ardubeacon basicIntroduction

In the last 3 months I have done a bit of thinking about an as-simple-as-possible and as-small-as-possible "follow-me"-box. The design goal is to have something so small that it can be e.g. attached to clothing by velcro and so simple that it's just switch on and go. After some googling, I stumbled upon the Arduino Fio which seems ideal for this kind of thing. I am primarily maintaining the information on this project on my personal website.

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to build one yet plus I'm lacking a functional APM-based drone at the moment, but here is my preliminary design:


ArduBeacon is a simple GPS beacon that locates it's current position via a GPS module and sends MAVlink waypoint messages to an ArduPilot-equipped UAV.




  • Arduino Fio
  • Mediatek GPS module
  • XBee pro module
  • LiPo battery

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  • Linus: use the ublox binary format. NMEA is crap to parse (and crap resolution too)

  • Why not connect the GPS serial port directly to a Laird bridge and do the parsing onboard? No MCU on beacon, just battery + laird (or similar) + gps. The onboard MCU is just as capable of parsing GPS messages as it is MAVlink.

  • Developer


    im subscribing.

    had tinkered with arduino mega, ublox gps and apc220 modem to get this functionality but im stuck because the wireless links scrambles the nmea output until now.

    would be very nice if one can pickup a old apm to get this working!


  • Hi Pat,

    I would be interested but I'm lacking spare time and a working APM-driven vehicle at the moment.

    I'd also like to stay with the Fio because it's specifically designed for mobile applications, with an integrated 1S LiPo-charger and XBee-socket as well as extremely small form factor. It's also dirt-cheap (clones available around $15), so the beacon could even be disposable.


    I still have a bunch of postits with ideas flying around, but one of my main points is to not only transmit the position to the APM. The idea is to transmit a position a bit off the position of the beacon and include an "area of interest" directive in the mavlink message, so e.g. a UAV would not fly directly above the beacon but e.g. 25 meters off and turn a camera towards it. The next point is different behavior, depending on if the drone is a plane or a copter. While a copter can hover a plane should start circling when the beacon's speed is below a certain value.

  • Developer

    Hi Stefan,

    I made a working prototype of this basic idea a few months ago, but I haven't had the time to maintain the code, and nobody else has picked it up. Are you interested in picking up where I left off?

    At the moment the code will need some changes to get working with the ardupilot-mega trunk (complicated story, we've undergone a ton of changes) but I will get that fixed up for you if you're interested in developing this further.

    One note - I didn't try to use an Arduino Fio because some of our core ArduPilot Mega libraries won't be comptible with that microcontroller. Instead I used a spare APM2.5. You'll need something with an ATMega2560 chip- an APM1 2560, APM2, or standalone Arduino Mega board.



  • T3

    I've wanted to do something similar as well. I think it would be great for people running a foot race and having a camera point towards the running to get pictures of them as they run from above.

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