Not many people know but we have an piece of open source software for controlling an Antenna Tracker.  It's been built by Tridge (Arduplane lead developer) for use in the outback challenge.

Sadly we have no documentation and, as far as I know, nobody except Tridge has used it.  Still given Tridge's track record on building great software I suspect it works well and if it doesn't, I'm sure we can fix it.  So to not let this piece of code go to waste, I'd like some help from people who are interested to give it a try and help me figure out how it works.

Here's the little that I know:

  • It runs on any of our supported board (APM1, APM2, PX4, Pixhawk, Flymaple and perhaps VRBrain)
  • For APM1/APM2 users building the code is as easy as opening our hacked ArduinoIDE and selecting File > SketchBook > Tools > AntennaTracker and then building in the normal way.  For PX4/Pixhawk, our autobuilder doesn't automatically build a binary but I can provide one if people are interested.
  • It can control a Pan and Tilt gimbal like this or this found on servocity.com.
  • It may or may not require a GPS
  • It must somehow receive vehicle position updates from the ground station which has the telemetry radio that is connected to the vehicle. Maybe through a USB cable.  Tridge probably uses the python ground station, MAVProxy, to passthrough the vehicle position data to the AT but perhaps we can get MichaelO to build out a similar feature in Mission Planner.
  • I imagine this antenna tracker could also be used to keep a camera focused on the vehicle which might be good for easing the burden on creating videos of our vehicles.

So if you want to give it a try please do and stick any findings, questions or issues below. Alternatively Issues can go into the issues list.

I'll start sticking things into the wiki as they become clear.

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couple of points.

in MP.

if the tracker is not in proxy mode. ie doesn't have the radio on the radio port, you need to feed it a mavlink stream. in mission planner press control-F, and click mavlink. and select the tracker comport.

 

if the tracker is in proxy mode. then only the usb is required. as the tracker is receiving data direct from the MAV

I used the antenna tracker feature of Mission Planner with great success two years ago. But when my "field laptop" died I started to fiddle around with the Ardustation. While the Ardustation was fairly simple to use, the main purpose of the antenna tracker, [for me], was to improve the link between MP and my airplane.

I used a Pololu Maestro to drive a Servocity gearbox for pan and a Hitec HS-5995-TG servo connected directly to the tilt.

The Maestro was great, because one can tailor the speed and range of the servo movement preventing jerks or mechanical jams/collisions on the antenna tacker gimbal. 

I looked into the Ardustation Mega for a little bit, I thought it might offer some great features as control system for the antenna tracker.

My attention drifted away from the tracker system while I was saving up for a replacement laptop the tracker hardware got pillaged for other temporary projects.

Re-tasking some older flight controllers could provide the tracker with it's own GPS, compass and accelerometers for setting up the tracker. I currently have three APM1.4  & an APM2.0  collecting dust and often wonder about using them for my next tracker system.

I look forward to seeing what new developments arise from this thread, I guess now I'll have start building another one.

Cheers

If Tridge has wrote it then I want to try it! Together with Randy they make great software. 

I think that we should start with the basics in the wiki: What is an antenna tracker and why we would like to use it, basic configs and more advanced ones.

Ok, I originally though MichaelO was talking about the antenna tracker software built into the mission planner but now I realise this is a way to get the mavlink info from the laptop that has a radio link attached to the antenna tracker. Thanks!

no..... the hardware version.

Does the tracker in proxy mode sends data to MP?

Since the supported boards have IMU and can use GPS and telemetry radio....., it means it has the same components that the UAV, so it know its position and location relative to the UAV

For me it sound like the perfect tracker, in theory it should be able to be a moving tracker, ie, in the back of a car or a truck while the pasanger flyes fpv

And, have an aditional mode to RTL, like, Return to Tracker

Would it be possible?

QUESTION: 

Using antenna tracker and simple servo with gear for 360 degrees of pan. What will happen while the pan servo reaches 360 degree and the airplane continue to circle around? Does the servo will turn quickly to 0 and start to follow the airplane again?                                          

To be honest, I find an antenna tracker to be an unnecessary complexity. If one is flying close in, use circular polarized antennas and if long range, even a Yagi has enough beam width to point it manually. Tridge is using an extremely high gain antenna so it may be warranted but if you ask me, that is an exception.

Javier,

I think it's possible to have a return-to-tracker in the future.  I imagine it would be done using rally points and have the mission planner constantly update the rally point.

Sorry for not answering this sooner.

@geni,

    No sure but I think it would.  If you use continuous servos then I suspect it smoothly tracks without the whipping around to the opposite side.

I'm not using a tracker,and never saw the point as an FPV flyer. However now that I'm mapping, those lawn mower patterns require constant adjustment of the directional antenna which really increases my workload.
I'm very happy to see this development. I like the idea of repurposing older APMs for new uses.

What sensors are used? I have some defective units and I'm wondering if I can make them work.

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