The RockBLOCK Mk2 allows you to send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a clear view of the sky and it works far beyond the reach of WiFi and GSM networks. Maybe you want to transmit weather information from mid-ocean? Or use it to control your robot in the middle of the desert? Perhaps you need to communicate in an emergency, when other networks might not be available? RockBLOCK can help you.


  • Plug and play satellite communication
  • Full 2-way communication system
  • Integrated antenna and power conditioning
  • Optional external antenna connector
  • Truly global operation, using the Iridium satellite network
  • Data arrives via e-mail, or directly to your own web-service

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Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on December 11, 2015 at 11:03am

According to the Sparkfun website the RockBLOCK "...does require a monthly rental service to exchange information with the Iridium satellite network. You only pay for months in which you wish to use the RockBLOCK. No annual contract is required. Line rental costs £8GBP (about $12USD) per month and includes access to The CORE management system for managing your devices. The billing system is built into the CORE, and allows you to pay for only what you use. Check the CORE Information Page link in the Documents section below for more information."



Comment by Gary Mortimer on December 11, 2015 at 1:56pm

I've got one of the Mk1's sat here next to me if somebody can quickly work out how to interface it with a Pixhawk I would be very grateful ;-) 

Comment by Randy on December 11, 2015 at 5:30pm

@GaryM (or others), to integrate it, I guess we'd first need to know what the protocol is (it's probably someting-over-serial) and then we'd extend the "serial manager" to have one more option (currently it's MAVLink, GPS, etc) and add a (likely small) driver to send position data to it at a low rate.

I can guide something a bit on how to do it but I've got my hands full with a few things so actually coding it myself is probably not something I can do.

Comment by JB on December 11, 2015 at 7:14pm

We've looked at this previously for use in the Outback Challenge but found that the data rate (340 bytes FROM RockBLOCK - 270 bytes TO RockBLOCK each using a credit $0.06c) and the update rate (20 sec cold start with clear sky, minutes if not, and every 10sec max update rate) means that some form of data compression and pre-selection would be crucial to make the most of it. A lot of Mavlink data would need to be optimized and condensed.

For example we were thinking that the first byte could be used to set the "data type mode", allowing non-time critical data to be sent sporadically after it was requested, or after a certain interval or event. Data types could then be packaged and transmitted interlaced between regular updates and triggered by events (e.g. bat low). The telemetry data type mode would allow for any customized and optimised data (for example battery could be sent as a level rather than a voltage) that would free up some space for more time critical positional and control data. Even some first digits of the lat/long could be neglected, if not operating with extreme range requirements or only occasionally updated when they actually change.

Essentially a type of MPEG compression that only registers changes, and priorities critical and event based info would significantly reduce data flow and maintain a steady level of update. An update every 30 seconds could suffice like this, leaving some time for intermittent event based messages as required. In comparison that would cost $7.20 an hour which is more palatable, especially if it is being used as a secondary telemetry link.

I suppose the question is how far Mavlink messages can be compressed and prioritized overall will make or break the use of this device in UAV's. That or a fat wallet! ;-)

Comment by Mark Omo on December 11, 2015 at 7:38pm

@JB We are considering this as well for outback, we would use this in conjunction with the compain computer to only send what we deam essential information.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on December 11, 2015 at 9:25pm

Thats all interesting the unit landed on my desk because  a chap wants to put if in an RC airship and track the things position every 20 minutes. That in itself is not too hard but he wants data from the Pixhawk primarily power as well. I as thinking if I were doing the outback I would be looking at a LoRaWAN sort of setup. Strikes me that might have the range especially if there was a hill of any sort nearby for a repeater/concentrator. 

Comment by Ravi on December 11, 2015 at 10:34pm

the best use in present scenario would be to  locate a lost aircraft. so just send lat long alt would be very useful. I am sure we can so it by filtering MAVLink data.

Comment by Ravi on December 11, 2015 at 10:53pm

how about a simple 328p interface which can filter pixhawk mavlink from telemetry port into  Rockblock protocol for very small packets (lat Long alt volt)

Comment by Martin Mueller on December 12, 2015 at 4:10am

There is an Iridium 9602 interface based on an Arduino Mini in Paparazzi. It connects to the autopilot through I2C. SBD is fine for an "alive" message every now and then but not really a telemetry link.

Comment by JB on December 12, 2015 at 5:11am

@ Mark

I think it should work fine with a companion computer, but you will need to filter it to essential data only, and make sure it keeps up with the heartbeat to be compliant. Might be worth testing and touching base with the organizers to confirm, seeing CASA has pulled the type 2 autonomy now ie we need continuous telemetry. To be honest I don't think we'd bother this time around unless someone else is nice enough to get it working and share the setup! ;-)

I'm trying to ditch the companion as well still...nearly there!

How did you go with the 3/4G mobile stick?


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