Creating an I2C sonar for Arducopter

I've created an I2C digital signal sonar module to avoid the noise problems I have been having with the current analog signal sonar module.

Why?

Seeing all the problems we are having with noisy sonar data got me thinking

Where does the noise come from? Is it:

  • RF noise from the ESCs affecting the sonar module directly ?
  • RF noise from the ESCs affecting the analog signal line between the sonar and APM?
  • Noise on the DC power supply affecting the Sonar module?
  • Something else?


The current popular solution of remote mounting the sonar has probably eliminated DC power as the primary source of our noise. In other words - if noisy DC power was the ource of the noise problem then no matter where you mount the sonar you would still have the noise. Regardless if DC noise were still an issue Maxbotics has a solution to DC noise in their FAQ.

Personally I've found that remote mounting the sonar module has only partially solved my noise problems. This is probably due to the Sonar power and signal cable passing within 10mm of one of the ESCs near where it plugs in to the APM on my arducopter.


(This photo shows how close my ESC is to the analog port on the IMU Shield)

 

So I wondered if I could get rid of the analog signal path and see how the sonar noise changed. This has led me to put together a I2C sonar module. This communicates digitally between the sonar and APM using the I2C port on the APM IMU shield. It also allows you to use the PWM output from the sonar which Maxbotics recommends as "the most accurate"

 

Hardware

All that is needed is an Arduino, an I2C cable and some software.

Arduino mini

DIY Drones GPS Cable

The GPS cable supplies power and connects data lines between the Arduino and APM IMU Shield (you need to cut one end off the cable)

APM IC2 Function Arduino Mini

PIN1 <-----> GND <-----> GND

PIN2 <-----> 5V <-----> VCC

PIN3 <-----> SDA <-----> A4

PIN4 <-----> SCL <-----> A5

 

Three Wires connect the Arduino to the Sonar

Arduino Function Sonar

GND <-----> GND <-----> GND

VCC <-----> 5V <-----> V+

D5 <-----> PWM <-----> PIN2

 

Here is what it looks like mounted on the sonar - with double sided tape

The sonar is on a standard jdrones sonar mount

Software

The Arduino then needs to be programmed as an I2C slave.

Here is my code Sonar_I2C_Sender_v005.zip

You must use an FTDI cable to program an Arduino Mini

The code continuously reads and stores the sonar distance as a PWM signal from the module.

It responds to any I2C request for data with a two byte integer representing the current sonar range in cm.

Additionally it has the ability to return noise filtered sonar data.

Note the MaxBotix experts strongly recommend a mode or median filter not averaging filter.

Currently the code can be requested to return spike filtered, median or mode filtered data.

 

I have modified the Arducopter code to use this I2C sonar and started testing

Here is my sonar library APM_I2CSonar.zip

If the testing all works OK I'll see if Chris or Jason want to put it in the code repository

 

Results

To put it simply the results so far are great!

Indoor and outdoor tethered tests show no noise and no data problems

Here is a graph showing Sonar data in red and baro in green.

first segment is with motors running second with motors off

Its too windy to fly here today (in the Aussie vernacular: It's strong enough to blow ya dog off its chain!)

Stay tuned!

 

Andrew

 

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Comment by askin alpinar on August 19, 2015 at 12:06pm

Hello, 
I am working on a obstacle avoidance system for my quadcopter. I am also using a Maxbotix XL MB1200 sonar sensor. I am planning to do my coding with Arduino Uno and have a APM 2.5 flight controller. I have read your blog and was wondering if I should follow the same steps? Meaning connecting the arduino to APM with I2C ? Also I didnt understand one part.. Did you alter the code of the APM or just did it within the Arduino ?
I appriciate your help :)

Comment by Tim Dickinson on July 18, 2016 at 7:55am

Would this work with the hc-sr04?

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