Andrew Craig reports on a new departure in flight instruments, the Syride SYS'GPS.
As the number, size and complexity of free-flight instruments increases, it's refreshing to find one that goes the other way. Syride's SYS'GPS is much smaller than my old basic vario, but does a lot more.
It fits comfortably in the palm of your hand; more relevantly, hook and loop fastener straps on the back allow you to attach it to your risers, a flight deck, or almost anywhere else. I found that it stayed firmly fixed to the bottom of my risers (it has, of course, a string loop in case the hook and loop fastener comes adrift). It was easy to read in flight, and didn't interfere with speed bar use.
Battery charging is by a USB lead. I think it would survive a week of most pilots' flying quite comfortably.
Straight from the box, the SYS'GPS tells you the obviously useful things: speed, height, and rate of climb or descent. The vario is nicely sensitive, and the volume and even the rising and sinking thresholds are easy to adjust with one hand if you should want to.
Straight from the box is exactly how I used the device on my first few flights, and very useful it was. However, one of the great strengths of the SYS'GPS is the way you can customise it. This involves registering with the Syride website and downloading the SYS PC Tool. You can then set up each of the two flying screens with up to six parameters. The choice is huge: not just altitude, height, flight duration and flight distance, but things like height gain, glide ratio, heading, temperature, and wind direction and speed. I didn't do any careful tests on the accuracy of these last two, but they seemed to me to make sense.
You can pick and mix your own parameters, positioning and resizing each one as you choose, or you can go for one of eleven combinations ready to download from Syride's website.
The SYS'GPS will record your flights, and produce IGC files which can be uploaded to online cross country leagues such as Leonardo. The device will hold up to 30 flights totalling 75 hours. You can also store and display all your flights on Syride's website, which calculates a three-turnpoint XC distance, for free.
Who is it for? If you're buying your first flying instrument, the SYS'GPS is a great choice; a small, high-quality vario with the safety bonus of ground speed always on display. If you're a fly-hiker, you've got everything you need in one small box. The serious XC hound will, of course, want something more, probably with an airspace map and perhaps competition functions. But, since it records your flights, as a backup instrument for XC and comps, or for keeping your flying simple, the SYS'GPS is close to ideal.
I should add a confession. As I packed up after a little cross-country, the farmer whose field I landed in drove up to ask me what was going on. You can guess the result; the next time I flew, 150 miles away, I realised that the lovely new SYS'GPS was still sitting in that field. By the time I went back to get it (luckily I'd marked the spot on my other GPS), it had rained several times. But I found it straightaway, and after a couple of hours on my van's dashboard to make sure it was completely dry, it worked perfectly. I think it's well built!
Small and neat
Good battery life
Great choice of displays
Slightly labyrinthine website features [improved]
Find out more about the Syride SYS'GPS
Review published courtesy of SkyWings magazine