the Quattro; users may configure the system to be as personal as needed, turning on/off various alarm points.
Wingsuiters focused on performance frequently do not want to look at their wrist or chest mount altimeters if they’ve got a good performance groove happening, and full-face helmets often make it impossible to see chest-mount altimeters when in a performance configuration; an audible provides valuable feedback when cranking a chin around to see a visual may have a negative impact on performance.
The unit allows for offsets, so if the landing area is a different elevation than the point of take-off, audible settings can be user-adjusted if the offset is known. Otherwise, the unit will recalibrate itself every 14 hours to the last MSL point of take-off. Manually zeroing the Quattro is as easy as pressing the center button a couple of times (this is the same procedure for generating altitude off-sets).
As with previous L&B products, the Quattro uses a pair of 2325 batteries, easily found at most any electronics store or grocery store that offers a wide variety of button batteries. In my experience, the batteries seem to be good for about 1000 jumps, or about a year. However, the Quattro and Optima seem to be very forgiving when the battery indicator says “replace me.” I’ve tacked on another 300 jumps after the indicator told me I had an empty battery.
While just about any discipline in skydiving can benefit from the Quattro’s numerous features, wingsuiting is one aspect of the sport that frequently demands “more.” Wingsuiters love data, feedback, and algorithms designed just for them, and the Quattro certainly delivers. It probably helps that some of the folks at L&B are avid wingsuit pilots, and have taken time out to really dig into what makes wingsuiting and wingsuiters just “a bit different” than other skydivers, and in the Quattro, they’ve really done it well. Although I’m not a speed skydiver, I can only surmise the multiple alarms would also benefit the speed discipline.
Several helmet manufacturers have recognized the value of L&B products, and have custom-fit slots for the Quattro (or Optima2, Solo) audible, and some have given exterior access to the audible. One feature I very much appreciate in my Tonfly helmets is that I can access the audible from the outside, letting me know my altitude settings are correct, that my battery is good, and that the unit is active (I frequently turn it off if I’m not going to be jumping for a few days). The unit display turns off after 14 hours, but will reactivate if it senses a climb to altitude. Unless manually turned off, it is always ready to jump. During frequent/daily jump cycles, I don’t bother to turn off my Quattro.
By the way, for the color coordination-conscious skydiver, these are available with custom-configuration buttons, just like the Optima and Viso.
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It is also good to know, when NOT to buy Quattro. L&B does not communicate it clearly enough (for me) but Quattro does not have Approach Guide functionality (which is available in Optima II) that most people use and need. If you need Approach Guide - buy Optima. if you really need 4th high alt alert - buy Quattro.
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