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N.T. New Technologies s.r.l
21055 Gorla Minore (VA)
via A.Colombo,130 - ITALY
Tel. +39.0331.604417
Fax. +39.0331.604413
VAT n. IT00838340123
email: info@ntsrl.it

Easy, the leading edge in variometry
An innovative, Italian product

by Aldo Cernezzi (Volo a Vela magazine – n° 288 Jan-Feb 2005)

After the new, improved version of the ultralight glider “Silent”, another Italian product is making its first appearance in the gliding world. A firm usually dedicated to the small niche market of big electronic controlled knit-working machines has realised a new electronic vario/computer. It has innovative advanced features, many of them unique. We have visited the N.T. S.r.l. factory in Gorla Minore (Varese), after inspecting a sample which had been installed in the cockpit of an ASH-25Mi in Calcinate. The new instrument, called the Easy Match Box, can be assembled from 5 modules:

A . a box with transducers, a GPS receiver, a microprocessor and Flight Recorder (FAI approval pending);
B . a box with an X-Scale PXA-255 400 MHz microprocessor, in Windows CE environment, running the software and driving the display;
C . a very large touch-screen, 6.5 inches, 640x480 pixels colour display;
D . an interface for memory expansions and removable memory sticks;
E . a remote controller to be installed on the stick, with 9 function keys, a radio PTT switch, and the climb/glide selector.

The A-module can be operated independently of the others, requiring as a bare minimum to be connected to just a PDA. Data are then processed on the PDA by any gliding software and displayed on the PDA’s screen. Power consumption is lower than 250 mA. It incorporates:
. a 15-channel GPS engine;
. a digital, attitude compensated compass;
. 3 solid state accelerometers, for the axes X, Y and Z;
. a barometric sensor dedicated only to the FAI flight recorder;
. an Engine Noise Level (ENL) sensor for detecting the use of the Means of Propulsion;
. a large memory (360 hours of flight logs at 5 sec interval, or 72 hours at 1 sec);
. a high tech Honeywell flow meter, requiring an external capacity (0,45 litres) for accurate variometry;
. airspeed and altitude transducers;
. an external sensor for temperature and relative humidity;
. connectivity to an external processor, or PDA, and the remote stick control.

This instrument, like the ILECs and few other electronic varios, is based on a flow-measuring device. It requires an external, standard capacity (unlike the ILEC, where this is smaller, and built-in). Most of the other electronic varios on the market usually calculate vertical speeds as a function of altitude (given by a pressure sensor) and time; some pilots agree that flow metering units are better, and that connecting two varios, based on different measuring principles, on the same total energy line, can create some erratic indications.
For the first time, a solid state humidity sensor has been successfully included in a flight computer. The Easy can thus continuously predict maximum thermal altitude in the airmass surrounding the glider.
Three accelerometers, with pitch-induced error correction, are used for perfect calculations of total energy and the actual polar of the glider under any circumstance. This feature might lead to a new firmware version including an excellent artificial horizon; however, as this is not acceptable under competitions rules, the function will not be made available to units installed in gliders.
There is a huge memory for FAI logging (secure flight recording) purposes. FAI approval is pending. Loss of recorded data is not possible, thanks to the flash memory which doesn’t require any power source to retain information. Data recovery will be possible in most cases, at the factory, even after extensive damage to the box and the internal circuits.
Construction is of the higher industrial standards. During a recent presentation the owner of the firm, Mr. Luca Bonini, has dropped on a hard floor the Easy from 2 meters high, and the unit just kept on performing flawlessly.

Any current gliding software running on a PDA will be able to communicate with the Easy A-box. To get full advantage of the peculiarities of this variometer, however, the programmers will have to add some new protocols to their products. The specifications imposed by the Easy are available to any software developer, on request.
Anyway, a fully capable gliding software is in the final stages of development by the factory, and will be available at 300,00 Euros.

Processing and display
PDAs’ screens are too small to effectively show all the informations made available by this new vario and computer. N.T. has developed a large VGA colour touch sensitive screen (“C” module), driven by the “B” module, a computer with WindowsCE platform. The included batteries will power the display and computing unit for about 2 hours if no external power is connected, but will not power the “A” module (so you can’t forget to connect the main power source to the system).
Connectivity is provided by the optional “D” multi-function memory card interface. Flight logs can be copied on a memory card immediately after the flight, and quickly given in the hands of the Competition Director or Official Observer.

Easy Match Box offers new functions. Airmass analysis is now available to all glider pilots, with accurate thermal height prediction. Imagine a long glide from a high altitude into a different area, with weaker conditions: you will get informations about the real soaring possibilities available. Less guess work on evaluating actual micrometeorology.
The large touch-screen display for moving-map navigation and variometry is also a world’s first. It has proved to be very well readable in bright sunlight; back-lighting can be adjusted, or set to automatic and let a sunlight sensor do the job.
The whole hardware is very reliable. Electric power consumption is on the high-ish side, but not the highest on the market. The full system draws less than 750 mA. If your glider has only one 6 A/hr battery, you should think about adding a second one, for very long flights, especially in cold weather.
The innovations made available by the Easy can be exploited only with the proprietary software, at least at the time of writing this article and until other products will be upgraded. A definitive version of the software has not been released yet; the test units already show very fast page shifting, good map display, and an accurate variometer.
About half of the top-ranking Italian competition pilots have chosen to rebuild their gliders’ panel around this new computer, and they seem to be very happy. In particular, they praise the excellent response of the variometer, very quick and well filtered.

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