APM/Pixhawk compact GCS build

This is one of our earlier designs, however, we've built this very version for our APM/Pixhawk user clients. Notable differences are the customary rotary flight mode switch and the aerial video/stills specific line-up of the toggle switches. All direct remote camera functions from zoom, focus/shutter, video start/stop, etc. can be implemented by using the very same line of toggles, which include 2-3 position, SP-DP spring loaded and lopsided spring versions.

The direct RC TX in the tray is based on the OpenTX architecture, so installing a third joystick wasn't an issue. The user has the choice of mapping the camera pan-tilt functions on the small extra joystick, or just keeping this function on one of the original sticks with a mode switch.

Of course, this station is only rugged for transport, as the controls are not IP types, but we can still say from experience that a light rain doesn't do it any harm. :-)

Those of you already familiar with our GCS designs know, that we nearly always use Peli cases upside down for a reason. For one thing, the body of the box can act as a sunshade for high nit monitors. Even more important, the control tray should be as shallow and flat as possible to avoid the extra strain on your wrists, when working for more than just a few minutes with a console. This, and the fact that a higher console panel position makes it impossible to use such an upright set properly seated at a field desk, as then your knees wouldn't fit under the desktop...

With this framework we had to modify the original top loader Peli case to achieve an ergonomic fomat by replacing the top handle with a fold-down type under the tray. Although the station is perfectly stable on any flat surface, we have also included a tripod mounting plate right in the COG of the open case.

That handle between the monitors is not ornamental, as nothing really is in our builds. In addition to protecting the monitor panels as a hard internal barrier, because the body of the station is constructed as a single block, you can pull out the whole entrails by this handle after removing only 4 screws. Otherwise you would have to shake it out... :-)

The LCD panels are 7" 1280x800 high nit IPS types, so they are very much sunlight readable even without the natural shade of the recess they're mounted in. We were thinking about mounting matte protectors from 3M, but the high resolution would always suffer, even with the highest quality hazy films. Also, the stock surface of the panel already has a low-reflectance coating, so we've left them glossy.

The current PC hw is an Intel Core i3, so Mission Planner under Win7-8 works straight from the box. Because this motherboard can drive two monitors, you also have the choice of using both screens as an extended desktop with the downlink video in an overlay/window (the frame grabber is already in there). Otherwise you can use one screen for the PC, while displaying the direct video feed on the other, as both LCD controllers have composite and digital inputs.

The original version uses a broadcast quality 10bit TBC for a smooth video feed, but that TBC is way out of production, even though we still stock quite a few of them. The new stations have an SD card based DVR in the same spot on the front panel with an automatic TBC still in the loop inside.

The internal LiFePO4 packs are fully balanced and protected from overcharge, overdischarge and short circuit. At around 300Whs of total capacity the station has a battery endurance of at least 8-10 hours. The internal charger accepts DC voltages between 12V and 30V.

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    Yes, I still have it, as well as an original IBM PC w/ 2 floppy drives, and a Commodore Vic20 and 64, and a TI-994A.

    The IBM Portable is by far the heaviest thing I own, and as I mentioned the amber monitor is really faded.  I have the original IBM manuals and floppy disks.

    - I am a hoarder of tech stuff.

  • sgt ric, do you really have that IBM portable computer. i am very fond of vintage computers. that is a rare to find item these days.

  • Stop drooling on the equipment, this one is not completely waterproof... :-)

  • drooling ....

  • Peter Shelton: Just look back at comment No.6: "This very piece was just under $5k, but it all depends on exactly what you need for your..." :-)

  • Very neat, congratulations

  • This is amazing, what is the ballpark figure to put this together?

  • Azjeg - these and the stuff on your site are fantastic!

    I'm a fan!

  • Gael: It all depends on what functions you want to integrate in the main unit, but this one weighs less than 10kgs with all the batteries, hw, etc.

    Although we use an external RF box architecture with all but the very short range GCS versions, the telemetry modem can also be connected to the 'rabbit ears' on top of the station. Because gigahertz RF doesn't like to travel along cables, we avoid extending antenna leads. We install all RF modules in a rugged external box that you can mount on top of your car, tripod or even an antenna tracker. It's connected to the main unit via a single multiconductor shielded cable by IP67 connectors on both ends. Only low frequency analogue and digital signals have to travel along any length of cable in this manner...

  • Impressive

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