Tons has happened! The revision two board is much smaller, 1.5″ square and packs the Trimble Copernicus II GPS with chip antenna, HMC5883L Magnetometer, MPU-6050 gyro/accelerometer, BMP085 barometer, 5 PWM outputs, 17 IO pins, USB host capability, data logging, and weighs in at 4 grams fully assembled. The TPS61200 boost converter on board also supplies a solid 3.3v over the full range of the LiPo.
Additionally, since this board will be used to test the Ultimate GPS from Adafruit and is compatible for my high altitude balloon projects, Adafruit sent me one of their Ultimate GPS modules to test! It sports unlocked altitude, 1ohz update rates, 25ma of tracking power consumption, onboard data logging, and much more for only $30! Also, through Adafruit’s awesome Show-and-Tell podcast on G+ I go on occasionally to update them, Rick Winston agreed to send me a few wireless modules from EasyRadio. If i use a sensitive antenna i should be able to get enough line-of-sight range out of them, and 900mhz should be a quiet band with reasonable data rate. Thanks Rick!
Now for the negatives: the TPS61200 short circuits when the GPS is connected, probably due to RF interference off the inductor, so until i can get that fixed I might move to a 50mv dropout LDO. To make matters worse, after a month of trying with the MPU-6050 and Jeff Rowberg’s I2Cdev Library, I still can’t get sensor data out of the device. It is Rev A silicon, so I might need to replace it with a Rev C current one, but the MPU9150 is going to be released soon and it has a fully integrated 9-axis sensor array. I have been successful in talking to the barometer, GPS, OpenLog data logger, and the Ultimate GPS. Finally was able to order another set of props and ESCs as well. It’s about time Hobbyking.
Oh, and my 1200 gram balloon from Kaymont arrived a few weeks ago. Adafruit was kind enough to post about it.
The Adafruit Show and Tell yesterday.
Just a small note, QwertyBoyDesign based his quadcopter project off of mine, you can see his blog here.
Below are a few photos of the most recent board.
Always a nice day when a package arrives! Yesterday I received two EasyRadio modules from Rick Winscott. I was on the Adafruit Show and Tell with him two weeks ago, he was showing off his Arduino breakout and said he’d send me a few to test with my upcoming balloon launch! They are Easy Radio 434Mhz transceivers, came on a nicely laid out and socketed board complete with LEDs, a short dipole and a robust SMA antenna connector. The 434Mhz version touts a 10mw of transmit power, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But with the right antennas and line of sight transmission, a 10mw signal can easily to 20 miles or more. Rick recommends something like a full-wave dipole antenna for the best reception. Thanks Rick!
I have mentioned before that the controller for my microquad project doubles as the controller for my high altitude balloon project. Since I have set a launch date for early September, I have decided to put aside the quadcopter project for the next few weeks and focus on the launch.
That said, I have been revising my PCB and finally received some new ESCs and props from HobbyKing, some 2.5×1 props and 4 more ESCs to replace the hokey ones I’ve got. Changes to the PCB include:
Another update on my HAB project. I’ve been working on the radio system for the past month or so. Mainly I built two antennas that were capable of reaching the required 50 mile or so range. When I first started researching the required antenna specifications, I was extremely confused by all the different measurements and types of antenna. This is where talking to a real expert can be awesome.
David Patterson of Edge Research Lab kindly assisted me in figuring out all the fine details of making my antennas and design considerations I needed to take into account. After an exchange of emails, the feasibility of this radio link hinged on a line of sight connection and a high gain antenna setup. For starters the antennas have to be circular polarized so the spin of the payload does not cause any loss or noise from signal bounce. Additionally, the recieving antenna must be high gain to capture the weak signal, while the transmitting as omnidirectional (low gain) as possible to broadcast the signal so it can be picked up from all sides of the payload.
Specs of the receiving helical:
The cloverleaf is based off this design by Alex Greve. I had to enlarge it for 900mhz dimensions, which made the construction a bit more difficult than for the more common, higher frequencies used in RC aircraft. I used 12 gauge solid core copper wire for the lobes, carefully soldered to RG58 coax.
One of the snags I hit was the RG58 I had on hand was part of a SMA cable with too-large connectors. Thus i had to order a properly sized one from Digikey, but ended up destroying part of it in the process. Turns out the center conductor is not mechanically fastened, so when i tried to strip the cable it pulled out and rendered it useless. That night I scrapped a few of the stock dipoles that came with the EasyRadio modules, soldered the SMA connectors onto a fat length of the RG58, and built the cloverleaf on that. I had to build a jig to hold the wire lobes in place while I soldered, then covered the joint in hot glue. Both antennas are right-hand circular polarized.
For this launch, I’m going with my Canon SX210IS. I loaded and tested the CHDK build for it, works like a charm. I did some battery life tests and the intervalometer took 1400 images on a 10 second interval. It’s pretty large but has good specs and I don’t want to buy another camera. The only reason I’m not using the SX110IS from last year is the screen has broke and I want a few more megapixels and sharper images. I took apart the zi8 that failed last year, might include it if I can get it to record 30 minute clips with the pic32, but at the moment it seems like a lot to work with.
I’m using the same 1.5″ thick pink insulation board, in an 8x8x6 inch cube. The interior dimensions are a lot smaller and the payload a lot lighter. On the bottom will be a hole drilled in the center for the cloverleaf antenna to poke and rest on the bottom. Since the antenna is fragile, It will probably be covered in a plastic Tupperware for protection.
I bought another 1200 gram balloon from Kaymont, and the smaller payload (under 1.5 pounds I hope) should allow me to reach 100,000 feet and higher quite easily, while maintaining a high decent rate. The parachute is a 48″ from RocketChutes, same one I used last year with great results. Some 1/8″ nylon cord will finish off the flight string.
The ERA900TRS modules should provide two-way communication the whole way, but I have the SPOT II onboard as well. It tested well on the first launch. It only sends a GPS locatin every 10 minutes without altitude, and cuts out above 60,000 feet, but keeps transmitting when it gets below 60,000 feet again. Hopefully on my third launch I can omit this and lighten the payload further. Sensors onboard will include a Copernicus II GPS i verified on my first launch, two versions of the Ultimate GPS, BMP085 barometer, and maybe some MEMS devices if I have time to hook them up. Temperature is measured by the barometer and radio, as well as the MPU-6050 also onboard.
Testing and Launch Date
I plan to launch in eastern Washington on September 22nd. This past weekend I attempted to distance test my antennas, but the easyRadio software wouldn’t cooperate with my laptop although we tested it successfully last weekend. Troubleshooting isn’t fun :(
Low Power Radio Solutions has kindly donated lots of time and radios for my project. The EasyRadio modules are very nice to use and I got them up and running quickly with my uController.
Many thanks go to David Patterson at Edge Research Lab for helping me with the whole RF system and sending me a Airview9 spectrum analyzer and Rick Winscot who helped me get the EasyRadio modules online and donating a few breakouts to LENSE.
Hopefully my next post can include some test results and pictures of my PCBs when they come in!
I finally got out to test the antennas, went about a mile line of sight with no issues! I got the PC drivers for the development kits from LPRS sorted out after a few emails. The connection is only one way after they antennas get about a half mile apart, but it’s a solid link!
Dev board hooked up to the receiving helical, feeding into the EasyRadio Companion software. This was a test of a few hundred yards, my dad was on the transmitting end at the top of the hill.
1 Mile test, receiving at the top of the hill, my dad at the very end of the road at the top of the picture.
I received the Rev 2.1 PCBs from Advanced Circuits. Most beautiful PCBs i’ve ever seen! Well, that I’ve designed myself… Anyway, I had to order a new set of ultra low dropout regulators since I lost the first ones I ordered – literally tore apart my room trying to find them. A fresh MPU-6050 Rev C silicon and fresh BMP085 also got soldered on. Going to get ahold of some Amtek solder paste (per recommendation of Limor Fried, Ask An Engineer). Speaking of which, I won a Chumby NeTV on the trivia question! Arrived yesterday, will upload pics/post soon. Erik Noren will be next to win (thanks for the karma). Back to the PCBS, I hooked up the LDO, had a bit of debugging to do with some pesky capacitor shorts, but now that everything is talking it’s time to get started on the code. In the payload I’ll have to interface to the MPU6050, BMP085, HMC5883 (all I2C), Adafruit Ultimate GPS versions 2 & 3, Copernicus II GPS, SFE OpenLog, and the ERA900TRS radio (all RS232). The box interior can be incredibly small, only 5×5″ because i can stack all the electronics pretty tightly. Batteries will be 3 Energizer Ultimate Lithium cells (3000mah = at least 24 hours of continuous operation).
From top left clockwise, Ultimate GPS v2, OpenLog, V2.1 PCB, Rick Winscot’s EasyRadio breakout, and Ultimate GPS v3.
Copernicus II GPS on the bottom
12 hours to launch time of 10 AM in Quincy, Washington of LENSEv2. Currently I’ve been troubleshooting for 12 hours and just patched up the electronics:
Temperature sensors and barometric pressure sensors failed. Tomorrow I’ll attempt to track the payload in real time with a heading/inclination script i coded to direct me where to point my 30dbi helical antenna, receiving real time GPS data. On 1mw of transmit power from 50 miles…fat chance but I thought I’d try it. Updates on @BudgetEngineer (twitter), I’ll be on the Adafruit Show and Tell tomorrow night to share the results.
Damn Murphy. Long post and photos will follow.
Payload missing. 12 hours since launch. All set to go at 8:50 at Quincy, Washington when the SPOT II satellite beacon wouldn’t update it’s position on the website. I cracked open the payload to find it claimed to have sent the message already – 30 minute delay on the SPOT website. With that, I finished buttoning it up, and we released at 9:05.
Two more data points at 9:17 and 9:28, then no more. At this point at 5 m/s ascent rate it would be above 20,000 feet – known limit of the SPOT from LENSEv1 last summer. We hurriedly drove to Toppenish, Washington to the south, predicted landing zone. About 10:50 was the predicted burst time – we stopped for lunch and I set up the helical and started sweeping the general direction of the payload for a 900mhz signal – no dice.
At 11:30 the payload should be under 20,000 feet – no SPOT updates. we waited until 1:00 for any updates, nothing. No luck with scanning the horizon with the 900mhz radio either.
At this point, the payload is likely within 5-10 miles of Toppenish, Washington. The SPOT stops transmitting tracking data after 24 hours, assuming it is still working. My optimistic theory is that there is an issue with the SPOT website (thus the lag of GPS point updates). Phone lines aren’t open until Monday.
In the mean time I’m sending emails to radio stations to try and get the word out. My number is written on the box and parachute – 425-829-4151 PLEASE call if you find a small pink box and red parachute with camera lens sticking out!