my diy ground control station

Well first of all I'll start with the reason I chose to build this ground station instead of using a laptop

So after many times of carrying the laptop around assembling and disassembling parts and cables xbees usb cables and such I figured my laptop days as ground station will be numbered

Because of this I decided that I needed a ground station that would save me the need to deal with the assembling and disassembling in the field and will be more durable then my laptop

First I had to plan my shopping and inventory list

I had an old laptop with a broken screen that did not survive its frequent trips around and my poor handling skills And an older laptop screen that i planned on using with the other laptop mother board in order to do it I had to buy a lcd adapter that will let me use the vga port on the motherboard with the lvds laptop screen

That's about what I had to start with

The second thing was to look for a case that will be large enough to contain the mother board the screen another small screen that will fit in the remaining space and some lcd meters for giving a better look mostly and some 3 position switches

After many searches I found an old stock of Pelican at an affordable price and size that is suitable for my budget and needs i measured the space that left after installing the main screen and figure out that a 5 inch screen will just fit


then i needed to think of a way to install everything in a way that would give me easy access to the parts just for any case


after trying multiple materials Plexiglas plywood and others which are not very easy to work with without machinery which i didnt have access to i found just what i needed a pvc foam it is not the perfect material consider his toughness which is lacking but it is very easy to work with and so i chose it and start to cut holes and install the switches and lcds


for the finishing touch of the station i used a vinyl sticker in a 3d carbon woven pattern which gave the panel a nicer look




some technical details:

for powering the station i chose to use a sla battery instead of lipo for some reasons

first it is easier to deal with in terms of charging it and is much safer then lipo

second it is cheaper and heavier so I can save money and use it for balancing the case

i also wanted to be able to hook the station to ac power when its available

so i searched for some ac/dc converter that will meet my power demends and it turned out that i missed it in my calculation by a bit but for the moment it is working and i see no reason to change it but when it brake i'll certenly buy a bigger one capable of outputing more current

I then wanted to charge the battery while using the ac/dc convertor and giving the station more reliability i found a charger which is also a ups that is just what i wished for

also used step up regulator from 12v to 19v for powering the motherboard

and a step down regulator from 12v to 5v for powering the usb hub

both regulators are adjustable with lcd meters for convenience reasons and capable of outputting more current than consumed 


bom for the station is:

laptop mother board and screen - free

pelican 1520 - ebay

LCD Controller Board DIY Kit  - for connecting lvds screen to the motherboard - ebay

VGA 2AV driver board 5inch HSD050IDW1 800×480 screen - ebay

12v to 19v step up convertor with lcd for powering the motherboard - ebay

temperature meter with two sensors (inside and out of the case) - ebay

power meter with 2X lcd voltmeter and amp meter - ebay

12v to 5v step down convertor with lcd for powering usb hub - ebay

picoUPS-120 12v dc micro ups system - ebay

4X  3 position 6 pins switches - bought at a local electricity store - ebay

4X  Delta Fan for Compaq 12vdc  .15A  40mm EFB0412HHA - ebay

3d carbon woven pvc vinyl sticker - deal extreme

ac/dc convertor 100-240v input 12v output 3.2A  or higher :) - ebay

pvc foam sheet - ebay

access point modem asus wl-330ge - ebay

usb hub 7-ports - ebay *

thermal skin for wires - ebay


* if you want to build your own usb hub you can do it using fe1.1s chip or similar very easily

**and so on with the other regulators it is just to my believe cheaper and faster to order it assembled :)

features of the station:

up to 2.5 hours of use on a single 12v 7Ah sla battery

secondary screen switchable between av and vga (via pc hdmi port and vga converter)

wireless connection to antenna tracker (xbee repeater, Bluetooth, 5.8Ghz)

access point modem - for multiple connection to the station (andropilot for ex)

can be easily modified and upgraded


sorry for my poor writing and description capabilities/skills


the uav station is not done yet still need to do some more things I will update the post as It go

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      • It's the same as the 14" Panasonic CF-53 toughbook:

        So good outdoor readability. FPV screen is a crappy $30 7" screen and it'll be replaced by something better at some point, but it's not a priority.

        Keyboard is the Microsoft All-In-One media keyboard.

        Otherwise, it's pretty much the same set-up as yours., except I got an external power-jack for either charger or 12v from the car. (I'll post more details once it's done.). 
        Still need to figure out a speaker solution. The scavenged built-in laptop speakers are pathetic.
        Panels are made from DollarTree foamboard and then covered with carbon re-enforced fiberglass. I'm planning to re-do it over the winter by making a proper mold and then doing a 'proper' carbon panel. 

        • nice

          try using usb powered speakers - low power consumption and even better since some have their own battery plus their more powerful and usually have better quality then the laptop built in ones

          and last they are pretty cheap

          • I ordered some 1.5" 3Watt speakers and a small 2X3watt amplifier ($10 total) , so I can take the output straight from the original built in speakers and build the new ones into the case. Will post pics when done.

  • My "Turngy 9XR Ground Station" :)

  • Very sweet!

    I was thinking of building something like this but just using some Android and/or iOS devices to run Tower and the Solo app.  Basically the case would hold the devices and a sunshade, maybe antennas as well.

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    • I'm curious which exact foam board you used in your build and also if you have the model lcd for temp and volts you used.. the links you had listed were just general search results..


  • I'm also in the process of building a ground station similar to this, using yours as inspiration!.

    1 question, though; According to the PicoUPS documentation, it needs more than 13.5 volts in order to charge the battery, yet you are only feeding it 12v from the AC/DC converter?. Does it still charge the SLA?

    • @Jakob 

      well they have several versions with different specs

      and i actually used the ac/dc voltage pot (or knob) to increase the voltage to about that number ~13.2v

      (most electronic have about 10% (up or down) tolerance for the voltage im saying that without any guarantee!!!)

      usually a higher voltage (at the 10% range) wont make any different

      while a lower voltage (at the 10% range) might work but could cause to malfunction

      due to components who dont get the voltages that they want

      regards to charging at lower then spec voltages well..

      my logic says that as long that the charger voltage (picoUPS) is around 1volt higher

      then your battery it should be fine. again better to read the datasheet

      hope i answered your question  

      • It did, thanks!.

        I stuck with the original ac/dc supply from the laptop and regulated it down to 13.5v. The ac/dc supply is probably a tad underpowerd (3.5A), but it'll do for now and everything appears to be working.
        I got the LCD controller today and have a outdoor readable screen to replace the mostly dead laptop screen.
        The case is a Dewalt Toughbox, which gives me just enough space for a 14" main display and a 7" display.
        Long term I'll probably replace the laptop guts with an Atom/mini-ITX setup, but this will certainly get me going.


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