Since I entered into the drone world I've had a problem with the concept of taking my laptop out into the field with me, but as a new (hopeless) pilot I would often like to know more about what's happening with my hexa as it's flying.  To solve this issue I got myself an Ardustation, only to find that it didn't have all the information on it that I was looking for, and the text screen, while great in sunlight left something to be desired...

So, I have started work on what I'd consider the 'Next Generation' of Ardustation, it's based on an Arduino 2560, and a 3.2" TFT Touchscreen...

I've included a GPS for local positioning and future (very near) "Follow Me" functionality, my plan is to pack as much functionality into the unit as I can so that out in the field we can all have a ground station that is more robust than a laptop but just as functional.

so far I have functions to change the mode, a basic HUD (this is limited by the processing power of the 2560 & bandwidth of the display interface), a Flight map, and some debugging code to view the data that is being received over the Xbee.

It should be mentioned that I've lifted some of the code from the Ardustation 2 software, but it has been largely modified by myself to collect more data and simplify program flow.

Let me know what you think?!  if there is enough interest in the project I will publish the code, parts list, and a concise 'how to' on constructing the unit.

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Comment by Ellison Chan on September 23, 2012 at 5:53pm

I was just looking at that LCD shield on ebay.  How well does it work?  Is the touch screen function well supported on the Arduino?

Comment by Jesse on September 23, 2012 at 6:25pm

Hi Ellison, the touchscreen works really well actually!!  The SD Card socket however is woeful... I've got a couple of these and I am considering removing the SD Card socket and re-connecting it directly to the shield so that I can use it for logging...

Comment by Ellison Chan on September 23, 2012 at 6:34pm

Well, it's certainly not in a very convenient position, being the back of the LCD shield, but why is it not working?

Btw, the Dev Team is starting a "follow me" box, and seems to be along the lines of what you are doing.  You may want to PM Chris Anderson to get on the Dev Team mailing list.  There's a call out for developers, who are interested in helping with it.

Comment by Ellison Chan on September 23, 2012 at 6:36pm

Oh, another question.  With the LCD covering the whole arduino, is there access to the arduino's socket to plug in other sensors?

Comment by Jesse on September 23, 2012 at 6:41pm

Hahaha yea, that's the other issue, along with the socket being relatively cheap feeling as well... at this stage I'm just prototyping, but it's easy enough for everyone to do if they want.  the 'middle board' has holes for all the pins on the 2560, I have soldered headers into all of them and have been jumping stuff off the back. 

I got the 'follow me' idea from the planning software, it seems straight forward enough, I've only really been at it for a week or so now, and most of that has been centered around getting the base system up and running, plus all the feeds.  I have successfully got the GCS changing modes, and feedback on what mode the hexa is currently in.  

I will drop Chris a line I will likely have some spare time over the next couple of weeks as I'm job hunting again, so it's a great time to catch up on these kinds of projects :-)

Comment by Ellison Chan on September 23, 2012 at 6:46pm

Oh look, according to this listing, it states that the SD Card reader is only supported by Arm, and not Atmel/Arduino:

Comment by Jesse on September 23, 2012 at 6:56pm

hmmm that explains a bit, I have however found a lot of doco on using the SD card with the Arduino, either way I'm sure that I can sort it out without too much trouble it might just be a matter of removing all the 10K resistors and jumpering the LCD side of them off to the correct pins via 2.2 resistors instead...

I intend on doing some research this week into using ARM processors instead of AVR's for the ardupilot, there is a 'Maple' board and associated software that claims to be 'Arduino compatible' that could form the basis of a project... the extra processing power would enable us to hopefully do inertial nav and ditch the GPS as a primary source of data, using it only to check position, this would eliminate the effects of GPS drift. 

Comment by Ellison Chan on September 23, 2012 at 7:02pm

Check out the AeroQuad site for a Arm board, that's ready to go:

The maple board is not really made for flight control, and you'll need to add all the sensors.

The AeroQuad Baloo board is using Arm F4, and has all the sensors you need. (Mag, Accel, Gyro)

The SD card and LCD seems to be both using SPI, so I don't see any reason why the SD card won't work.  I've successfully interface SPI SD Card readers to the Arduino before.

Comment by Jesse on September 23, 2012 at 7:02pm

Ellison, here is a photo of how I have attached the GPS & Xbee to the shield.  I've got a couple of these, I might get myself another XBee & GPS and add switches, pots and a couple of joysticks to fly the hexa via the GCS

Comment by Jesse on September 23, 2012 at 7:06pm

oh, yea I realise that, it's fairly simple to make it all work, that's why it was doing my head in... plus I think what they have done is route the SD card via standard digital pins 50 thru 54 instead of sending the SPI pins to the SPI port and routing the CS pin elsewhere...

my thoughts for the Maple where to lift the centre of the maple board out and replace the centre of the Ardupilot V1 board with it and as closely as I can match up the pins so that the code is relatively portable and can continue to grow, that should look after most all the sensors and the ARM processor should be more than capable of interfacing with a normal IMU without too much trouble...


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