figuring out the Antenna Tracker

3691139590?profile=originalNot 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
  • 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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  • I¨ve set up Pixhawk as a antenna tracker and use the ReadyMade RC¨s wooden tracker with two servos working great when testing with no power from the Pixhawk. I have a TGY Plush 30A ESC to power the servorail on the Pixhawk, but the servos barely moves when tested from Mission Planner. I use this servos:

    I just meassured the power from the ESC to be 4.95 volts.

    Should I buy a BEC that uses 5 and 6 volts and power the servos from this and only signal from the PH?


    Turnigy TGY-SM-8166R 360° Analog Metal Gear Robot Servo 33kg / 47RPM / 160g
    Turnigy TGY-SM-8166R 360° Analog Metal Gear Robot Servo 33kg / 47RPM / 160g
  • Randy looks to be busy with the Copter v3.4 release.

  • What happened to Randy?

    Is he working on V1.1?

  • I have never built the code so hopefully someone else will post a solution for you.

  • I'm trying to build it with PX4 Toolchain but with no success yet.

    When I hit "make configure" in PX4 console I get: "make configure is no longer required"

    OK, but there is no created then..

    then I hit "make apm1" or "make apm2" and get error:

    ../mk/ *** apm1 is deprecated on master branch; use master-AVR.  Stop.

    Have no idea how to fix it.

    In fact I didn't do clone from github, just copied zip file with ardupilot sources from github and then unziped to local drive. Could it be the problem?

  • Thanks Greg a lot. I really appreciate it.

    Anyway I'm going to study how to open cpp project in Arduino, because afaik it only accepts ino or pde files :-)

  • I found the commit for v0.8.0 in github. Hopefully, it will help.

    Tracker: version to 0.8 and release notes

    Tracker: version to 0.8 and release notes · ArduPilot/ardupilot@752c183
    ArduPlane, ArduCopter, ArduRover source. Contribute to ArduPilot/ardupilot development by creating an account on GitHub.
  • It didn't load pictures with error messages from MP. Anyway the texts are :

    The hex file did no contain an end flag. aborting

    next dialog is:

    Failed to read firmware.hex:No end flag in file

    and last :

    Error uploading firmware


    If anybody here has snapshot from GIT of source files of AT 0.8.0 please PM me. I will try to compile it by myself.

    2016-10-24 19_29_53-Mission Planner 1.3.41 build 1.1.6110.31287.png

    2016-10-24 19_34_05-figuring out the Antenna Tracker - DIY Drones.png

    2016-10-24 19_34_19-figuring out the Antenna Tracker - DIY Drones.png

  • Please help,

    I was trying to upload FW 0.8.0 in MP but without success. When I hit "Load custtom firmware", first option which contains also AT 0.8.0, downloading start but after a while I get error message:

    Seems to me like the file is not already there in repo. Is there anybody here listening who can build it again for me?

    For APM1 and APM2?

  • @Randy @Craig thanks for the answer regarding using this with the px4 stack a few months back but I think I not understanding something. If my tracker is communicating via telemetry and has its own GPS why does it matter if my gcs is qgroundcontrol or something that supports px4 natively? Can't I read/write param and telem data with the tracker in the middle or is the issue that the gcs will see the tracker as a ardu device and not px4? I think I'm having a bit of a disconnect here. Thanks a lot. This is a great project and once I can get my auto landing nailed down on arduplane I want to see if I can make the change but creature of habit so far...
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