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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There are still some modifications to be done, but the concept is working very fine.

Once it is finished, I will make the STL files available for download. Everything is printed in ABS to make it temperature resistant. PLA will get soft during summer in direct sunlight.

Wow, that's some serious tracking gain! What distances are you planning for? Is it a commercial tracker design?

Anthony Verloop said:

There are still some modifications to be done, but the concept is working very fine.

Once it is finished, I will make the STL files available for download. Everything is printed in ABS to make it temperature resistant. PLA will get soft during summer in direct sunlight.
Well, yes and no. On one side, it could be commercialized, but I still consider it just a more rigid, heavy duty version.

It's not difficult to print and assemble, but I also realize it will not be the beginners kind of thing.

As mentioned before, I'm still doing some minor modifications. I noticed for example it wasn't easy to position the servos easily to get the gear perfectly line up.

I'll keep you posted.

Here's a photo of the 3-d printed tracker I built that works with the MissionPlanner tracker API.  If anybody is interested I can post the STL files.  The dish is a Ubiquity Nanobeam 5.8ghz version. 

Patrick, That would be great if you could post the STL files.

Thanks

@DougB,  I will post a blog shortly on how to build the entire tracker from scratch, including STL files, software, and assembly instructions.

Hi Patrick,

Nice setup! The Ubiquiti NanoBeam was less expensive than I expected. I didn't see a cone pattern for it but the 25dBi gain is impressive for the price.

Did you print the 3D parts yourself or send out for them? I was wondering what the approximate cost would be?

Thanks for sharing...

G'day

91 pages of reading, kudos to brains giving their time to this project.

Just upgraded APM to Pixhawk mini for the AT and loaded 0.8 firmware. Pixhawk sporting a solid red error light and isn't wanting to play. If I reload Plane 3.8.1 it connects and away we go. AT 1.0.0 also does not seem to work. Any tips fellas? I would assume it's something simple I've missed. SD card changed and still the same..

Cheers,

Rico.

Well, you have to pre-arm and arm to make it work. You can override this with the safety setting in the AT firmware. That's like an automatic arm.

Hi Anthony,

thanks for the reply - let me study up on that. New to Pixhawk, thought it was going to be a tad more straightforward after APM2.5/2.7.

Sounds indicate 'Failed to Start'.

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Hi Rico,

Many has changed since APM, you'll be surprised. Best thing to do is connect the AT to mission planner, select Antenna tracker from the drop down box in the upper right hand corner and look at the error messages you get.

Don't forget to do your accelerometer and compass calibrations.

The AT firmware is a bit tricky, but once you've got it working, it's flawless.

Good luck.

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