We are lucky in the ACT to have some exceptionally bright and energetic folk who have put their time and energy into making flying better. One of the innovations we’ve seen is the introduction of wind talkers. Below is an article by Barry Oliver from 2007 which explores the wind talkers as they were before moving to our current (as of August 2017) internet based system.
Over the past few years Alistair Dickie has taken over the mantel as our wind talker guru and he has installed and upgraded the windtalkers in the ACT. The talkers measure wind strength and direction every 3 seconds as well as current temperature, air pressure, and estimated cloud base, all presented within an easy to read graph online. I would like to acknowledge and express my appreciation for the work that Al puts into the wind talkers and paragliding in the ACT as a whole.
President ACTHPA August 2017
From a components point of view the windtalkers require a technical circuit board to translate the signals coming from the wind anemometer and wind vane into the voice of ‘Audrey’ you hear either from your UHFradio or mobile phone. In the future we hope to have all the talkers accessible via mobile phone as well as UHF. The data is also being transmitted digitally so we will be able to record it on the web. The circuitry to make the boards is not a simple task. Not only does Michael develop the circuitry but he also makes the actual circuit boards in his garage. It is an elaborate chemical process to get the copper circuitry layered onto the silicon boards. However, the components don’t stop there, they also include the anemometer and wind vane, a UHF radio and a mobile phone with aerials and a battery and a solar power system to keep the batteries charged. Add to this the associated wiring and framework and you have a significant piece of equipment. They take many hours of work. Michael has made many of them, often financing the costs himself. In addition, the quality of the work is first class.
The exact commercial value of these talkers is unknown, but one quote I obtained was many thousands of dollars per unit! The windtalkers are our most valuable asset, and not only from a financial perspective. It scares me to think how many pilots would have been blown over the back at Spring Hill had it not been for the windtalker at Pig giving a reading of increasing wind strength. There are many other examples. They are used as a safety device as well as a signal of flying
There have been numerous times when everyone has been flying and Michael has been busy working on the talkers- fixing broken parts or installing new ones. To be able to withstand winds in excess of 60mph they need to be very robust. Michael has regularly travelled well out of his way to fix a broken aerial, to replace a battery or to do some other much needed maintenance to keep the talkers working. The commitment he has shown is a credit to him
Michael Imholz has made paragliding and hang gliding in Canberra a more reliable place to fly, an easier place to fly and most importantly a safer place to fly.
The ACTHPA is indebted to Michael and his continued efforts to maintain the windtalkers. Next time you hear Audrey, think of Michael and the contribution he has given. If Michael is there with you, thank him for his work.
The ACTHPA and all its members owe him a big thank you.
Dr Barry Oliver