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hackish

Bluetooth LE Canopy recovery report

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I've been watching the small bluetooth LE technology as it's been evolving. I'm not a fan of GPS based cell network technology because of its size and $100-$200 price tag.

I purchased a Tile 2 which uses Bluetooth LE. It was $25USD and lasts about a year on a non-replaceable battery. It is definitely small enough to be safely installed in a d-bag.

I simulated a lost canopy by sticking it in the park by my house and hanging it in my hedge to simulate a real canopy hiding spot in the woods. An ipad was able to pick it up from about 50ft away when obscured by bushes/trees. Clear LOS on it gives about 100'. I used an embedded MCBT40 bluetooth LE USB development device on my laptop and got it from about 150-200'.

When you read the specs 75' doesn't sound like a lot but when you're wandering around with the tile stuck in your hedge it's a lot further than it feels like reading this at your desk!



I had hoped for more so I desoldered the chip antenna from my receiver and put on a standard YAGI PC board antenna optimized for 2.4ghz. I picked up data from the tile from the end of my street which I estimate to be about 500'. It was not great but hanging the tile from a string in a tree definitely improved the range.

Here is what I think so far:
a) At $25/unit the technology is affordable but isn't a guarantee you'll find a lost canopy.
b) universal compatibility with most smart phones means practically everyone at the DZ has a receiver already.
c) Bluetooth antennas on phones are not great but a dedicated receiver could improve range.

I'm going to play with the idea a bit more when I have time but I thought some real world test data would be helpful.

-Michael

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Nice work!

How do you find GPSes that cost $100-200? Mine only costs about $35 including taxes and shipping.

Would love to see a real test of the device.
I made two test jumps last summer with GPS units.
First one landed in the middle of the field as I planned.
On the second jump the thermals had picked up some and the test became 'for real'.


A very quick edit of the jump and geting it back.
Have fast forwarded when nothing out of interest is happening.
Before anyone says anything about it, everyone knew what I was doing and the plan was for me to stay up for as long as possible and let everyone else come down to a safe low altitude where my PC would not be an issue.
https://youtu.be/Qbnv5tEdkaQ

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I got a Lapa 2 recently, and my experience with the range is much like yours: had to get within about 50 ft with a smart phone to detect it. (It holds the signal much farther if you move away, so the best test is how close you need to get before it "finds it", as opposed to how far you get away from it before it loses it).

50 ft would, IMO, be of only marginal benefit, as it's much shorter than your visual range (unless the canopy was in a really densely vegetated area).

A dedicated receiver that has nearly 500 ft range would be ideal. In that case, it would be worth a DZ shelling out more $ to protect all the canopies they own (tandem and rentals). And then fun jumpers could borrow that to find their own.

(BTW, the Lapa has a user-replaceable battery, so yearly cost for the unit after purchase would be just a the cost of an inexpensive battery. Otherwise I suspect the technology is similar to the Tile.)

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hackish

***Nice work!

How do you find GPSes that cost $100-200? Mine only costs about $35 including taxes and shipping.



I have never seen a GPS unit sold for that price. That ioda one was around $150 when I looked at it. Do you have a link?

-Michael

Sure!

You need to buy them in China.
Alibaba.com
But be aware, there is a bunch of frauds there.
I have bought from three different peoples (or companies, I honestly don't know. Could be someones toilet that is the office for all I know)
Anyways, I have no complaints on any of those three.

I got what I orderd, some of them are more problematic to get to the point of actually making the buy/sale but once the deal was done they kept their word.
Also be prepaired to get spamed after the sale is done. They always want to to buy more the next day.
And they will keep on doing this for a few weeks.

On Aliexpress however, there seems to be more frauds.
Aliexpress is meant for normal people buying one or two units, but alibaba is mainly a buisness 2 buisness page.

I orderd from a guy on aliexpress and he kept trying to change the order after the deal was done.
Trying to tell me customs would not allow him to send unit X but unit Y is OK to be shiped out of China.
After a week of him trying to change it his time was up and I pushed the "fraud" button and got my money back. No issues at all with that.

Alibaba however does not have the fraud money back thing as far as I know.

One thing to keep in mind.
What I have learned both from reading what others have written and own observations, if a Chiness does not answer "yes". That means they will not do it.
They will most likely not answer at all because they don't like to say no, but it does mean no.
Do not try and force it.

When I have more time tomorrow I can give you some links to devices I have bought and tell you how they did not work ;-)

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One of the trackers is lost and not suitable.
It was a flat, and large as a cell phone and white.
No place to attach it, meant a pocket had to be made.
Pocket opened, tracker fell.


This one is probably the best I have found.
I did not buy it from this company, it was someone else. Same product.
http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/2015-New-Factory-Mini-Waterproof-Pet_60087623974.html?spm=a2700.7724838.30.84.x20I8w
I tested the unit and got about 12 days battery time when laying in a window poor cell and GPS reception.
(it goes in power save mode but wakes up every now and then to get a new GPS position. This took a long time because of the poor reception.)
Very good mounting for a main, easy to build.
Type 4 bindning and some flat dacron and it's a very "tight" mount on the d-bag.
The only problem was the on/off button.
I tried to ask for a special software which made it turn on off as a cypres but did not get a "yes".
They confirmed that it was possible but kept trying to stay off the topic.


The next one was this unit:
http://ningmore.en.alibaba.com/product/60170926875-220437413/2015_long_battery_and_mini_size_child_anti_kidnapping_gps_tracker_with_free_tracking_site_and_APP.html
I actually think I found the company I bought this and the one above from.
It's a nice device. Waterproof with about one week battery if I remember correct.
I thought I could attach it to the metal clip, and it worked fine for a few jumps.
But after each jump the unit got less and less waterproof as the clip opened the device more and more.
After about ten jumps I took it off.
Again problems with the on/off.
I bought it because he claimed it was "hard" to turn off. It wasn't.
This one also has a special connector to charge it, which makes it hard(er) to charge when you need. The others use a mini/micro USB.


The issue seems to be the forces on the everything as the canopy opens.
I never thought it would be so hard on stuff.
But with the "correct" way of mounting it, spreading the load, it is possible to have something there.


The problem seems to be the on/off.
I have thought of opening one and trying to replace the on/off with a old classic on/off (slide switch left/right), but it seems there is some programming controlling the on/off.
To turn on you just push the button.
Off you need to push once to "wake it up" and once again to switch off.


If I ever build one from scratch I would have a reed switch as on/off.
That would be awesome.
Just set a magnet close to the unit and it turns on/off.


All of the devices I have bought and have asked for manuals on are the same software.
You can easily see that they all work the same and all the commands (or most of them) are the same.
Probably that is the reason why I did not get the "yes" on building a special software to the device.

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From what I can see it's more like $50-$60 per unit plus the cost of a SIM card, which for us is going to be about $80 and $40 per year. With that, you also need to charge it once a week. That means 2x the number of units versus rigs, swapping them out for the first jump each week. Too much maintenance!

Would the DZ justify $40 per rig? Probably. $100 per rig+$40 per rig per year? I think that's where the problem is. I definitely believe that a cell/gps unit would be best but I don't see the technology and pricing yet.

-Michael

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Charge it once a week?
There is a off button.


Did you get a quote on $50-60? Sounds steep.
Where do you get the $80 from?
Sounds as if you are just tossing numbers in to the air. Are you sure it has ground to land on?


Regarding your sim card. Sure.
Can't argue since I don't know whats on offer over there. But here you can buy prepaid sim cards.
Cost is about $7-10 to buy and will last you many years.

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Hellis

Charge it once a week?
There is a off button.



They specify that the battery will last 300h in standby mode. That's 12 days. A dozen jumps per week is a conservative estimate. 7 days battery life is not unreasonable based on these estimates. Operationally, getting someone to swap units once a week is already a no-go. Are you suggesting that someone open and close 20+ rigs at the start and end of each day?

Hellis

Did you get a quote on $50-60? Sounds steep.



Straight from the horses mouth. $39/unit is in quantity 50. They will do $45 per unit in smaller quantities. Shipping and duty is extra. $50-$60 per unit landed is quite realistic.

Hellis

Where do you get the $80 from?
Sounds as if you are just tossing numbers in to the air. Are you sure it has ground to land on?



There are ways to ask where numbers came from. Some are respectful and some are not.

Hellis

Regarding your sim card. Sure.
Can't argue since I don't know whats on offer over there. But here you can buy prepaid sim cards.
Cost is about $7-10 to buy and will last you many years.



The cost of a SIM plus their activation fees add to about $80USD per unit. I checked both rogers and bell and neither would waive either the $50CAD activation or the e911 fees. Under a corporate plan, data can be shared but based on 20 rigs it works out to about $1250CAD total or $40USD per rig per year.

At the end of the day, GPS/cell technology is better for our needs but cost prohibitive. For this reason my review is focused on the coin sized bluetooth LE devices. The downside is range but the upside is cost and size.

-Michael

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