XcTracer Flarm Review
Ever since the release of the original XCTracer, I for some unknown reason have avoided the brand. Thinking that the units were over priced and not that different from other solar varios on the market. This has now changed with the release of the XCTracer II Flarm version, which now allows us to be visible to other aircraft and be tracked without gsm coverage. Whats in the Bag? Yep you read that correctly, no boxes here and to tell you the truth i'm glad as everything has become a little too wasteful with the amount of unnecessary packaging we have in our daily lives. You get a small plastic zip lock bag, containing an XCTracer in a protective carry case, a quick start sheet, a micro usb to usb, a micro usb to micro usb. Unit design, size I have to admit I was a little surprised by the size, I had never seen a picture of the units side by side before and had only seen the XCTracer mini, thinking the Flarm version may only be slightly larger than the original XCTracer. Its about 30% bigger and that's not including the antenna. This being said its still a very small package for whats its carrying and I highly doubt that anyone will be that disappointed with its dimensions.
Vario sensitivity. out of the box i quite liked the sound and settings of the vario, its probably the first vario that i have not had the need to change the vario tones. Gps fix and accuracy The time of GPS fix after installing the V05 firmware dropped the gps fix time to about 10-15 seconds after power up. Regarding the gps accuracy below is a flight comparison between the XCTracer II Flarm (Blue) and my Flymaster Live SD 3G (Red) : both running their most current firmware versions as of the 19th July 2019 Majority of the tracks are very close, looking at the transitions during the entire flight they are within about 1-2m of each other. There is a slight increase in deviation in tracks when looking at thermaling the previous 1-2 m increase to about 2-5m, the hard part now would be to try to figure out which device is the one that's out more ;) but I think that for majority of pilots no matter which device we use we will always have a certain gps inaccuracy to deal with looking at the overall performance im satisfied in regards to accuracy.
For those that dont know what Flarm is its a collision avoidance system with a typical air to air range of up to 30km. Read more here
For those that have done any flying in the alps on a busy day will probably be able to relate to the feeling you get when you have an insanely near miss with a sailplane, they are super quiet and super fast not to mention hard to spot if your not looking out for them. The Flarm system allows them to know where you are in relation to them, not only that but they show up on my XCTrack screen as moving red dots also so to a certain extent I can see them coming. One thing that I would add is a visual method of knowing that the unit is transmitting or receiving Flarm data. Either through one of the LEDs on the unit or as an icon on the apps
Flying with friends
Here Im flying with a group of clients in Annecy, all 4 pilots had Flarm enabled devices which allow me to see their exact location and to see what their current status is, if they have sink, lift and their altitude.
Ease of Pairing via Bluetooth Probably one of the easiest units that I have ever paired to my phone as your not actually pairing in the traditional sense but through your flying app. So basically select external GPS in the app settings, choose which Bluetooth device to connect to and your done (as long as you have the correct data packets being sent to your app) its Dead simple.
The other option for connecting to your device is via USB. Files generated The XCTracer generates two types of files internally, the first is .IGC which is the main file we all use to claim flights in either competitions or online contests. The second is .KML which allows you to visualise the flight in google earth which is a nice addition for those that would like to quickly look through a flight. Safety aspects of having Flarm Having the Flarm unit can significantly reduce the time that is needed to locate a pilot as their beacon will be showing up on the SAR helicopter.
Tracking & OGN Viewer To a certain extent the tracking works, when you are within range of a receiver the tracking works pretty much as you would expect any live tracking to function and I'm fairly impressed about the fact that it is very short delay on data showing up on the OGN viewer for browser or OGN Viewer App for Android. I'm not quite sure about how well it will transmit data when its has lost reception for a period of time and then regains it, but I'm sure time will tell with further analysis.
here you can see a live track without the need for the pilot to have any reliance on the GSM network.
After sale service is, very fast and efficient both Tim Penteath (UK importer) and Koni from XCTracer have been super fast to send advice and reply to technical and random questions alike. Not to mention they send out personal messages when a new firmware update is available for your device. I had a special version of the Firmware for my device and Koni remade a new version once an update was available and emailed it over also.