U-Blox helps skydivers know where they are

  • October 28, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

U-Blox’s positioning technology is helping aerial athletes improve situational awareness for making safety decisions while in freefall.

The Swiss company’s GNSS technology is being used in a smart altimeter for skydivers, paragliders, wingsuit pilots and other aerial athletes.

The Dekunu Technologies One SmartAlti is a body-worn altimeter that provides a similar quality of information about a user’s altitude and position in the sky as pilots receive in their cockpits. A large, clear display ensures skydivers can always access that information easily. This helps with their situational awareness and enables them to make smarter decisions about their own and fellow skydivers’ safety during freefall.

Dekunu Technologies was started by Brent Chandler, a skydiving and technology enthusiast in Australia. Chandler couldn’t find a product that provided all the information he felt he needed during a skydive, and so decided to build his own. After 11 rounds of prototyping, he came up with the hardware platform for a smart altimeter.

The SmartAlti is on sale with a feature set that brings cockpit-class information to skydivers. It will be refined over the long term using firmware updates to add features.

“Among the key design considerations for the SmartAlti were the ability to access multiple GNSS constellations to ensure we had access to as much positioning data as possible, and to update that data at high speed,” said Chandler. “We also wanted all this done at low power. Many suppliers were evaluated and the U-Blox GNSS chips came out on top.”

The SmartAlti also includes wifi, Bluetooth and USB facilities. Wifi is used to sync the device to a cloud service, through which users can log and share the data that the SmartAlti has gathered during freefalls. This service includes 3D visualisations of the users jump data. Wifi is also used to enable over-the-air firmware updates.

Bluetooth is disabled but Dekunu is exploring using the facility to enable the creation of ad hoc mesh networks between groups of skydivers in their jump aircraft. This would enable them to share up-to-date positioning data from a user at a window to other users whose altimeters would otherwise be shielded by a plane’s metal fuselage. The USB port is used for charging and diagnostics.

“We’re delighted to be helping Dekunu Technologies make skydiving safer and more fun for all,” said Jason Meilhon, senior business development manager at U-Blox. “The combination of our best-in-class GNSS technology and Dekunu’s commitment to a stable hardware platform enhanced by regular firmware updates, means the SmartAlti should just keep getting better and better.”

U-Blox is headquartered in Thalwil, Switzerland, and has offices in Europe, Asia and the USA.