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KU lecturer’s contribution to the transfer of hot air balloon competitions to the 21st century has been awarded a medal of the World Air Sports Federation

Klaipėda University received good news: Julius Venskus, lecturer at the Faculty of Marine Technology and Natural Sciences, has been awarded a medal and a letter of thanks by one of the oldest sports federations, the World Air Sports Federation (FAI), for his significant contribution to the development of air sports.

Julius Venskus, presently a doctoral student, lecturer at KU, and branch manager of a Norwegian company operating in Klaipėda, is actively involved in air sports _ he regularly judges hot air balloon competitions and is a member of the FAI New Technology Working Group. The group includes specialists from Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Australia, and Lithuania. It was they who contributed to the development of the software and hardware for monitoring and calculating the results of hot air balloon race participants.

According to Klaipedian Julius Venckus, recipient of an honourable award, the idea to create the software came from his judging in competitions, which were held from 3 to 7 every year (in 2019, Venskus participated in as many as 11 competitions). He,  as a specialist in computer engineering, was dissatisfied with the slow, user-unfriendly, and morally outdated software, still used in world-class hot air balloon races. “I knew how it could be improved, and then the two-year-long presentation of the idea to various high-ranking FAI officials began. The process was not easy, hindered by various opinions and skepticism from some federations, but after creating a demonstration version of the software and successfully testing it in several competitions in Lithuania and Poland, it was approved,” said Julius Venskus, lecturer at the Faculty of Marine Engineering and Natural Sciences.

The developed system consists of three parts: a task recording application on the phone – Venskus was specifically in charge of its development and programming, a geolocation and barometric altitude sensor, and the central server. With the introduction of dynamic management of competition tasks, the system speeds up the calculation of points, provides the possibility to monitor the locations of hot air balloons in real time, and guarantees the accuracy of the results. Security is ensured by an electronic signature. Julius Venskus jokes that, after this innovation, “hot air balloon competition has moved to the 21st century”…

Julius Venskus

The system has been practically tested in a number of competitions of the second category: Vilnius Cup 2020, Lake and Sky 2019, Polish Cup, and others. This year, it is to be used in the World Youth, Polish, Lithuanian, American, Australian Cowindra Cup, and Swiss championships.

Julius Venckus, Klaipėda-based IT specialist, emphasised that the new software system was especially important during the global pandemic: it enabled organising a new type of competition, when pilots did not need to gather in one place and could compete in their own countries. The app allows for sending results in real time and for securely scoring points, therefore, even under various lockdown restrictions, competitions can take place.

When asked what he thought of the award, Julius Venskus said it was still hard for him to believe he had been honoured with a world-class award. He was happy about the  appreciation of his work for  the Federation. The award for Julius Venskus was announced at an online meeting of FAI delegates from all countries, and the medal and letter of thanks reached him by mail.