Cool Pixhawk-compatible long-distance directional radio

Pharos matches a dynamic directional (beam shaping) radio on the air with another on the ground, with the two tracking each other for multi-mile range for video and telemetry. Coming to Kickstarter in 2-3 weeks. 

The Pharos is a newly-developed smart antenna. Unlike conventional omni-directional antennas that waste energy in all directions, the Pharos concentrates the available power where you need it most. Working in conjunction with the Pixhawk autopilot (a version with its own autopilot is being also developed), the antenna activates the side facing your UAV, boosting reception and range. A second Pharos can also be used on the aircraft, quadrocopter or UAV, keeping ground control in aim at all times.  The Pharos is also circular-polarized, granting immunity to polarization losses and multipathing signals, an optimum choice for challenging environments.

Air:

Ground:

Views: 4695

Comment by Hugo Chamberland on May 9, 2016 at 10:32am

900MHz/5.8GHz is a bit of an apple/orange comparison. 900MHz is not as widely accepted at 5.8GHz and does not support as much bandwidth as 5.8GHz can. Using two pharos with 5.8 microhard modem as pictured above provide 10+km of HD video along with control/telemetry.

-Hugo

Comment by Fnoop on May 9, 2016 at 1:17pm

900mhz isn't usable in Europe, I don't think?  5.8Ghz is quite useful for onboard drones as the antennas are inherently much smaller and it's a relatively clear, quiet band, plus the permitted EIRP is much higher than say 2.4ghz and there's a lot of equipment (analogue fpv, wifi) that already exists for these antenna.

This probably won't give quite as good a result as a full-on tracker but is infinitely smaller and easier to setup, so really looking forward to it :)

Comment by Art on May 10, 2016 at 5:33am

@Hugo Chamberland  I don't really care that much one way or another.  Just communicate advantages of a unit clearly and support it with facts rather than emotions and conjecture.  900 Mhz is not widely accepted by who exactly?   (433MHz for Europe) And do you mind sharing with us you bandwidth comparison data that you've done?  Just an FYI, microhard IPnDDL radio can work at 900Mhz as well.  And the max bandwidth they claim is 12Mbps

If you are planning on running video+telemetry and interested in wifi radios you can have a look at this wifi module which runs at 900Mhz 1W and claims max speed of 54Mbps.

However the unit being discussed here is radio agnostic.  It is just an antenna.  So if you do compare apples to apples I see no advantages that this unit would have compared with a 900Mhz quarter wave monopole antenna for $1.50 and no complex electronics to reduce overall reliability of the system

Comment by Hugo Chamberland on May 10, 2016 at 6:15am

The biggest weakness of the 900 MHz frequency is the limited amount of unlicensed bandwidth in the spectrum.  There is only 26MHz of available spectrum, where other frequencies have as much as 3 times the amount of available spectrum.  In some cases, this will result in a lot of noise from other products operating in this spectrum range.   Additionally, 900MHz is not an open public spectrum in most countries outside of North America.

You may transit 54mbps with the 900mhz radio, given you are the only one doing it in the area.

-Hugo

Comment by MAGnet Systems on May 10, 2016 at 12:56pm

@ Art The reduction in complexity is that you use a single radio (5.8GHz Microhard) and a single antenna (Pharos) on the drone side and exactly the same set up on the GC side for streaming both video and telemetry.

Every other set up requires one radio for telemetry and a separate radio for video on each side of the data link (a total of 4 radios and 4 antennas).  Plus the link is digital now vs analogue video transmission allowing additional video processing applications to be performed (i.e. video tracking).

Another reduction in complexity is that you don’t need to use a motorized antenna tracker on the GS side as this is a fully digital tracking antenna.  

So what you probably mean by “increased complexity” is the fact that you now have to plug a servo cable from the antenna to the Pixhawk AUX port (as what happens inside the antenna is transparent to the user).  

The set up above will give you 10+ Km for both telemetry and digital video. This is a fact. 

Comment by Thomas Stanley-Jones on May 10, 2016 at 1:40pm

I was wondering how your setup compares to the Dragonlink system?

Comment by MAGnet Systems on May 10, 2016 at 9:13pm

@ Thomas Stanley-Jones   From the dragonlink page you’ve submitted:

“NOTE:  The Dragon Link system is for RC control only, it does not transmit or affect video transmission in any way.”

The Pharos antenna with the Microhard modem is a combined telemetry PLUS video streaming solution and fully compatible with the Pixhawk equipped drones. This is the smallest and lighter set up available that provides 10+Km of (telemetry AND video) range with minimized power requirements (current draw). The direct outcome is an increased flight time due to the compact set up and reduced weight. 

Comment by Jason K. on May 14, 2016 at 10:47am

It looks like a very nice project! When is it expected to be on sale?

Comment by MAGnet Systems on May 14, 2016 at 11:10am

@Jason K The first units for Kickstarter backers are planned to ship October but we have included some contingency planning into the timeline. If the units are ready earlier (highly possible) we will ship them immediately.  

Comment by MAGnet Systems on May 14, 2016 at 11:52am

The video below shows a 10.6 Km range for combined video and telemetry using the Pharos antenna and the 5.8GHz digital data link modem. There are many benefits using digital datalinks Vs Analogue but the one that works optimally for us is that we are able to perform various video processing techniques. For example, on the footage below we “georegister” the live video from the drone for improving the pilot’s spatial perspective of where the drone camera is looking at. 

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