Ground Station gets an upgrade

3689428864?profile=originalI like to spend my time in the field actually flying and not spending hours plugging things in.

Here is the latest upgrade to my Ground Station which provides a single wire from my antenna to my laptop.

All I need to take to fly is the antenna, laptop, plane and an XBox controller.

A single USB cable goes from the laptop into the case on the back of my XBee Patch antenna.

This cable goes into a USB hub.

Plugged into the Hub is:

  • Xbee for Telemetry
  • XBox 360 PC interface which turns an XBox controller into a wireless joystick.
  • WinTV usb capture dongle

Also in the case are my 5.8 Ghz Video RX. I have put the antenna connector on the outside of the case so I can either use a small rubber duck antenna or connect it to my 5.8Ghz patch antenna which also fits on the stand with a short extension cable.

3689428786?profile=originalThe Video RX outputs to the USB capture card which sends live images over the same USB cable as Telemetry to my APM planner where I overlay the picture.

There is a 2200mAh LiPo which provides power to the video RX. So I don't have to keep opening the case, there is a charger inside the case with a power input on the outside so I simply plug in a power pack to charge it up, or connect it to a power cable I have in my car.

The second photo shows it with the antenna on and you can see the power switch for the Video RX.

The stand it is mounted on is an aluminium commercial speaker stand so it is light, extremely durable and folds up very compactly to sit on the back seat of my car.



3689428881?profile=originalOn the other side, you can see the long USB cable that enters the side of the case and runs to my Laptop. The Video RX charging connector is underneath.

The tray holds my notebook so that I can use the mouse while holding my plane.

The 900Mhz patch antenna is 14dBi so you don't have to point it directly at the plane unless you are on a long distance mission. The whole center piece swivals and the patch antenna also tilts up and down for more precise alignment.

This setup is for my new Ritewing Zephyr which has almost finished construction. Once its done I'll post pics of it and hopefully I'll get around to making a video of the whole system in operation.

Below you can see the GS being used in the field prior to the latest upgrade (shows the laptop stand in action). 3689428797?profile=original


Thanks to Michael for adding Elevon mixing to the Joystick control in the APM planner. That was the final piece of the puzzle to getting this up and running.













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  • great ground station, what has been your experience so far on range of the 900 mhz datalink signal, do you get anywaring that it is about to drop out?



  • In autonomous mode is sure not depends on ground station, but in fpv mode and when in setup and trials or during landings it is and this scares me a little. I'm developing my firmware and I use a lot a partial autonomous (I let control some functions and I control others, or I control various gains etc), this is the moment when my plane is really dependent on rc link.

    Anyway I  probably I overcare about the notebook stability :) I use a virtual machine dedicated to the hobby to be safer, until now it has worked right.

    What about multiple frequency int he same box? any cross rssi study about that?

  • They are other OS on pc than microsoft ones. I will put my groundstation on a custom linux build for example. Moreover, your drone will not crash if you loose the remote connection :/

  • Frank. I don't control my plane with the joystick. My APM controls my plane. The joystick is used for minor and non critical corrections. If it does stop working it shouldn't matter to a true UAS.
  • I'm always scared in using a pc for important things like antenna tracking or video, any freeze will result in a loss of plane control. You there do not seems scared of that.. arent you afraid to put your drone in the hands of microsoft stabilty ? :)

  • I have a GS arduino based that controls diversity, antenna tracking, converts and send from mavlink to nmea to track over a cellphone and calculates interesting efficency coefficent like glide ratio, Amp/vertical speed and so on displayed on a lcd screen. also take care of all rssi and can display them over osd (another arduino required for osd)

    if anyone interested I can make it opensource but I need help to do that.

  • My ground station is very similar, I use frsky insteadof xbee and bluetooth instead of a wire so is completely wireless. anyway I use a rc bridge for rc where you use an xbox controller. box controller was my first choice but...did you test the ranges of all wireless devices?

    I have:

    1280mhz video

    2400mhz rc plane link and bluetooth (no problem at all)

    40mhz rc link between transmitter and GS


    xbox is 2400mhz right? what are your test results? I really wish an xbox controller and I have it...bad thing is that while my actual GS works with my android cellphone.. with xbox wireless controller  will only work with a pc :(

  • @All, I just started a new thread in a new post about this, looking for help with design / programming, etc.  Let's get the ball rolling!

  • That recycling would be really nice, and I even think that it would be another reason to move on.

    Not just getting a more powerful autopilot but an antenna tracker "for the same price"

  • @Dimitri
    I am currently using the XBee Pro.


    The cost of a USB servo controller would not be much different than buying an APM base board.

    I suspect that it would be done so that you could either use an old 1280 or the newer APM.

    Chris has talked about moving to a 32bit APM board soon which would make all our current APM's redundant, this would be a great use for recycling them all and many people have spares anyway.

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