iPad Ground Control Station

Just wanted to share some progress on an iPad Ground Control Station app I've been putting together for a little while. Here's a quick introduction:

As the video shows, the (non-jailbroken) iPad is hooked up to a Digi XTend radio modem via a RedPark iPad-Serial cable and a RS232 Shifter, with the radio modem powered off a UBEC. It communicates with the APM via MAVLink just like the regular APM Mission Planner.

Have also used the iPad-Serial cable with a XBee and XBee Explorer Serial board with my other UAVs, which makes for a simpler hook-up.

Just a personal project at this stage, particularly as use of the RedPark cable limits the redistribution options available (i.e. not permitted on the App Store at present), but have a laundry list of features I'm hoping to add over time, and we'll see what happens on the device interface front - would like to make the app accessible to all if there's sufficient interest.

Thanks for reading - looking forward to any comments you might have!

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  • Hi Claudio

    Congratulations to your amazing work! Very cool project. As I already have a RedPark cable as well as an Apple Developer account, I would be very interested if the code would be available or if there is any other way to get my hands on your iPad Ground Control Station. Is there any possibility?

  • Developer

    Damn, I should have got an iPad instead of a Nexus 7!

  • Grant, not in this case, but I did something similar on another custom project:

    iPad <---> WiFly shield <---> Arduino <---> RS232 Device

    It worked ok, albeit a bit of a kluge, and eventually got swapped out with a Redpark cable.

    If I knew for sure this approach would clear the App Store (anyone know of some examples?), I'd probably look at it again. Would also need to instruct users on how to configure the Arduino/WiFly etc, configure the iDevice for simultaneous adhoc WiFi + 3G usage (so you could still download maps etc), and so on.

  • @Grant West  Ideally the ipad app is to have a more mobile ground station (i.e. ipad w/ a few electronics strapped to back), that adds too much in-between ;)  However, i would propose looking into a bluetooth serial link with a PC running APM GCS (or other mavlink software) to stream XBee or w/e telemetry from PC Mission planner over bluetooth to iPad (aka, still use a PC ground station, but it can stay in the back of the car while you walk to flight station with iPhone/iPad in hand)

  • Have you considered using Wifi?

    iPad <---> Wireless Router <---> Arduino w/ethernet shield <---> XTend Radio

    This would allow you to circumvent Apple's pesky restrictions without jail breaking or special hardware. It might even allow this to make it to the App Store if you ever chose to go that route. 

  • Moderator
    Yes, but is the gcs sysid 255 on both the iPad app and the APM planner? Or do you use a different sysid for the iPad app?
  • Jonek, the components are from scratch (and hence in iOS/CoreGraphics), and did a few google image searches for inspiration. I'd have to check my notes but (at least for the AHI) if I recall correctly I tried to mimic the ROS groundstation widget (can't recall why I didn't just pull the code it; perhaps uses another library I didn't want to pull in?). If your graphic environment can do things like draw an annulus with blending/gradients, then it's surprisingly easy to get that effect once you get started.

    Avalerion, perhaps drop me a PM.

    Toby, had discounted using a 3G modem for my use (occasionally fly in areas without coverage) but that could be more accessible generally. Thanks for the reminder.

    Mike, it waits until it gets the first heartbeat message from the APM, and then uses the sysid in that heartbeat for communication thereafter, so definitely only a 1 system/aircraft GCS for now (unlike, say, qGroundControl).

    apocolipse, thanks for the offer - will keep that in mind!

  • Thanks for the comments all!

    Jan, thanks for the Bluetooth LE suggestions - iPhone 4S and new iPad only though right? Will take another look.

    Vishal, ah! Didn't know there was a TTL cable too - thanks! Would still have picked up this one for another project that requires RS232 level. Note that I was unable to get it to work with a XBee and the RS232 shifter above, which had me scratching my head for a bit, but it's actually pretty convenient with an XBee + Explorer Serial board (just plug it in and feed it some power).

    John, yes, it can be a bit tricky to get the HIL sim set up for the first time, but it definitely makes development thereafter a breeze: http://code.google.com/p/ardupilot-mega/wiki/Xplane

  • Yes unfortunately due to the hardware you cant put it in the appstore, but should you need help putting it on Cydia for jailbroken iPads I can lend you a hand, I'm a CydiaStore developer (I make mostly tweaks but a few apps), not everyone wants to pay $99 to compile on a non-jailbroken one ;)

    Otherwise, looks good I've been wanting to do this for a bit but havent bought the hardware yet, time to do that soon it seems ;)

  • 3G modem
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