Anyone got any good leads?
My sense is we are missing out on something. I've seen Andrew Tridgell trick of removing the back of a laptop lid in order to let the sunlight be the backlight, but I want a ground station with a screen mounted in it, so that isn't really an option. And I feel that having to move your laptop around to get the sunlight striking the back isn't really so ideal.
I don't mind a small sun hood but don't want to be looking into a dark pit to see the screen.
As far as I have read one of the best daylight usable screens are the LCDs found in Panasonic toughbook. They are a combination of high NIT, maybe 1000, but also transflective and various other bonding tricks. There are a few other toughened tablets and laptops that also boast outdoor usability.
There are also TFT LCDs used in the marine environments: everyone with loads of money wants a big color navigation screen on the flying bridge of their yacht, right? I've seen those and they are amazingly good looking at midday. Lastly there are screens high end video cameras use, to be mounted on a camera at a shoot, so it is possible.
Or there is the Pixel IQ tech, where in daylight it turns into an e-ink display with extraordinary readability but probably monochrome so no good there.
The problem for us guys is we really care about AV input and some of the good value panels are either VGA in or worse, just digital panel in as you would fit into a laptop, and be driven by the circuitry there.
Anyone solved this problem?
Anyone found a panel mountable TFT screen with the appropriate tech, and driven it with AV composite in, and found it quite usable to "fly with" outside?
note: I am not really talking about a screen for use with ground control station display software. I'm talking about an alternative to goggles here.
Although bonus if you can push a button and switch to AV2 and then use your ground station.
Your best bet is the Pixel Qi screen. The reflective mode is not e-ink -- it is still a full color, video-capable TFT display. It will run you $275, from the Maker Shed or from one of the other vendors. Unfortunately, it is only compatible as a screen replacement in a few models of netbooks -- anything else would require substantial hacking, of which there has been some discussion. There is one company that sells it in a standalone module form, powered & fed data via USB -- but they do not tell you how much it costs (i.e., if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it).
E-ink displays cannot [easily] be found in standalone module form, as far as I know, and wouldn't be desirable for this application anyway, being monochrome and having an abysmal refresh rate.
There is a promising display technology called Mirasol which is under development. It is color, sunlight-viewable, video-capable, and bistable like e-ink (meaning very low power draw) -- but there is no indication that such displays (if ever mass-produced) will be available as standalone modules either.
Best of luck with your search!
To answer to your question I may say yes, I have found it . It is possible to use some LCD panels with a AV input and 12 Vdc power supply.
To have these panels work in direct sunlight is another history, it is possible but final cost will be consistent.
Consider a cost from 300 to 1800 USD depending on size, screen resolution , constrast and Nits of the Lcd.
A alternative is to use a laptop that can be viewed on direct sun, rudged laptops usually have touch screens and despite a important budget you could be disappointed by sun readability, I have found that a nice laptop is the Toshiba R500, , this laptop use a mirror (and other techs) behind the lcd, so you can turn off the LCD lamp and have a good (but not perfect) vision without power consumption. The only way to get the AV signal on laptop would be to use a USB video encoder, 10 USD cost but I'm afraid that teh R500 will not be enough fast to give a smooth image with FPV, the faster R600 could probably but, even used, it is more expensive.
Actually I'm trying to realize a 1900x1200 17" LCd panel , 1000 nits , goal is a ground station where HD videos can be viewed at full resolution.
What would be your ideal LCD size ?
I've got an Acer EePC Netbook and don't have much trouble viewing it outdoors. It was only $150 on sale and runs APM pretty well, though the screen is a bit small. I don't know the technology behind it, I think I just got lucky.
Your Eepc do not have an AV input and if you connect an USB capture card il till "kill" your CPU, , outdoor LCD are very different from standard low cost pc as Eepc they can really been see in direct sunlight.
Thanks for the note on video input. I know it didn't have video direct, but I was thinking of connecting a video capture. Can real laptops use a video capture and run APM on top?
Just thought I'd add this note anyway in case somebody is interested in a low cost APM unit. I know that the screen is not supposed to be "daylight readable", but it is. It's not just that it *can* be read if you squint and it's dusk. It's actually quite bright and readable in any condition other than the sun shining directly on the screen.
I use a Panasonic Toughbook model cf-19. It's a bit expensive but it has a touch screen that you can see in sunlight.
I have a pixel QI screen running in a netbook, and it works great for me. The screen is small and that causes some problems with the ground control though...need to figure out how to tweak that screen for my needs.
I bought a Sony Vaio F-series laptop, and it has a matte, HD screen with quite bright backlighting. It's not as good as transreflective, but I don't have a lot of problems reading the screen in direct sunlight. It's pretty good, as long as you aren't wearing polarized sunglasses.
The laptop is pretty great otherwise, the HD screen is nice, I7 processor makes compiling fast, the keyboard is nice, and backlit, which is also great at night. It's just all-around a nice machine, best of all I got it on clearance for $720!
Here is the ground station I have done for professional purposes , for this one I used a 17" 4:3 1200 nits Lcd , it has a photo sensor that automatically increase or decrease the lcd brightness according to environment luminosity, useful to reduce power consumption. The pc inside is a Intel "sandy bridge" chipset with a real (not Usb) video capture board . Power can be supplied with a battery in 9-30 volts range , with a 5000mah 4S consider a 35 -60 minutes autonomy since the lcd can ask even for 4.5 A @ 13.8 volts in direct sunlight.
In direct sunlight without hood :
In my experience you can begin to "see" a lcd in bright environment but not direct sunlight from 350 nits, better if the Lcd is "optically bonded" , also consider that a simple hood can really help .
Do not forget that directly exposed Lcd can become quickly very hot and out of suggested operation conditons.
In a couple of weeks I will try to but a bright and cheap 5" lcd on a transmitter pulpit , hope it will work ..
The XO-1 from OLPC has the screen you are looking for (and is rugged, fanless, runs on 12V etc., but my be too small for you and or be lacking in performance) and runs Linux. Right now I am using my old MacBook as ground station but I will pull out the XO and revamp it for this purpose - seems perfect for it.
That actually is the screen, the XO-1 has. It was the first mass-produced device that got it. And the ancestor of all netbooks. The XO might lose out in terms of raw CPU power, though.