Can you hear me now?
On the ground, everything on the radio comes through clear and concise. But once in the air, we can’t make out a thing. The 30+ kph relative wind has a tendency of messing with the best laid plans.
If after experimenting with location and orientation we find that things are still not to our liking, then we need to look at additional technology (which of course comes with additional cost, complexity, and the opportunity for Mr.Murphy to visit).
Hand Held PTT Speaker Mic
A Hand Held Push To Talk (PTT) Speaker Microphone is the simplest, most flexible, and most reliable addition we can make. The unit can be moved around on our webbing, even positioned post launch on the riser. The cabling and connector will be fairly robust and capable of accepting the abuse from the typical paragliding day (including retrieve).
A quality Hand Held PTT Speaker Mic is a good place to start if a stand alone radio is just not working in terms of TX and RX clarity while paragliding.
Side note: I have a PTT unit that I take with me on courses/trips just in case one of my more complex (and seemingly failure prone) headset configurations acts up. It has saved me more than once.
Wind noise still interfering with our ability to hear what is being said? Time to explore headsets.
Paragliding headsets come in one of two flavours:
A wired paragliding headset is a good place to start when moving beyond the Hand Held PTT Speaker Mic.
At the lower end of the spectrum are units developed for use in motorcycling such as those manufactured by Tork, retailing around $50 Canadian. The sport model can be used with a full face helmet, while the open face model can be mated with a snowboarding helmet that has ear flaps designed to accept a sound system.
But keep in mind, one gets what one pays for. These units will not last long – especially the thumb mount PTT switch and the open face boom mic. I took a similar unit to Annecy for a pair of SIV courses, removing the boom mic and PTT switch. Jocky Sanderson’s voice came through loud and clear, even in a full on spiral. But the unit failed shortly after completing the second week.
Don’t. Just don’t.
The Code Red Battle Zero Bone Conduction Headset. The unit relies on vibration through the jaw/skull for both TX and RX. The ‘headphones/mic’ sits on the upper most contact point between jaw and skull, leaving the ears completely unobstructed. Inbound voice has a ‘voices inside your head’ quality to it (though a little on the faint side) while those on the other end have noted that the users voice comes through loud and clear.
The cabling is kevlar lined and the connectors fairly robust.
The headset, PTT unit, and radio connection cable are all separate and all individually replaceable.
The one catch (aside from RX voice being faint) is that the connectors are screw on, which precludes any chance of a quick disconnect in the event of a water/tree landing. It is highly recommended that users of this headset move their radio mount to a Chest Harness.
The vendor supports multiple radio variants (including the Kenwood connection used by Baofeng) but does not support Yaesu (and has not indicated there are plans to).
Dedicated paragliding headset solutions exist and certainly should be on the pilots radar for examination.
Reviews of both have been fairly positive and they have options for both full and open face helmet form factors.
Thats said, be wary of thumb mount PTTs as the wiring on even the high end units will fail given the amount of bending it typically experiences. Often times a thumb mount PTT with a broken wire will lock in the transmit position – quickly killing the radio battery and earning the wrath of any pilot in transmit range.
At the cost of increased complexity and price, wireless solutions improve configurability by removing the need to consider cable routing restrictions.
Otherwise, the full face Glidercom Raptor is worth examination. Starting at $350 US, it would be prudent to see if someone has a sample to take for a test drive prior to purchase.Similar options exist from Sena.
Aside from cost, the biggest drawback of wireless units is the need to ensure everything is fully charged. If the battery in one component is left uncharged, the entire system is useless.