Episode 143- Matt Scutter and SkySight Soaring 101

the magic of skysight…

Matt Scutter is an Australian competition sailplane pilot and software engineer who leads a team that runs the popular global soaring forecast platform SkySight. Unlike other platforms that use existing weather models to produce interactive forecasts for free flight enthusiasts like Meteoparapente and XCSkies, SkySight uses their own supercomputing systems to gather a wide range of weather data to create their own daily models. Initially designed for sailplane forecasting SkySight is now a go-to platform for paragliding and hang gliding forecasting as well. In this podcast Matt gives us a quick audio history of SkySight and how their system differs from other resources and then we switch over to a video screen recording of Matt taking us through a tutorial of how SkySight can help you achieve bigger distance with greater confidence and how to use their powerful convergence forecasting, route planning and other tools. Enjoy!

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Speaker 1 (0s): Hi there, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem and a great show for you today with Matt Scutter. He is the brain child behind Skysight the Soaring platform, kinda like Meteoparapente or XCSkies the difference. The big difference there with their platform is they're pulling in all the data from all the models, but they're creating their own model. And Matt is a sailplane pilot by trade and a racing pilot and flies. A lot of comps.

He's also recently taken up paragliding, but they built this platform for sailplanes in a specifically for racing and then realized they were really onto something for the Free flight world. So they have, they took some time and reworked it and made it work for paragliders hang gliders, whatever you fly. I got interested in Skysight in the last race because Revis my, one of my supporters and weather guru and really talented pilot started using it.

Cause he uses everything when it comes to weather and, and forecasting and gathering data. He's really into that. And he's a software engineer and he really likes it. And so I, I, I haven't used it much myself, but I wanted to learn more about it. So I reached out to Matt and talked to him about Skysight and this is another kinda like we did with Lisa. And XCSkies. There is a very short opening here where Matt talks a little bit about his history and why they built this and, and how Skysight came to be.

And then we're going to switch over. So go to the show notes at ATT on the website, Cloudbase man.com click on this Episode and the show notes we'll have the YouTube video we did is basically a screen capture of him explaining Skysight. And if you want to get it, if you're familiar with it, you probably, this is a lot of details that you probably aren't familiar with, just to give you a lot more to it, like how to fight, fly convergence lines and how to use it, to predict flying the best route from a to B.

And it's a really powerful platform and it's getting more and more powerful all the time. They've got a great team there. So you'll learn a lot from this video, even if you already use it, if you haven't used it. And you're curious after listening to this and you want to get it, have to go to Skysight and go to the end, use the code Cloudbase Mayhem to get 14 days extra Free. So a little bit of incentive there to play around and get used to it before you dive in and commit to getting a subscription.

So Gavin, go to the website, click on the show notes and you'll see all of that will give you a reminder at the end of the, of the quick little audio show here with Matt, this is a very short, and then you'll switch over and watch the video. Huge shout out to all the contributors to the book we sent out. We had about 20 advanced copies of advanced paragliding that went out to a bunch of the folks who contributed a lot to the book are had a full chapter in their contributed pictures and that kind of thing.

So I've been seeing these great pictures of all of you with the book on social media, Nick grease and bill Belcourt and Rafael Salud, Dini, and Russ Ogden and Cody and Geoff Shapiro and all of my heroes. So that's been really special to see Kriegel of course, I think he was the, he got the first advanced copy. That was a real, that was a big surprise to see him holding the book on Instagram. So thank you all for doing that. That means so much to me and speaking to Nick grease, who contributed a bunch of great images to the book.

He has a new cooking show. I'm going to give them a shout out. He has a new cooking show on kaaboo.com. kvu.com a company he's been with for many, many years. And the cooking show is a blast. It's really well done, super fun. And if you've got some time and you're in the food, go check it out. And it's a, it's a lot of fun. So thank you all for promoting the book and, and backing it and giving me so much of your time and hopefully all of you who ordered advanced copies, you'll begin at very soon and understand it.

That's on the way. So thanks for your patience. And I hope you enjoy the book top of the show tip is another little segment we've pulled out of the longer interview that Nick did recently with our friend, Kevin Brooker, sailplane pilot, he and the top of the show tip on the last one as well. We're just going to keep pulling these out of this interview. We'll do a longer one with him that talks all about this, but this one is on. Nick asked him a question about how do you approach, you know, a task or a day or something that's really beyond your current skill level without exposing yourself to more risk.

And I really liked this answer that Kevin provided. So enjoy this little quick segment, and then we'll jump into the show with Matt. And then if you're on a laptop or something, then switch over and watch the very informative, a screen to screen share, and video tutorial of how to use Skysight cheers,

Speaker 2 (5m 45s): Assessing a sight or a day or a specific move can sometimes require a ton of experience. We don't have what are great ways to get pieces of that experience or the totality of that experience without exposing to unnecessary

Speaker 3 (5m 58s): Hazard. I think a lot of that is breaking the task down into sections and, you know, whatever the task is in a lot of it's flying on, I'm a firm believer in flying on really crummy soft days because you learn a lot about staying in the air and, you know, the first rule of cross-country is staying in the air. And the second rule is revisit rule number one, you know? And so, you know, I think a lot of it is, you know, when you start to feel slightly, always give yourself an out, you know, like never put yourself in a situation where this better work, that's such a coin flip.

And so many people get caught with it, and it's not really a comfortable place to go. And if you did put yourself there, be honest with yourself and say, I got lucky today. It wasn't skill that caught me out. It was luck. And we're, we're going to learn a lot about being in that kind of like a dumb ass situation, you know, and realize when you're encroaching on that. And you know, it's okay to be nervous. That's, that's the way we learn. And, you know, by breaking the tasks down into smaller pieces, it's just, I'm gonna go to here.

And then is your comfort level, how did it work out is your comfort level there with a decision that I made good does everything that I had looked good and then, you know, go a little farther. And we were talking about flying small triangles. There is no small tasks around the landing zone, and it's a good way to, you know, fly in marginal days or big days. Cause you know, you ha you're going into an area, a landing area that you're familiar with, which is so important, you know, that you're not adding another variable,

Speaker 4 (10m 8s): Matt, great to have you on the show, I've been wanting to reach out to you and your team for quite a long time. We had this, we had this really fun show with, with Lisa about XCSkies and I got a ton of great feedback on that. I think it was a very valuable to our community and my own X outs team was really using your site a ton in the last race and the 2019 race. And I know it's become more and more of a favorite. So appreciate you coming on the show and telling us all about it.

And tell me about you guys. How did this happen? Why did it happen? What was kind of the catalyst?

Speaker 5 (10m 45s): Yeah, so I've been to gliding must have been sailplane since about 2009 and I cook, I can't go on to the competitive scene, go on the national team, go out in the world as a team. And it was coming up to the, then a junior world championships in 2015 and now my new South Wales and I was on the team. I had the right glider. I had some great teammates, but the thing that we're really lacking is weather. And we had access to a couple of sites at the local rasp. Is that kinda thing that there was no really a good solution for a detailed weather and the area we're going to be flying in.

So I started having a team around that later and with rasps and things like that in the past, at the time I was a software engineer at Google and Sydney. And so I knew my way around computers and all that kind of thing and did a whole lot of home and looked at a whole other study. And I'm trying to put together something that I thought would be useful for a team and that it was useful. So when I'm to win the world championship Sadia, and that a year later at work, I was still, I was a bit quite bored at work. And I thought maybe I have another lot of this to see if I can put some more time and spend it out.

Something that was not useful just to an eight on the team, but maybe useful to everyone. So a couple of more years at work and I released a product we now know is SkySight. And so that's myself and a team of about four developers. I work with quite quickly to a witch to reach new ologists. And yeah, we're just working on making it better with, and the last couple of years really expanded our focus, not just to sailplane. And so I, I learn to sail plans I've since gone so on the paradigm is as well, the way I'm trying to make that as friendly as possible to provide a pilot's a living by the islands and eventually, and then general aviation pilots as well, just trying to deliver a detailed forecasts that are super easy to use that don't need to reach a lot of just to be temper.

Speaker 4 (12m 36s): And what models do you feed into it? What models are you working from?

Speaker 5 (12m 42s): So it depends on Rachel. And so we initialize. So what we run on their own modeling and, but we initialize those models either from basic GFS or icon, potentially as well as the NWF for the future. And then we do our own data simulation on top of that. So we don't just rely on those sources as well. The ingest satellites ourselves, that was all of the ground stations, all the meteorological observations, their selves is often like a, the GFS update comes out at midnight or 6:00 AM and something. Then you want the forecast at 10:00 AM.

So there's been four hours of new data is gone to waste. So the way everybody to do that data assimilation to actually pull and then overwrite in that initial data from the chair best. So I comma something like that, but the real lines and stuff before we run out in the hallway, and then we're running a very high details and variant of a that you might've heard called Worf a WRF. So we forced that and made it a whole bunch of changes to try and optimize it for gliding in particular. So I'm trying to better resolve the boundary layer on the phenomena that mattered to us.

And yeah, we run that in it as much detail as possible as often as possible and present the results these guys. So,

Speaker 4 (13m 49s): And I know that he and I am not immediate neurologist to put that out at the top of the show, but I know that from friends of mine who are like nicknames and pons of romantic people that are, you know, very versed in meteorology, that they often talk about that really the models are not operating very well. And the layers that we're really concerned with in Soaring, maybe a bit more with sailplanes cause you guys can obviously use wave and a lot more speed and get taller at times when there's waves.

But I'm just wondering if, how much interpretation interpolation is is, is required to make what we see in Skysight accurate.

Speaker 5 (14m 34s): Absolutely. Right. So most weather models don't run enough layers. So people to talk about horizontal agree to a resolution, as they're saying, Oh, this is where the model is eight kilometers. And this one is four kilometers. And that is a very important thing about, and the mountains and things like that. So the distance between those forecasts points are as to whether it's going to the valleys of the peaks and things like that. And, but it's also a very important the vertical layers. And you hear almost no one talking about that at all. So within Skysight we run almost twice as many vertical layers than other people do. So we have a whole bunch of extra layers as a boundary layer.

I'm trying to really resolve both the thermals near the surface at the ground and have a format, particularly through the Hills and then associated getting up you at the top of the bounce rate of the top of the terminals. So we can actually have a resolve with an eye to it. So I went and I'm like, GFS, I've just clarified. I'm making these numbers up. I don't know the exact where they put the layers, but they might have say a kilometer between the layers at a higher altitude, which means it can't really tell you if the Cloudbase is going to be at 10,000 feet or 13,000 feet with any great degree of detail.

So if we're able to splice into more lays in that space at a layer with a 300 meters and make you ready to give you a lot more detail about where we think the cloud's going to be forming within that area, or if the cloud's going to be forming at all. So we do the same. I'm all for the atmosphere that we think glide is going to be flying, try and get back to those better results.

Speaker 4 (15m 55s): And is this all then computer driven? I mean, can you be, imagine this started in Australia and you were working to get a better picture of what was going on there for your own needs and there's this expanded, you know, I, I like, I know it's something that's been quite accurate for us in the Rockies, you know, here in the States, but in again, in my limited knowledge of neurology, you know, when we, when I travel and go to different places, you know, when I'm in Europe, we, we still look at say something like XCSkies, but because Chris, isn't using a lot of those models, it's more GFS there.

You know, we're using things like Meteoparapente more, or maybe even now Skysight more, how do you, I would just imagine it gets really expensive to, to start. I mean, do you feel like Skysight is something that could cover the world really accurately or is it really, does it take a lot of personal bandwidth from your team to kind of dial in an area? Or is it all just computers? You can just grab it and go,

Speaker 5 (17m 2s): Well, I, yeah, so it's extraordinarily expensive for us to run the morals we do. So we try and run now models in all of the regions we forecast for. We're not falling back to GFS or anything like that. So you're seeing roughly the same level of detail on every region that forecast for, and in some regions, whether it's a few less pilots on the topography, similarly run a little bit lower detail, but all three say Europe, the us, and also the East coast of Australia, we're running really high detail forecasts costs and extraordinary amounts to do that.

So we have about 2000 CPU's forecasts to the weather right now, and it's more or less the same model we're running in every region. So physics is the same everywhere in the world. So if it was to say the model to the tune of those country or that country, or the thermal is a different view, I think physics is more or less the same for the rest. So we really want to make very small tweaks from region to region and run the same model in every location.

Speaker 4 (17m 59s): Is this a stand-alone business? Now, this is what you're doing is that you're bringing in that you have enough subscribers that it pays for it to, to work from a,

Speaker 5 (18m 9s): Yeah, I quit my job at Google after just six months of running sky stuff, it was immediately quite fantastic for the last few years. The growth in Europe is incredible. So I think we're one of the bigger providers.

Speaker 4 (18m 24s): That's fantastic. Wow. And I guess, do you just credit that success to the simplicity of, you know, that a layman can get in there and figure out a good day? And that's what we're going to do with you here shortly. I know you're going to take us over and, and take us into the program for those of you who are listening to this audio side, we were good. We'll be switching over and just watching Matt use SkySight. And so that'll be a lot of fun, but what do you credit that success to? I obviously the accuracy of, of the forecast, but is it, it must just be the platform.

Speaker 5 (18m 59s): Yeah, I think I always hold in mind, things like Google earth, like, do you remember the first time you use Google earth? And it was just like so much fun to play with like zooming to see a house and like, it was just a whole new paradigm. So I was always trying to be with an experience that was like that, that even if you weren't actually interested in the way that for today, it was still fun to have a look and see how the day is unfolding. You see now the front's coming through how that's influencing the weather. I'm just trying to push the boundaries of a little bit in that area, try and make it as easy to use as possible. The focus was always that we weren't going to make a platform for experts.

We're trying to build 20% of the functionality. If I need to send to the user is not a million different options and configurations and different nobs to stand for experts on that.

Speaker 4 (19m 39s): Hm. What did you have to do if anything, when you, when you started from, okay, this is a sailplane, this is a Soaring platform built for sailplane pilots to everybody. Was, was there, was there much of a change?

Speaker 5 (19m 55s): Well, I didn't really know that a little watch, a hang glider or a paragraph of the pilots wanted. So I started expanding my tool for repertoire. So I do talk to the gliding clubs and things like that. And then I teach them how to use Skysight to teach them how we do it. So I started offering that to paragliding gloves and gliding clubs as well, and then learning a bit more about what they need. And then I decided, I bet I can go that and go to a myself. So I went to a Sharmini and did so the first summer cost. And when Soto of the IX, there is a little bit the flying and paragliding. I'm trying to expand my understanding a bit more.

And now I'm, I mean, it comes back to the number of the top paragliding pilots and they send me the feedback and information about what they're up to and have a models working for them and what they like to see. I'm trying to drive the development in that direction. Not having to do some more paragliding in, learn a bit more about it firsthand as well.

Speaker 4 (20m 42s): I got to ask you did that a, is that set some of your passion for sailplanes aside are the only make it grow?

Speaker 5 (20m 51s): I think it is. I think the sports that are really very similar, I understand people who have different objectives and were flying different distances and that kind of thing. And, but it was really remarkable to me flying Paragon this for the first time feeling thermal is exactly the same as we do in sailplanes just a one 30. The speed of like, when you pull in to the thermal is still all of the feelings and sensations. Exactly the same. You feel a little cobblestone is going in and there's a bit of turbulence on the gas and it's really just the same. So yeah.

Speaker 4 (21m 23s): What is, this is something I always want to ask sailplane pilots. What do you guys know? And you're quite young that I don't know that you're that representative of the sailplane world these days, but the what, what do, what do you know that paraglider pilots don't, you know, what, what have you learned about gliding and the atmosphere because you're traveling at near just such a better glide? What, what, what, something that maybe you wouldn't think was an awe is an obvious crossover?

Speaker 5 (21m 52s): Well, it's hard to say the big differences that the obvious ones like we can cross weather systems in a day. So we spend a lot of time thinking about how we're going to make that transition from one to the other. Where is it a paraglider? You're trying to figure out how to get from one page to another than the same other system. And so I think we experience a much broader variety of conditions and we're able to fly in much weaker in a much stronger conditions. So I think this is the diversity of experience that sailplane gliding offers that perhaps as much harder to achieve or takes a long way to achieve and paragliding, but at the same time and paragliding and going so slow for the atmosphere.

I think you really develop such a good understanding of what's going on around you and secretly at the low level. So I have a lot of respect to the paragraph of the pilots who come to sail planes, and I almost never seemed outlandish. So for us to say, a plan's out landing is a small disaster. It's a big hassle switch to come on a retreat in a trailer and drive into a field. You can't just pack up your stuff and walk out. But the guys that come across from paragliding, there is so good at getting away from it as low as the shoes that really understand what's going on in that bottom, a thousand feet super ready about a client that were in sailplanes.

We just have no idea.

Speaker 4 (23m 4s): Fascinating to me, Matthew. I think we could make a show of just talking about this, but let's switch over to a two year to year platform to Skysight and let's teach everybody about that. So folks listening again, we're going to end the audio portion here and, and we'll, we'll have this up on YouTube and we can all learn about how, how to use Skysight. If you find the Cloudbase may have valuable, you can support it in a lot of different ways.

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Speaker 0 (25m 47s): Thank you. .