The Skytraxx Beacon is an Electronic Conspicuity (EC) device designed to alert other aircraft to your presence, and to record your flights in IGC file format. It looks very simple, with just an On/Off switch, two LED indicators and a micro USB port. The two LEDs cover charging and status. The charging port is used by a large number of smartphones, and a charger used for them can be used on the Beacon.
The Beacon uses the FLARM and FANET protocols. FLARM is used by gliders and rescue helicopters, and FANET is an open source protocol that can be used by hang gliders and paragliders, and smaller powered aircraft. Once you have activated both protocols on the device, you will be seen by instruments with FLARM and FANET protocols running (like the Skytraxx 2.1 pictured above). If you want to be seen on the Open Glider Network (OGN) with your own choice of name you will need to register with them. Find out more about how flight alarms work.
Skytraxx Beacon: setting it up
Configuring your Beacon is easy, connect it to your computer (Windows/Mac/Linux) as a USB hard drive (often called a mass storage device) and edit the text files that control the device. You will also be able to access your IGC flight tracks this way. The Beacon does not require any drivers to be loaded.
Once the device is set up, it only needs to be charged and switched on before every flight, and off at the end of it. The LEDs on the front indicate status, with the speed of flashing used to indicate different states. One flash every second means the device is fully functional. The battery is good for 25 hours, and the device takes 30 seconds to boot up.
Skytraxx Beacon: who is it for?
It makes a good back up IGC logger for important XC flights or competitions, with the added bonus of registering on the FLARM devices carried by sailplanes making high speed transitions close to cloudbase, giving them a better chance of avoiding a collision with the pilot carrying a Beacon. There is also the sharing of situational information with other FANET devices and with anyone interested over the Internet. You can, for instance, share your location on cross country retrieval sites like XC Retrieve, for faster retrieves and to let friends and family know where you are. You’ll need to link to this site via a (free) Livetrack24 account.
The Skytraxx Beacon is an ideal way of adding EC to your set up if you have a flying instrument that you are already happy with and just want the extra safety of being seen in more ways than one. It also allows a group to fly together with a coordinator using a Skytraxx 2.1 or 3.0 to see the location of all those with a FANET+ instrument or device like the Beacon, their altitude and climb or sink status.
Report by Steve Uzochukwu