The Ardustation is an excellent piece of equipment. It allows you to see important information about your UAV at a glance, along with the ability to change parameters or issue straight forward commands on the fly.
There are, however, some additional features I wanted in my Ardustation. So I set to making my own.
The main features I wanted to improve on were
- Not be required to unplug the XBEE for programming (really slows down dev time)
- Not using a linear regulator for power
- Bring the buttons up to the level of the LCD
- Be as slim as possible
Then nice to haves were
- USB to serial onboard
- Run from single cell LiPo
- Onboard USB charging
- Integrated power switch
- Arduino Mega chip
- Graphic LCD with touchscreen
I realise that I could modify my existing Ardustation to implement some of these features, but I wanted to keep it neat as I could. My design that I am writing about here includes all but the last two points on the nice to haves, which shall have to wait for another revision.
I only got my etching kit about six months ago and this is the first PCB I’ve etched that wasn’t a breakout board. So I’m pretty chuffed with how it came out. I purposely made all of the pins like for like with the DIY Drones Ardustation such that the software remained compatible. I would also like to mention Adafruit’s shared schematics helped out a lot with the additional components.
The unit takes a single cell LiPo for power and has a 5v boost regulator. A 3v3 LDO powers the XBEE, with a logic level shifter providing the interface to the Arduino chip.
The Arduino has the Uno bootloader and is programmed via the onboard ATMEGA8U2 chip. The switch on the side of the unit can disable the XBEE during programming.
The buttons are on a separate board, which could be mounted to an enclosure or directly to the side of the LCD as shown here. All LEDs are SMD and so are hidden. I mostly used them for debugging the hardware rather than being useful in the field- so they never made it onto the button board.
I’m very happy with the finished product, and the USB interface with XBEE switch has made developing the software much much easier. This has been in part a proof of concept for a future design I wish to create with a bigger chip and graphic LCD, but it will certainly last me for a while.If you want to see the design, or even etch your own, you can find the files on my GitHUB page.