February 1, 2010

Using Google My Maps for Soaring

My presentation at the SSA convention was a big success, thanks to all the pilots who were able to attend and provide support by asking questions and creating a good discussion. As promised I have embedded the presentation below; scroll over the edge of the presentation and click to change pages and all the links work, so feel free to click away.
SSA Convention Presentation - Google Maps Tools

A few questions came up during the presentation that I would like to address here:

Q1) Can I overlay sectional maps on Google Maps?

A1) Yes, but it's not easy. At the time I didn't know if it could be done, but after a little research I have discovered that yes it can be done, but the complexity is very limiting. The best description I have found is here. Note that you would need an image of the sectional you want to overlay. Then you need to create a .kml file that contained a link to the image and the geotag information on where the image should be placed on the earth. What I would suggest is to use your map in conjunction with other online tools, like the website skyvector or RunwayFinder to view sectionals online and make notes on your soaring map.

Q2) Can I embed a video into my map?

A2) Yes, and it can be very helpful. A description on how to add video to the map can be found here. As an example I have added a video to the Evergreen Soaring - Local Spots of a local pilot, Brad Hill, digging himself out of a hole behind Higgins that is a good example of how to fly the local conditions. Select the light blue thermal marker.

After the presentation I had a number of people asking me how to find the maps I showed during the presentation. Prior to the convention I had been relying on providing direct links to my maps via email, however it became clear that a more universal solution is needed. So I am working on getting the 2 maps I have been working on linked in the Worldwide Soaring Turnpoint Exchange. Stay tuned for an update. Until then use the search option and hope for the best.

There were also a lot of comments about specifications for the format of the maps I have made and the maps I hope everyone else will make. I have put a fair amount of thought into what the maps should look like so I would like to suggest a standard that everyone should follow here:

1) Good thermal generators or ridges that generate lift should be marked with yellow balloons, yellow lines, or yellow polygons. Try to give detailed information on the lift source.

2) Airports should be marked with a Blue line showing the approximate runway heading and length.

3) Landout fields should be marked in purple showing the usable landing area.

4) Danger areas, caution areas, or areas that consistently lack lift should be marked with red balloons, red lines, or red polygons.

5) Try to add as many pictures from the air and on ground as possible.

6) Since this map is intended to be studied, not used in flight feel, free to add as much information as possible.

I hope that this helps everyone set up a map of their local soaring site! As always, if you have questions please post them and I'll get an answer out as soon as I can.

Keep soaring,

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