Very cool! GEB reader Dan Hohman was looking to modify the built in Google Earth flight simulator to simulate powered parachute flying. He did some searching and ran across a cool new simulator for paragliding which uses the Google Earth API/plugin. I’ve been playing around with this for the last day – and I have to say I find it a lot of fun!
The paraglider simulator was built by some folks at ParaglidingEarth.com, who host real life tracks of paragliding experiences at sites around the world. You can click here to start a flight (this is the Boulder, Colorado location). Choose the link “Fly on this site!!!” near the top middle. Then choose the color of your glider, then just hit the “Let’s Fly!” button at the bottom to start the simulator (you can play with the settings after you get some practice). NOTE: the simulator only works in a few browsers as described in the note at the bottom of the first page.
The simulator has a GPS on the left (which cleverly shows live maps from Google Maps) and a gadget on the right which shows your altitude, temperature, and your vertical rate of speed. And, if you have sound, it beeps as you climb to help you know when you find a thermal. You may have to make your browser quite wide to see both instruments (I think they should offer some different layout options for different screen resolutions). Then select the “Run!” button at the bottom middle to start the simulator. Use the arrow buttons (or the arrow keys on your keyboard) to control your direction. Your objective is to find some thermals before you hit the ground. Tip: get closer to the mountains to find some thermals. When your indicator of the right starts showing a positive climb rate – you’re starting to get in a thermal (and you’ll hear beeps if your sound is working). A good thermal will climb you at several meters per second. When you fall out of the thermal, turn 90 or more degrees to the right or left quickly to get back in the thermal.
You can choose different locations at the ParaglidingEarth site by searching or clicking on their map. NOTE some locations do not start you off at a high enough altitude and will not properly work (you’ll hit the “Run!” button and nothing will happen). Just try another location instead. Hopefully the folks at ParaglidingEarth will add a setting for initial altitude so you can get higher at the start.
This is one of the coolest mashups of both Google Earth and Google Maps technologies I’ve seen in a while. Definitely worth trying out – especially if you’re someone who likes to fly. Kudos to the guys at ParaglidingEarth, and thanks to Dan for bringing it to my attention.