iPad as primary data/nav in chase car?

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Chris Kridler, Mar 11, 2018.

  1. Chris Kridler

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    The sticky GPS thread above hasn't been updated in eons, so please forgive me for posting here. In the past I've chased with the typical old PC laptop/DeLorme Street Atlas/GR3 setup with a plug-in "puck" GPS receiver. It's become too unstable for my tastes, and the addition of a chase partner in the past few years has made space tight in my vehicle, too tight for a laptop up front. I tried iPad chasing last spring, but lacked decent GPS (no mobile plan), so even though RadarScope is great, it was an awkward combo of iPhone/iPad. This year, I'm contemplating getting a Bluetooth GPS receiver, such as the Bad Elf Pro Bluetooth device, so I get a good location on the iPad (it's an iPad Air 2) while using RadarScope. I miss the easy logging capabilities of ye olde Street Atlas, but the Bad Elf device logs position data for download/later use.

    My questions for you: If any of you are chasing with an iPad as your primary source of data and/or navigation, what's your setup? Is there an iOS navigation app you favor that also logs routes? Have you used the Bad Elf or something like it, and how do you read your data logs/reconstruct your routes later? (I use Macs primarily but also have a PC laptop.)

    Thanks,
    Chris
     
  2. Todd Lemery

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    One thing I like using on my IPad is the RadarUS+ app. It has a pretty decent road map underlaying the current radar. I can see the road network in relation to the storm with a quick glance. An upgraded version of RadarScope may have a good road map on it, but my (cheapest) version doesn’t.
     
  3. Chris Kridler

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    Thanks, Todd. I just bookmarked that app.

    One thing I'd like in a navigation app is the ability to store the maps on the iPad (instead of relying on data). If anyone has a favorite app for this, I'd like to know more. Maps.me appears to be crowdsourced. Garmin's app is no longer supported, according to the reviews. CoPilot GPS looks like a decent possibility.
     
  4. Marc R. O'Leary

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    My iPad is just for radar. I use my android devices for nav. Check out maps.me, but I can't say for certain that enable route logging. They do let you download detailed max for offline use.
     
  5. JamesCaruso

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    An iPad is my primary source of data and navigation while in the car. We used to bring a laptop with Baron ThreatNet for radar redundancy in cellular dead zones. And I used to bring my pile of Delorme atlas books for each state in the Alley. It was a big step but after a few years of not having to refer to them, I finally stopped bringing them. Sure, there are cellular dead zones but relatively few and far between, not enough to really worry about or ruin a chase day. And for reasons that still escape me, even in a cellular dead zone my car icon still seems to make progress on Google Maps. Google Maps in my mind is an advantage over paper maps when using dirt roads; with a paper map I was never 100% sure what local road I was on, because they aren’t always properly marked. I still bring laminated folding maps for seeing the big picture, planning routes to the target area, and sketching out features while in the car. I still bring my laptop with me on chase vacations but only use it for forecasting while at the hotel. In fact sometimes I will use my iPad even then, it is just more comfortable to sit with in the hotel lobby while having morning coffee, and I like being able to zoom in with the touchscreen. I can even continue forecasting with it while sitting on the toilet

    The only hard part is not having good radar and map overlay that includes minor side roads. It is a pain just to have to toggle back and forth between maps and radar, not to mention relating positions between the two. The newer iOS does let you set up a split screen so I will try that this year. Sometimes I simultaneously look at radar on my iPhone and maps on my iPad, or vice versa - whichever is more important at the moment, navigation or radar analysis, gets the bigger screen.

    There was an app called Storm Spotter that had radar overlay on top of Google Maps. But you always sacrifice something - the radar was more translucent and less resolved than RadarScope. But anyway the app has not been updated for iOS 11.

    Maps.me is fine for offline maps but like I said I have rarely lost cell coverage long enough to really need it (sometimes I take a screen shot of my Google Maps screen when I am in a dead zone, just in case I lose the whole thing due to a bad connection). In fact I think Google Maps might even have some offline functionality now, I’m not certain.

    I had an app called GPX Master+ that logged routes and created .gpx files in Dropbox that could also be plotted on maps later with times and everything. But that’s another app that hasn’t been updated for iOS 11. Maybe something else is out there that has taken its place because clearly someone had identified a need at one time and the market couldn’t have been limited to just storm chasers.

    If you don’t have a mobile plan perhaps you can set up a wireless hotspot in your car with a cellular internet antenna/receiver, and then connect your iPad to the mobile network. I don’t know anything about the Bluetooth GPS receiver you mention, but if that is only for GPS location and not an overall internet connection, and funds are limited, then I think you can do more with a mobile internet setup and should spend the money there instead.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  6. Chad M

    Chad M EF0

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    If you download google maps for iOS, it will let you download areas to be used offline. It will also log your routes driven.
     
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  7. Jayson Kaap

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    Yes, google maps has an offline feature where you can download large maps beforehand. Works great!
     
  8. Bill Giles

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    Maps.ME has worked out fairly well for me. I really only used it when I was out of cell service but it was surprisingly good for a free app, and being able to cache entire state maps came in very handy. I found it annoying to swap apps back and forth with it on my iPad, but I had an old Android tablet that I wiped and installed it on and just downloaded every state map that I might need. Keep the old device charged up and you have a portable electronic atlas that frequently updates (of sorts). Maps.ME was my backup in case Google Maps ran out of locally cached maps.

    I also used MotionX GPS ($1.99 on iTunes) on my iPhone back in 2016 to log my chase trips, and that worked really well. I just ran it on my phone and would just start logging at the beginning of the chase. It came in handy a couple of times when I had to backtrack on my original trail down some winding back roads. Honestly I think the worst part of it was just remembering to stop the track at the end of the day. It exports to KML and GPX so you can mess it with in Google Earth, among other types of navigation software. Also, it was handy to capture GPS waypoints (mark that crusty old wooden barn you stumbled upon for a future foreground object against a moody sky!) However, it's an Apple only app and since I switched over to an Android phone this year I've been looking for a replacement. I've been recommended Ultra GPS Logger as a possible Android alternative.
     
  9. Jeremy Perez

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    So far, I haven't chased with a PC Laptop/mapping/radar setup, so I've worked other options. In the morning/evening, I do use a MacBook Pro to go over models, satellite, discussion, and work on photos/video. The last couple seasons I introduced an iPad Pro and break it out in the field to download surface data/satellite and sketch out boundaries and layer in forecast conditions to help tune up my position. It's been pretty handy for that.

    During the chase, I'm just down to an iPhone 6+ for RadarScope/satellite/data/discussion and a Garmin GPS on the dash for mapping. Not sure if the 6+ could be a decent analogy for iPad chasing—at a smaller size. I keep the iPhone up for radar while referring to the dash GPS for navigation decisions. The disconnect between detailed navigation maps and radar probably encourages me to keep a more generous distance on storms, and that's been fine for how I like to chase although probably not ideal for others. iPad would be a lot better for visibility & now for side by side apps (I've just never researched & invested in a decent mounting solution).

    For GPS logging, I tried the 'GPS Tracks' app but it was a battery hog for the resolution I wanted it to provide...and was easy to accidentally shut off. So now I rely on the Garmin GPS since it easily keeps a running log and I just download that every couple days.

    I still bring my DeLorme paper maps, but like James, I can't recall being able to get decent use out of them during a chase—too huge & easy to get mixed up on the farm grid. I still like having them though, and do use them sometimes before the chase takes off to visualize options depending on where I think storms will track—looking for river crossings, pinch points, gaps in the grid, detour plans. I can do that on Google maps if data is decent, but something about the tactile experience of physically paging around the chase area helps me embed the roads and lay of the land in a meaningful way.
     
  10. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I am not well-versed enough with Radarscope to leave the laptop behind. Once you've been using the same things for years, it gets hard to imagine not using them.

    Plus, I have a hard time seeing the radar on a phone screen. Sure, a tablet has a larger screen, but I already have a laptop, and tablets are expensive.
     
  11. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I have thought about switching to a windows-based tablet/touch screen laptop at some point. The one thing I've run into with touch screens is that they don't work if your hands get even a little damp from rain.

    I chased with a phone once locally after work when my laptop was at home. It was so dangerous I stopped doing it. With a phone, you need two hands to use it, and you have to look down at it and take your eyes off of the road completely. Add to that things are smaller and harder to see at a glance. At least for me, it was really easy to drift out of lane doing that. Not that laptop use while driving is adviseable, but at least with a laptop, you can glance over at it quickly to look at your GPS position or radar with the road still in your view, the same as if you were changing the radio station or turning up the AC.
     
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  12. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Going back over everything available to me here.

    With the car I have, I can have a laptop in the front, or a passenger in the front, but not both. While this is a tough decision, I will take the passenger over the laptop. I will still maintain my WxWorx unit and GRLevel3 on the laptop, but it will be a backup device and will just sit on the seat, if I even need it.

    Just bought a Google Nexus 7, and I am able to mount it in the front in a lot less space. I plan on just trying to use Radarscope this year, and weaning myself off of the options requiring a giant, heavy device.

    As the cars get newer for me, the less interior space I am dealing with. No idea how they make police cars out of these things.
     
  13. Chris Kridler

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    Thanks so much for all the input. I'm going to check out some of the software you've all mentioned for dealing with GPS logs.

    In the meantime, I got the Bad Elf GPS Pro to use with the iPad. It's a small Bluetooth device with a long battery life, and you can link it to multiple devices (e.g. iPad, phone, etc.). I've been able to put it in one of the cubby holes on the dashboard (i.e. out of the sun) and it still works fine. You can set it to log your route, and you can capture "points of interest" along the way with the press of a couple of buttons (I'm trying to do this while taking a reference photo with the phone to make it easier to reconstruct my chase stops later using the Maps function in Lightroom; haven't tried linking the data to my Nikon pix yet). The trip can then be offloaded via Bluetooth to the Bad Elf app on the iPad, and from there, emailed or otherwise saved so you can play with the GPX or KML file later. I'm uploading a screen shot of the map from the Bad Elf app. There's also a display of data on speed, altitude, etc., and a graph showing your speeds.

    I also got the paid version of the CoPilot app for the iPad. I haven't explored all of its functions yet, but it lets you download the maps you need, so if you hit a data hole, you still have navigation. You can do 2D or 3D nav; in 2D, you can choose to have the map oriented so North is up all the time. This was one of my peeves about Street Atlas: having to manually orient the map toward North. I like reading the digital map this way while chasing so I have a better sense of where I am and what my escape routes are (unless I'm just driving to a hotel).

    I'm using Radarscope Pro (the first paid level; haven't sprung for the top level) on the iPad and on the iPhone. My iPhone hangs on the dash in a cheap but handy Bondi holder just to my right so I can easily tap it with one hand if I have to. I've found sometimes I'll have Radarscope visible on both devices, since the iPad is in a cup-holder mount between the seats, and sometimes it's just easier to glance at the phone.

    For data, I'm using the iPhone as a hotspot (AT&T) supplemented by a Verizon hotspot.

    I used to have all the big Delorme paper atlases in the car, but I eventually stopped carrying them and relied on Street Atlas (now, CoPilot). I still rely on the paper Rand McNally U.S. Road Atlas so I have an idea of which roads are paved. It's not 100 percent right, but it's pretty good.

    ~ Chris

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