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Navigation Software for use in PDAs and Pocket PCs

Of the current navigational software packages that can be installed in PDAs, Pocket PCs, PNAs and Oudie 2 Lite running under the Windows CE operating system, there are 5 that are worth considering.  In Paul Remde's web site, Cumulus Soaring, he shows in a tabular presentation the current PDA nav programs, listing all the possible features and indicating how the various programs stack up.   I  will attempt to lead you through this jungle and outline those features I consider important and end up with my personal preference, although I must stress that the choice of PDA software is very subjective, and at the end of the day the final selection is always yours.

Currently, the following four programs are worth considering:

  • WinPilot Advanced and Pro
  • See You Mobile
  • GlideNav II
  • FlyWithCE
  • XCSoar and LK8000

There is no doubt that WinPilot is a very capable, feature loaded program but it also the most expensive, with a further charge for the topographical mapping.   The licence fee is tied to the S/No of the PDA or flight recorder which gives problems if you change your PDA or want to syndicate the program.   There is no arrangement by which you can try the software prior to buying the licence fee.   My main criticism is that there is so much information available that a disproportionate amount of time is spent looking at the display to the detriment of a good lookout.  The program makes good use of colour and is very well structured although with so many features, configuration can be a problem.   One limitation is that the airspace files have to be in OpenAir format and other formats cannot be used.  The thermal analyzer, 3D wind display and thermal hotspots alone would keep the second occupant of a high performance two seater fully occupied in assessing all the options available; in a single seater it becomes a flight hazard.

SeeYou Mobile is very similar in concept and although it has slightly fewer features, the world wide mapping is free and it integrates well with the SeeYou PC analysis program.   Airspace data can be loaded from a variety of file types and world wide mapping is free.   A useful feature, particularly in wave, is that the path of the glider is marked by 'mouse droppings', the colour and size of which depend on the actual lift/sink experienced at the time.   The licence fee permits unrestricted use in any PDA, thus making the program more attractive for syndication.   The program will run without purchasing an activation code but a reminder pops up every few minutes.   This enables a prospective user to try out the program before purchasing.   In order to get the best out of the program, the user really needs See You to be installed on his main PC.

GlideNav II produces a good, contrasty black and white display with large nav boxes that are easy to read in the air, a feature that will be appreciated by the more elderly pilots.   The information presented is constrained to what the pilot needs to know;  the position and track to the next TP and airspace information.   The only use of colour is that all the landable airfields within gliding range are shown in green.   The program is activated by purchasing a code that is related either to the PDA S/No or the Flight recorder S/No, making syndication difficult.   With no activation code, the program runs in simulator mode enabling the user to get the feel of the actual program.

FlyWithCE was originally designed to integrate with the LX Navigation LX160 but has been expanded to accept GPS input from a wide variety of sources.   It is a fully featured program that has many attractive features that tend to lend themselves to the LX range of instruments.   One problem however, is that airspace can only be loaded from OpenAir format files.   There is an arrangement whereby the software can be used for a limited time without purchasing an activation code thus allowing prospective owners to evaluate the program.

XCSoar and LK8000 are freeware.   LK8000 has been developed from the open source version of XC Soar

All the programs provide excellent support for assigned area tasks (AAT).

My personal choice is See You Mobile as it is a cost effective program in which literally all the features can be configured to the owner's specific requirement.  The authors, Naviter are World class glider pilot's and the overall programme is constantly being improved.