Recon Instruments' GPS goggles go skydiving
By C.C. Weiss
October 23, 2012
For the past several ski seasons, Recon Instruments has been designing, tweaking and partnering with other companies on its GPS-based ski goggles, which provide real-time feedback about speed, distance, vertical and other key indicators. The company has now officially re-purposed its technology for skydiving, BASE jumping and wingsuit flying.
We don't think it's a coincidence that Recon chose last week, a week when the world's attention was focused on skydiving like never before, to announce its new Flight HUD system. Like Recon's ski system, the Flight HUD is a goggle-mounted heads-up display that provides crucial data to the wearer. It uses some of the same sensors – GPS, altimeter and accelerometer – to calculate and display forward speed, glide ratio and altitude. The Flight HUD also doubles as a traditional ski HUD at the flick of a switch, allowing for dual usage.
"Everyone sees the value of having a speedometer in a car, yet, when you jump out of a plane or off of a cliff, you don’t have anything," Recon says in a blog post. "If you’re a skydiver, wingsuit pilot, or BASE jumper, this project has the potential to change your time in the air, forever. By having a HUD, not only will you be able to see how you’re flying, but you will also be able to tweak and adjust your movements in real-time so that you can fly better."
Forward speed and altitude are easy enough to grasp, but being of the sane variety that prefers to remain inside the plane, we weren't as familiar with the term glide ratio. Recon explains that it is a ratio between the distance you are traveling forward to the distance you are falling. A higher number relates to more "flying," less falling.
Recon's hardware uses a "direct-to-eye" display that sits in the bottom of the goggles. Some might see this as a distraction, particularly in a sport like wingsuiting, where you're flying just a few feet over certain death. Recon says that the user must purposely look down at the display before it is in his line of sight. It has been testing the system with professional skydiver, BASE jumper, wingsuiter and all-around crazy man Jeb Corliss to ensure that it is safer than kicking a balloon.
Recon warns that the Flight HUD is not a safety device and does not replace altimeters that skydivers already use. It's designed to inform, not protect.
While Recon carries the hardware over from its ski platform, it is designing completely new software to support the new usage. It has released the goggles for pre-order and is asking interested skydivers, jumpers and wingsuiters to put down their US$349 (plus $20 shipping) and help it raise the money it needs to develop the software. It hit its 250-order goal within just a few days of pre-ordering, so it plans to move forward with Flight HUD development.
Because of the very small, niche market the Flight HUD serves, Recon does not plan to sell it via any retail channels and is keeping orders open for a limited time. If you want a pair, now's the time – follow the source link for order information.
If you want to get stoked about this project, even if you don't jump more than two feet, just watch Corliss explain it below.