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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Variohm gives direction to extreme sport
Article Type: Mini features From: Sensor Review, Volume 29, Issue 2
Tilt and compass sensors find use on iceboard research and development programme in Latvia
Variohm EuroSensor is helping Latvian based Hiberna iceboards with its product development program to evaluate and design 80 kph speed-capable iceboards using dual axis tilt and compass sensors from AOSI. This application may seem unusual for UK based company but Towcester based Variohm has strong links throughout Europe and the iceboard industry, which thrives in the Baltic States and North America, is just like any other extreme sport – making the most of high technology to further its cause.
Whilst a regular windsurfing rig and sailing technique is used, iceboards use a specially adapted deck with front and rear pairs of stainless steel blades and a semi-rigid steering mechanism that translates the tilt forces induced in the deck from the surfers body into direction and turning movements. Traditional wheeled skateboard decks, although similar in design, just can’t produce the turning sensitivity, precision or stability that is required for this sport and Hiberna lead the field with award winning and patented deck designs that are based on a combination of laboratory tests and thrilling but perhaps terrifying “field-based” research.
Hiberna use the AOSI EZ Compass 3A with separate roll and pitch sensors to determine the performance-critical correlation between deck tilt and steering bridge rotation using design concepts and a range of materials on a custom built evaluation rig. This can involve a very complex set of measurements as boards must have a varying sensitivity in different deck positions to suit the particular needs of slalom or speed iceboarding.
As there is no precedent for this research, Hiberna had to design its own C++ program to record, store and display comparative graphs for all the non-linear measurement data. The program also handles rig and sensor calibration. The EZ Compass 3A is also used on a 3D model as part of an animated software simulator for iceboard performance training.
For the deck tilt angle input, a roll sensor is attached directly to the deck. Bridge rotation, is determined either from the compass angle input located on the deck, or the pitch sensor attached to a vertical mast using a simple trigonometric formula to calculate the angle. Hiberna’s research team find the pitch/roll sensor readings more precise as the compass can sometimes be influenced by metallic materials used on the board and test rig.
The EZ Compass 3A is a low-cost semiconductor device with temperature compensated pitch, roll and compass outputs used for precision orientation and levelling applications in navigation, research, construction industries, entertainment simulators and many other fields. The unit outputs continuous heading, magnetic field, dual axis tilt and temperature data over RS-232, RS-422 and optional RS-485* interfaces. It also features an NMEA-0183 mode for straightforward integration with echo sounders, sonar and autopilot equipment. The EZ Compass 3A is part of a wide range of inclinometers and tilt sensors available from Variohm who represent USA based AOLI throughout the Europe.