Introducing Glowduino!


Hi, my name is Jordi. I am currently building the first Glowduino prototype, and would like to gauge the interest level in the community. I guess I should tell you what it is.

Glowduino is an Arduino-compatible LED controller board for use on multicopters. It utilizes a TLC5947 to provide constant-current sinks for 8 separate common anode RGB LED strips. In addition, Glowduino can be programmed to react to different sensor inputs or to information from your Ardupilot. For example, you could use this board to control navigation lights on your quadcopter, or control different status lights, etc.

Now here's where I need your help. There are a few things I need to know before I embark on this project. First, are you interested? Second, how much would you be willing to pay for this? Currently I'm thinking maybe in the $40-50 range. Lastly, do I need a USB vendor ID? This will be published as open-source hardware, and uses the FT232RL FTDI chip. If I do need one, is there any way I can get one for a bit less than $2000?

Thanks for reading, now here are some specs and photos.

- Brains: ATMEGA328 running Arduino bootloader (Arduino compatible)

- FT232RL for communication via USB

- TLC5947 for driving the LEDs

- 12V 3A regulated LED power supply

- 24 constant-current sinks

- 6 analog inputs (A0-A5)

- Header for expansion for more outputs (future)

- Prototypes will be from OSH Park, so purple :p (let me know if you know of a better option)

- RoHS Compliant (I think...)

- 4 status LEDs (TX, RX, ON, and L) and 2 buttons (Reset and Mode)

- Comes preprogrammed with several awesome modes!

- Powered from 2S to 6S Lipo

- Small-ish at 2" x 2"

- No mounting holes, sorry (no space...)

- Yeh!



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  • Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you for commenting, you've prompted me to create another post outlining what has happened in the past 8 months :) An Arduino Micro Clone


  • Hi Jordi,
    It's been quite some time since we last touched on this topic, but gotta reach out and ask ya, "has there been any progress on these fronts?"

    Thanks and hope you are well.

  • How many matices would you like to control (daisy chain)? The glow wire seems very doable, and the board would come with an inverter. This inverter could easily be powered off a regulated 12V power supply, allowing you to use any size battery. I'm making progress on a first prototype now.

  • To answer the reference to the matrix driver, I am talking about something along the lines of a MAX7221 that can drive scrolling text and simple graphics on daisy-chained 8x8 matrices, etc.

    Foe the glow-wire, typically I like to run at minimum two colors, typically at 1.5 meter each (as that is how Align packages their EL wire. Align's driver (inverter) has always been very poor quality in that the output wires are very brittle and prone to damage. This is the reason I have about 20 of them in my field box, all of which I opened the day I received them and carefully epoxied around those outputs to minimize on the chance of disturbing their connection while mounting them. Despite my major efforts to prolong their lives, they almost regularly go bad. Something goes awry and they stop outputting proper illumination, get very hot, and puff up -- after which they are trash. Possibly because I often overdrive them? I said two colors, but in a perfect world there would be at least 3 outputs; two for the canopy, and one or the tail boom. It allows for much greater creative lighting deigns. The Align driver comes with two outputs from the inverter, so one would assume that they intend for us toners to drive two separate lengths of either their standard 1m or 1.5m lengths. Many times I splice two together and run the two off of 1 of the two outputs.

    the interesting thing to note regarding the night-string is that Align's driver is intended for 12V input, which is convenient for trex 450's/250 's that run on 3S lipos. The monkey wrench is that I have come across another driver at a smaller hobby shop that had drivers that plugged directly into any free receiver port and could drive 1 output. So, that appears that a length only requires 5V to operate. I wonder what accounts or the difference. Maybe you can tell me and/or include a jumper to drive the EL strips from either 12V or 5V. I assume it translates to brightness of the EL string. Oh yeah, last thing, the little receiver-driven single-output inverter had a switch that would blink the string at a slow interval as an option. Imagine having multiple outputs that you could synchronize the timing of the flashing and/or patterning of flashes!? Send me a protype -- I'll back the project if properly presented!
  • Although it doesn't seem as though I'll be able to fit these features on the glowduino as space is very tight, I am intrigued and have already started developing an EL board. One question I have is what exactly do you mean by:

    "2. Outputs from possibly one of many available 7-segment display drivers that can also drive LED matrices and support scrolling text and simple dot-matrix graphics."

    If I implemented the TLC5947 and a ULN2803 I would be capable of driving an 8x8 matrix of common-anode RGB LEDs, or 3 8x8 matrices of single color LEDs, and the coding for fancy shmancy stuff could be done in software. Also, how many feet of EL wire do you want to control? I am interested, so there might also be a Glowduino EL board soon :p



  • Sounds very cool. I am always looking for trick night-flying setups for single rotor 3D helis, and so might have some suggestions that you might consider incorporating into your design that would not only make your product more useful for unique lighting setups, but would also help to answer the inquiry from Mr. Anderson about what differentiates your idea from already existing similar solutions such as the jDrones board mentioned above.

    If possible, try to incorporate:

    1. an inverter port (or 4 individually programmable ones...pleeeease) capable of driving lengths of glow string (electroluminescent "EL" wire).
    2. Outputs from possibly one of many available 7-segment display drivers that can also drive LED matrices and support scrolling text and simple dot-matrix graphics.

    There are many other possibilities that I am undoubtedly either overlooking or just don't know about, but these two ideas, IMO, would at least make the utility of such a product more appealing to a more diverse clientele. Just a thought.

    My $0.02:

    Ever since learning to fly acrobatically with CCPM helicopters, I have had an addiction to night flying. When I attended an overnight event at my local flying field, I was mesmerized by these very well designed night setups that these semi-pro level r/c pilots had come up with. Unlike the sharp and point-style lighting produced by the typical LED strips or individual LEDs placed as they might be to emulate navigation lights on a scale model, the most appealing setups I found to be were those which utilized "glow string" primarily while using LEDs for spotlight effect, if at all.

    Using lighting on any type of r/c vehicle in low-light environments is, at it's root, to provide the pilot a clear view of the model's orientation. For multirotor aircraft, though, glow string is not nearly as desirable as are LEDs; highly visible point-lights that have enormously long lifespans and typically don't need special voltage converters to power them. They are also quite useful in communicating flight-modes, battery voltage, and many other telemetric values at a distance. This is probably why we rarely see EL wire being used on multirotors. Function over fashion -- but cant see any reason to exclude those whose priorities are flipped upside-down; where it's all about aesthetics and looking awesome whilst flying a visually impressive tumbling routine across the night sky. If the components I've suggested are small enough and the design is bring created for scratch, why not include these unique abilities in an all-in-one lighting control board?

    Here is a short description I copied from that was chosen randomly from a quick google search:

    What is GLOWIRE?
    GLOWIRE is an electroluminescent wire - a copper wire coated with a phosphorus material and wrapped with two tiny transmitter wires.  It is then sealed in a waterproof casing.  GLOWIRE looks very similar to neon when powered.

    What makes it glow?
    GLOWIRE must be powered by a driver (inverter) in order to glow.  A driver takes a DC input voltage and provides an AC output voltage of approximately 120 volts.  Both 9 volt and 12 volt drivers are available with varying frequencies ranging from 400 to 4000hz.  Brightness is determined by voltage and frequency.  The lower the frequency, the dimmer it glows, the higher frequency the brighter it glows.

    How do I know which driver to use?
    You need to determine the length of GLOWIRE you want to run and the type of power source you are using.  9 volt drivers will generally run a maximum of 12-14 feet of GLOWIRE.  Using longer sections of wire will decrease the brightness.  You also need to use a minimum of at least 3 feet or the driver may overload and be damaged.  Some of the 12 volt drivers can power 120 feet of wire or more.  All of the drivers can be used with any diameter of GLOWIRE.

    How is GLOWIRE used?
    The uses of GLOWIRE are limited only by your imagination.  Some of the most common uses are for RC models, car interiors, costumes, safety equipment, motorcycles, decorations, art projects, backlighting or mood lighting, signs and model trains.  The list goes on and on.

    Does it come in different colors?
    General purpose and Heavy Duty GLOWIRE comes in 10 colors:  aqua, blue, green, lime, orange, pink, purple, red, white and yellow.

    Anyway, good luck with your creation and PM me if and when you have a beta board for me to test. I will be your first guaranteed sale -- sign me up for 4 of these PCBs when the are finally produced!!

    Have a nice day and I hope this helps somehow someone who takes the time to read this super-long post! ;)

  • I think I should be able to use the default VID and PID, thanks!

  • Since you are planning to use the FTDI chip, check out whether to use their default product and vendor ID. To see if this option fits with your overall plan, follow-up with reading this FTDI technical note. All the best.

  • Thank you!

  • Very nice to see a muliplexed board that offers signals to the processing chips in coordination.

    This is what embedded design means.

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