Ardustation Mega with Graphic LCD

 

I’d like to share my latest hardware ground control station. I call it the ArduStation Mega.

It retains all the features found on the DIYDrones Ardustation, as well as my Ardustation Uno but with some very important upgrades.
 
 
Notably the main processor has been upgraded to an ATmega2560 giving 8 times the size of both flash and ram, amongst other things :)

Also there is a graphical LCD that should provide a larger, more user friendly display.

The extra serial ports (4 in total) will enable future expansions as and when required. One is dedicated to the USB for loading software as well as potentially being used to allow a computer to share the installed Xbee.

If you don’t want to use an Xbee, or want to use more than one, that’s fine- three of the serial ports are broken out to the left of the board. These could also be used for adding a GPS unit, or perhaps a bluetooth to pc link for example.

Also broken out is the i2c port, so you can link it up to a magnetometer if need be (could make for simpler antenna tracking alignment)

A micro SD card will allow data logging, parameter saving, mission uploading and hopefully more!

The rotary encoder (like a radio’s jog dial) should help with faster navigation / value editing. The buttons are also on a separate PCB such that they can be mounted flush with the display or separately subject to enclosure constraints. (Also this means I can change the layout of the buttons)

The battery supply and Xbee RSSI are connected to give health information on voltage and telemetry link signal strength. Additional analog pins are also broken out for monitoring external sensors.
 
The PCB has been sized to match the dimensions of the LCD, giving a neat install that can be attached with screws and spacers. All of the components are mounted on the inside as well, such that the total unit size is minimised.
 
As with my Uno version, I use a single cell LiPo for the battery source, with an efficient step up regulator for the 5v supply. There’s also inbuilt USB charging.

The antenna tracking will be achieved by the two servo headers on the right hand side of the board. These also have a solder jumper for selecting off-board power in case heavy duty servos are to be used.

Please let me know what you think!
 


 
If you want to see more, here's a video of me showing it off:
 
 

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Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on January 19, 2012 at 5:47pm

Colin,

Very nice design and execution. Definitely a step up from the original Ardustation!

Regards,

TCIII

Comment by Heino R. Pull on January 19, 2012 at 7:16pm

Looks very good Colin, that is a nice board layout and would be much easier to debug with all the serial ports.

Comment by Gareth Rens on January 19, 2012 at 9:44pm

Impressive! Did you etch the board yourself?

Comment by Michael Urban on January 19, 2012 at 11:29pm

Colin,

great design. It's about what I was thinking building myself. Is it a 128x64 GLCD you are using? If so, it might come handy to add two jumpers in the design to swap pins 1&2 (+5V, GND). That way different types of GLCD's can be used (some have the first two connections reversed).

Any chance you make the schematic available?

greetings,

Michael

Comment by Colin on January 20, 2012 at 4:09am

Thanks very much guys :)

Gareth, yes, I etched this board in my kitchen ;-)

Michael, yup its a 128x64 GCLD. I agree, some jumpers would be handy. I know my LCD has a different pinout to the one sparkfun offer, but according to the arduino help page there may be more than just two pins different. 

You can find the schematics on my github page

Here's a picture of my prototype :)

Comment by Wojciech Batog on January 20, 2012 at 5:43am

Great project!
I'm also developing an ardustation of sorts using an arduino MEGA , an OLED display and a rotary encoder.
Would you mind sharing the code cause I have some trouble running the ardustation code, particulary with MAVlink


greetings,
Wojciech

Comment by Colin on January 20, 2012 at 6:19am

Thanks Wojciech,

I'll share my code when I get home. Currently I am running a modified version of my original Ardustation code for the new hardware. If it's specifically mavlink that you are interested in I can recommend the Ardustation-ii code as potentially being easier to read through.

Cheers,

Colin

Comment by Andre S on January 21, 2012 at 6:44am

Colin,
impressive work and great development! Since this is the third iteration you must be an expert on groundstation issues by now :) I have been playing with the idea of adding an LCD to an Arduino Uno and turning it into an APM groundstation but so far have been put off by problems that other people on the Arduino have with LCD's, especially GLCD's.
I'd like to use the display for text mostly (if I want graphics I can also use a full-fledged laptop GCS) but it would be nice to have more than 4 lines of it while still being readable in daylight. Would be great if you could report on your experience with the display shown above. You said it is essentially the same as this one, right?

http://www.sparkfun.com/products/710

Originally I had thought about getting one of these:

http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9568

But now I'm not sure whether it would be worth the extra complexity of more control wires and getting a graphic LCD right away..hmmm

Comment by Colin on January 21, 2012 at 7:17am

Thanks Andre,

Yes that is essentially the same LCD as mine, with slightly different pin mappings. For text alone, I would lean towards the 4x20 LCD with the Uno- due to requiring less wires, and probably less flash (not sure exactly how much they differ though).

You'll need to make sure that you have pins left over for buttons etc. and the graphic display requires 8 pins more than the text display. Flash space is at a premium with the new mavlink protocol and code already exists for the Uno with 4x20 display, which will give you a good head-start for coding what you need your Uno to do :-)

Having a display you can look at while flying shouldn't have too much data on it at once anyway as you can't afford to stare at it. You'll find having pages dedicated to different tasks a lot more manageable in the field.

Regards,

Colin

Comment by Colin on January 21, 2012 at 7:24am

Andre,

I just had a quick look at the sparkfun LCD and it appears that it is actually physically smaller than mine- the same number of pixels, just a smaller display.

Colin

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