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Delore inReach satellite pager

I have come across an interesting product: Delorme inReach with smartphone support. In the US, it sells for $249 and there is a $75 mail in rebate until the end of the year. I've seen it retail for $229.

It's a satellite (Iridium) pager at an interesting price point. Apart from position tracking (like spidertracks), it allows sending and receiving text messages/emails of up to 150 characters.

There is a $20 activation charge and for $25 a month, one can send an unlimited number of predefined messages (I suppose also receive messages) and up to 40 custom messages.

Together with a simple service on the web, it could be used to request METAR/TAF in the air and transmit ETA.

Has anyone given this a try?

This is very interesting.

The Q is what can one do with short text messages.

It is certainly possible to set up a server in which you configure (for example) that you want tafs and metars for airports xxxx yyyy and zzzz, delivered every 30 mins, and it can email you the data.

And if the server has a GSM phone connected (the old phones had RS232 interfaces) then it could send an SMS, using the Hayes GSM AT commands. Very easy. Or you could use an email2sms gateway.

I can think of at least two such services. Both are private only, because of the obvious need to somehow pay for the SMS transmission. One of them is configured with an email and the other with an SMS. The former runs on a rented virtual server and the latter runs entirely on an old Nokia phone!

Some years ago I made a proposal to an aviation weather site for transmitting weather radar images over SMS, using several messages and some simple "sprite" based compression scheme. They weren't interested but it could still be done.

Obviously one would try to optimise it e.g. send it your lat/long and it (the server) would grab the data from meteox.com, georeference it around that position, and send the nearby data to you.

I have a semi private server which grabs wx data from several sites (including meteox), strips off the ads, and presents the bare stuff in a simple tabbed interface. But the Meteox image is about 50kbytes (1 minute i.e. $1 on Thuraya) and that assumes the background map is cached in the browser.

Then you get onto the business model

A few years ago I did an informal pilot forum poll on how much people would pay. The options ranged (IIRC) from £100/month, through to "a proper pilot caught by weather should die". I got a few at the former end, and a similar number at the latter end (from certain known individuals) The MLX770 system sits around the middle, plus of course the ~10k+MFD installation cost.

In reality I suspect very few would pay for it. I know very few who bought the MLX770. Some bought it to play with. One of them doesn't use it much anymore (he's dead). The IFR community is just too small. But that product does just about all that is possible in Europe.

Moving Terrain sell theirs largely to commercial ops, usually helicopters (they told me).

I wouldn't pay any real money for it because I don't do IMC enroute, except at low levels and warm temps; never at high altitude / in icing conditions.

I think with this product one would set it up just to return tafs/metars, which should be easy enough to do. You would need to set up a website based account prepay facility - the SMSs to Iridium numbers are not cheap

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

There appears to be a way to send SMS to Iridium free of charge up to a certain limit. This means that sending more shouldn't cost a fortune, should it?

I'm very interested in this solution and it should be rather trivial to setup such a service. Doing such things commercially is hard, for every IFR pilot there are already 10 people wanting to make a living off him. I'll look into it, probably won't take more than a rainy weekend.

There appears to be a way to send SMS to Iridium free of charge up to a certain limit.

Thuraya has this too (a web interface for sending messages to Thuraya phones) and one could drive it with a script for computer transmission, but it often doesn't work, which makes it useless.

I agree if this could work easily it would be great. I use my satphone+tablet primarily for text only (tafs/metars) - apart from the main moving map GPS use.

You might find this amusing.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Sporty's is selling InReach for a while now. Until recently it wasn't possible to buy a plan with a non-US credit card.

The question is how much use can I get out of it. If you just want to send text messages a simple satphone will do. Iridium is not the fastest system on earth, ups in the sky. 2.4k nominal. (we discussed that elsewhere, didn't we Peter?)

EGBE - Coventry, United Kingdom

It's certainly true that if you just want to send and receive SMS texts then an Iridium or Thuraya satphone will do all by itself.

What the InReach product appears to do is connect to a smartphone, so you can see the stuff more clearly.

The 2.4kbits/sec Iridium data rate applies to internet connectivity, which is not used for SMS. Thuraya's version is 9.6kbits/sec.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Sporty's is selling InReach for a while now.

Now that they have a bluetooth capable model that can interact with iPhone/Android, it is starting to make sense.

The question is how much use can I get out of it. If you just want to send text messages a simple satphone will do.

An Iridium satphone and the corresponding plan cost a lot more than the inReach device.

Thuraya has this too (a web interface for sending messages to Thuraya phones) and one could drive it with a script for computer transmission, but it often doesn't work, which makes it useless.

The "often doesn't work" is the main characteristic of Thuraya, isn't it? Iridium might be slower and more expensive but it actually has a reputation for being reliable.

An Iridium satphone and the corresponding plan cost a lot more than the inReach device.

I thought you could run an Iridium phone on PAYG?

The phones themselves are very pricey however.

Thuraya works fine for specific types of usage i.e. calls, texts (to specific terrestrial networks e.g. T-M works but Voda doesn't), and 9.6k dial-up internet. What I found unreliable was their 56k GPRS service, which anyway needed the fancier and bug-ridden phones when I was testing it.

I've been flying with the old 7100 phone for several years and it's been fine.

It's funny how often one finds a commercial product doing something one tried to do in the past... a couple of years ago I did a project, with a colleague programming one of those tiny and cheap Linux-based ASUS EEE laptops, interfacing via RS232 to a Thuraya 7100, to grab tafs and metars from a specially set up server. The laptop would then feed a VGA to NTSC converter which would drive the MFD as per the link I posted above. We had it all running, but issues remained with getting sufficiently "low and dirty" with Linux to get the phone to hang up from any context, which needed both ATH0 and dropping DTR, IIRC...

What this company has done is packaged it nicely and done it on Iridium.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
8 Posts
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