I've created an I2C digital signal sonar module to avoid the noise problems I have been having with the current analog signal sonar module.
Seeing all the problems we are having with noisy sonar data got me thinking
Where does the noise come from? Is it:
The current popular solution of remote mounting the sonar has probably eliminated DC power as the primary source of our noise. In other words - if noisy DC power was the ource of the noise problem then no matter where you mount the sonar you would still have the noise. Regardless if DC noise were still an issue Maxbotics has a solution to DC noise in their FAQ.
Personally I've found that remote mounting the sonar module has only partially solved my noise problems. This is probably due to the Sonar power and signal cable passing within 10mm of one of the ESCs near where it plugs in to the APM on my arducopter.
So I wondered if I could get rid of the analog signal path and see how the sonar noise changed. This has led me to put together a I2C sonar module. This communicates digitally between the sonar and APM using the I2C port on the APM IMU shield. It also allows you to use the PWM output from the sonar which Maxbotics recommends as "the most accurate"
All that is needed is an Arduino, an I2C cable and some software.
The GPS cable supplies power and connects data lines between the Arduino and APM IMU Shield (you need to cut one end off the cable)
APM IC2 Function Arduino Mini
PIN1 <-----> GND <-----> GND
PIN2 <-----> 5V <-----> VCC
PIN3 <-----> SDA <-----> A4
PIN4 <-----> SCL <-----> A5
Three Wires connect the Arduino to the Sonar
Arduino Function Sonar
GND <-----> GND <-----> GND
VCC <-----> 5V <-----> V+
D5 <-----> PWM <-----> PIN2
The sonar is on a standard jdrones sonar mount
The Arduino then needs to be programmed as an I2C slave.
Here is my code Sonar_I2C_Sender_v005.zip
You must use an FTDI cable to program an Arduino Mini
The code continuously reads and stores the sonar distance as a PWM signal from the module.
It responds to any I2C request for data with a two byte integer representing the current sonar range in cm.
Additionally it has the ability to return noise filtered sonar data.
Note the MaxBotix experts strongly recommend a mode or median filter not averaging filter.
Currently the code can be requested to return spike filtered, median or mode filtered data.
I have modified the Arducopter code to use this I2C sonar and started testing
Here is my sonar library APM_I2CSonar.zip
If the testing all works OK I'll see if Chris or Jason want to put it in the code repository
To put it simply the results so far are great!
Indoor and outdoor tethered tests show no noise and no data problems
first segment is with motors running second with motors off
Its too windy to fly here today (in the Aussie vernacular: It's strong enough to blow ya dog off its chain!)