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Solartime

Measures a Paraglider's Usage

Solartime is a really nifty device that is attached to a paraglider canopy and accurately records how long it has been exposed to the sun. So, if the manufacturer of the canopy tells you how many hours of use it's good for, it's easy to know when to stop flying.

Actually, this device can be used for many other sports as well. When you think about it, most air sports involve exposing fabric to the UV (Ultra Violet) radiation of the sun. Ultralights for example, or balloons. Even sailing boats.

A French company by the name of Altimo was the first to use the concept of a smart, self-powered hour meter for air sports. Naturally, the meter concept has been patented.

If there are other similar systems out there, I don't know about them!

Altimo spent a considerable amount of time in research and development of the meter. They were aiming for a very high level of product reliability. That's good, aircraft life is a serious subject!

A number of paraglider manufacturers have tested the Solartime meter, and offer it as an optional extra with their canopies.

Altimo stresses 3 advantages of using this device...

  • an increased sense of security, knowing your wing is in good and safe condition
  • advertising an accurate measure of your wing's exposure makes it easier to sell
  • and of course, you always know your real operating time with the wing

For any paraglider pilots out there who sell used cars for a living, no, this meter absolutely cannot be reset! ;-) Also, any attempt to mask the meter with tape to falsify the reading can be easily detected by taking a spectrogram of the device. The areas that were covered will show up like ... well, you know ... woof!



How Solartime Works

Skip this if you're not technically inclined. :-) It's fairly simple, just a photo-voltaic cell and a series of LCDs rigged up to show hours and tenths of hours. The photo-voltaic cell both measures exposure and drives the electronics, so no battery is needed. Any time the meter is exposed to light above a certain threshold, it starts operating automatically, accumulating more time. Timing stops when the light level drops below the threshold amount again.

For example, a display of 00043.5 means the device has been in the sun for a total of 43 hours and 30 minutes. The meter uses a non-volatile memory chip to store all data between flights.



Solartime Specs

The specs below are pretty much direct from the Altimo site at www.altimo.fr I trust they don't object to a bit of free advertising!

  • works automatically
  • no batteries needed
  • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) showing hours and tenths of an hours, up to 99999.9
  • EEPROM memory chip stores data between flights
  • uses a high performance solar cell specially designed for outdoor use
  • fully waterproof
  • resistant to shock and vibration
  • operating temperature range is –40°C to +80°C (-180°F to +176°F)
  • size is 5.2 x 4.7 x 1.0 cm (2.1 x 1.9 x 0.4 inches)
  • weight is 18 grams (0.63 ounces)
  • each unit has a unique serial number



Prevention of Fraud

According to Altimo themselves, Solartime cannot currently be purchased without a paraglider. Not only that, but the pocket containing the device is designed to be difficult to tamper with. So you see, the idea is to make the device an integral part of the paraglider. The sewn-in meter becomes an ultra-convenient and reliable means of knowing the usage, and hence the remaining life, of the canopy.

You might see references here and there and on the Web about Solartime being glued to the canopy. My guess is that this was prior to the current situation of multiple canopy manufacturers teaming up with Altimo to prevent fraudulent use of the device. That reminds me, there is another anti-fraud feature. The serial number on the meter should match with the serial number of the paraglider with which it was sold!


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