The new UltraBip talks to your phone – and to you. Marcus King says hello
The UltraBip is an evolution of the GPSBip+ that I have used in a couple of hike-and-fly races and reviewed in 2020. Since then it has been a permanent fixture on my lightweight helmet. At Coupe Icare last year Stodeus’s designer Timothée Manaud handed me the UltraBip and said “I think you will notice the improvements we have made.”
Physically the instrument is similar to its predecessor, being the same size and weighing just 29g. The front of the unit is dominated by the solar panel, which has a matt finish on the new unit. Although the previous one was enough to keep the need to charge the battery to every few months, Tim told me that the new solar panel is more efficient so in normal use you should never need to use a wall charger. If you do, charging is now done via a USB-C socket.
This is also used to download your flights and to update the settings and firmware. Settings are updated by uploading a file created with an online configurator. Some things such as volume and vario settings can be set on the instrument with a series of clicks of the single button, if you can remember them. You can create multiple profiles for different uses, eg one with permanent tracking for hike-and-fly use, which can be selected at start-up.
On launch I noticed the next major improvement. Switching on it really quickly chirped up with a voice saying, “Satellite position acquired”. The older version was noticeably slow at getting its first fix but worked flawlessly after that. I’d got into the habit of switching the vario on as soon as I arrived at launch, but the new instrument is much quicker.
And yes, you did read right, I did say voice. As the unit has no display Stodeus have given it the ability to speak – to tell you various bits of information such as your speed or height. This is triggered by double-tapping on the device. On landing when you switch off the unit it will read you the statistics for your flight including max height, speed and climb rate plus flight duration. You can choose which of these you want or disable it altogether using the configurator.
The unit’s LED light and a small logo hint at the other big upgrade the UltraBip brings. You can now connect it to apps running on your phone or tablet using Bluetooth BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). This means you can feed your favourite app with quality GPS data and save your phone’s battery.
Running Navigator from Naviter and XCTrack on an Android phone it was super easy to set up – just select the unit in the settings. When you do, the unit says, “Bluetooth connected.” In my test flights everything seemed to work as expected sending GPS and altitude data.
The UltraBip uses an instant-vario type set-up, with an accelerometer and gyroscope adding to the data being analysed. You have control over the algorithm used with sensitivity and integration settings in the configuration. Increasing the integration gives a more damped feel making it better for weak lift, whereas reducing it makes it respond quickly. There is also a weak-lift buzzer as well. Stodeus use a separate buzzer to the speaker for the voice, so the two can sound at the same time.
In the air I was instantly at home with the device having used the previous version. It reacts very quickly and the audio is nicely in sync with what you are feeling – there are no big delays that can confuse. The sound is less grating than some instruments that use a piezo buzzer. Stodeus say they use an onboard synthesiser to shape the sound of the beeps. It is plenty loud enough, especially if mounted on your helmet (I had to turn it down). Paramotor pilots can use a USB-C headphone adapter to get the vario sound into their helmets.
Once back at home, plug it into your computer and it will act as a hard drive so you can copy off the IGC files for upload to your chosen league/logbook easily. Very simple.
The UltraBip is a great update to the instrument. After quite a few uses the battery is still showing as full and on take-off it gets a GPS fix quickly so no waiting if you forget to switch it on before sorting kit. The Bluetooth adds useful functionality when you want a bit more information. All this in a unit that is so small and light you can leave it permanently Velcroed to your helmet.
What Stodeus say: “Fine-tune UltraBip’s infinite settings for a fully personalised flight experience”
What is it: Ultralight flight instrument with logger
Use: Hike-and-fly, tandem and XC flying
Log formats: FAI/CIVL approved IGC and KML
Flight memory: 4Gb
Size: 5.8 x 3.6 x 1.4 cm
Battery life: 50h without sun
Published in issue 238 (April 2023)