Telemetry and HD video over 4G

I am successfully using a 4G LTE network connection to send bidirectional telemetry AND HD (1280X1024 / 25fps) Video from my drones.  The video is perfect, the telemetry is perfect - regardless of range (assumes 4G is available).  I use my cell phone as a hotspot and connect using MISSION PLANNER on my laptop. The video is "snow free" and is viewed  on CHROME or FireFox browsers. 

The cost of all the equipment is under $100, but I do have to pay for a data plan ($15-$50/month) - and a small monthly amount for server time. The server setup is special to allow for the 4G<->4G connection.  The telemetry data is encrypted, the video data is not (at this time, anyway).  The system camera is non-standard but tiny.I can control the drone with a joystick connected through Mission Planner.  The latency is 0.8 seconds - max. The total weight of the system is 100 grams.  No equipment other than a computer running Mission Planner is needed on the "ground side" (except for a cell phone or other hot-spot).

I was thinking that others could use my setup as well. In that case I would have to set up multiple accounts on the server and manage them.  Before I take this any further -

Would anyone else be interested in the setup I have?

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  • I'm a little reluctant to give too much away, since I worked very hard to get things working the way they are now - especially with the live HD video feed I get over 4G.

    I will tell you that getting a hand-held remote (with real joysticks and a MODE control) connected to Mission Planner is harder than it should be.  The Logitech game controller that MP supports natively is a joke. 

    And I should warn you as well that - while Verizon et. al. gives you a "coverage map", that map is at ground level.  There are locations around here where you get 2-3 bars at ground level and nothing at all at 350', so an automatic failover to 433/915Mhz (depending on local laws) is a must. I am a "ham" radio operator, so I can legally run 1W on those frequencies.



    Ray Anderson said:

    I have been looking for a way to connect via 4g to fly highway inspections and provide transportation security feeds via 4G.  Is there any chance that you could provide a schematic of what you are currently flying?  Once I can prove capability, I will be filing for an FAA BLOS waiver to enable the business model.

    Telemetry and HD video over 4G
    I am successfully using a 4G LTE network connection to send bidirectional telemetry AND HD (1280X1024 / 25fps) Video from my drones.  The video is pe…
  • I have been looking for a way to connect via 4g to fly highway inspections and provide transportation security feeds via 4G.  Is there any chance that you could provide a schematic of what you are currently flying?  Once I can prove capability, I will be filing for an FAA BLOS waiver to enable the business model.

  • I realize that a static ip would make things work without a server.  But I also use webRTC, and that requires a server (at least as far as I know).  So I needed a server anyway, so using that same server to deal with the ip issues fixes everything.

    And you state you use your home computer to communicate with your drone - great.  Is your home computer at the field where you fly?  I  use my laptop at the field, and I first used a simple 4G "dongle" on my laptop (or used my cell phone as a hot spot),  so BOTH ends had dynamic ip addresses.  Now, when I go to the field, I use a Raspberry pi + a TEENSY3.2  to connect simultaneously using 4G and 915MHz.  The Raspberry provides the 4G connection and the TEENSY looks at both the (high power) 915MHz and the 4G data and switches between the two seamlessly (using Mavlink CRCs and timing).  Now, my laptop connects only to the "switchbox" (Raspberry pi + TEENSY) with a USB connection. 

    I use a TEENSY to do the same type of switching on the "air side" as well.   There are places where 4G isn't available, and the 915MHz connection comes in handy.  LEDs on my "switchbox" tells me which channel the data is coming from.  Of course, I lose live HD video when using 915MHz, but I still have telemetry and control. I continuously send LD video over 5.8GHz. 

    And to make things more clear - I send telemetry data from the 'copter over BOTH 4G and 915 simultaneously.  I send control information from the ground over BOTH 4G and 915 simultaneously.  But I only RECEIVE from one at at time (on both ends).

  • I do this today using FlytOS with a Pi3 and a USB 4G modem, you dont need any special server if you get a static IP from your ISP , i then use my own home PC   

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJrobih0Kqk&t=18s

  • Hi Charles,

    I am interested. As we have carrier NAT in Germany, all mobile devices have private IPs and cannot offer services directly. We need a facilitator to connect two mobile devices.

    Maybe you can setup the facilitator/mediator service with zerotier (https://www.zerotier.com).

    This will setup a VPN/SDN and uses NAT punch through to connect all devices directly, which will decrease latency and traffic on server.

    If you setup such a service, I will be one of you first clients... ;)

    BR

    Bjoern

    Global Area Networking
  • Can you please explian how you setup the AWS machine to do the connection between the drone and the mission planner?

    Charles Linquist said:

    I could give you a diagram, but it is really easy.

    APM or PixHawk connects (via its telemetry port)  to a little (1" X 1") board which acts as a level shifter / failover / data selector.  That board connects to 6 GPIO and power pins on a Raspberry pi, and 4 pins of a RFD 900 radio (also works with 3DR radio).

    The Raspberry pi has a ribbon cable (CSI2 interface) which connects to a camera (Raspberry pi 8MP camera).  A 4G "dongle" connects to the Raspberry pi's USB port.

    The Raspberry pi is programmed (over WiFi) to connect to a special server - for example:  ec2-server1.drone.com. This needs to be done one time only.

    On the ground, a laptop is connected to the internet.  This can be done either by plugging in another 4G dongle into one  its USB ports, or by using a "HotSpot".  I use my cell phone as a hotspot. No software is needed in the laptop except Mission Planner and a web browser.

    You power the drone and wait about 90 seconds for the Raspbery pi to boot and the 4G connection is made, which is shown by a blue blinking LED on the 4G dongle. Using Mission Planner, you connect using EITHER a RFD900 radio over a COM port,  OR  by via tcp (4G). The tcp server will be the same as above (ec2-server1.drone.com). Choose whichever connection method you wish and press CONNECT.  Voila!  You will be connected.  Mission Planner remembers the url and port number of the tcp connection, so that information needs to be entered only once.

    If you want to see video, you use either the laptop that is running Mission Planner or use two laptops.  The video works with Chrome or FireFox browsers only.  In the search bar, type in  ec2-server1.drone.com:XXXX (where 'XXXX' is a port number).  You will then be watching video.  Note that you cannot show the video in Mission Planner's inlay. The video must be shown in a web browser. A  LogiTech game controller can be connected to the USB port of the machine running Mission Planner, and you can control your drone by that method (setup described in the Mission Planner docs).  I don't like the little Logitech game controller as much as I like my Futaba radio, but it is usable.  I'm thinking of modifying a REAL controller (like the Futaba) so it will connect to my laptop using USB.  

    At any rate, the video must come over 4G, but the telemetry can be done either with the RFD 900 or 4G.  I use 4G exclusively unless I'm somewhere where there is no 4G coverage.  If the 4G signal goes away while I'm in flight, I can take over with the RFD900, assuming I'm within radio range. 

    Latency is about 0.8 seconds, both with the telemetry and video.

    Telemetry and HD video over 4G
    I am successfully using a 4G LTE network connection to send bidirectional telemetry AND HD (1280X1024 / 25fps) Video from my drones.  The video is pe…
  • Thanks Charles. BTW: This is a Parrot Disco! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1Fpq4inefg

    They are now available for $399 (clearance basically), down from $1300 on launch. They are a perfect candidate for 4G control. And you confirmed what I have learned: That I need to use AWS as a proxy basically. I am working with someone who already has done this in Singapore. It seems there that he does not need AWS as his carrier allows inbound connections on the internal network IP and as a bonus only charges for data that traverses the network firewall! So the data charge is zilch! Sadly we have to jump through more hoops here.

  • The IP addresses are managed by the AWS server ("ec2").   Both sides - the ground and the air contact the same server - by name.  The server is set up to run a "reverse SSH tunnel".  Since both sides have contacted the same server, it knows the ip addresses of both and connects them through the tunnel.

  • Hi all,

    one big question: how the IP address or "reachability" is managed? Is there a way to use AWS or an AWS-like service? I think DynDNS is not working anymore

  • NO, I'm not monitoring this thread.  And....

    I don't know what a DISCO 2 is.

    The telcos do not normally let you call someone and then automatically "push" data to them.  The other person has to start an application that requests the data.  Then Verizon et. al. lets the data flow.

    In my setup,  both ends contact the same server.  Since that server has a name and a static ip address, this solves all the dynamic ip issues, and requires no dydns lookups.  The server is set to tunnel the data from one connection to the other with no modifications except for encryption.  The server also acts as a webRTC server.  It facilitates the peer-peer transmission of video, andt handles the ip resolution slightly differently in this case.

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