Pharos Antenna is Live on Kickstarter

This is a smart directional antenna for drones and robotics. It comes pre-assembled as a 5.8GHz antenna or as core board so you can add your own directional antennas (x4). It works with any antenna from 10KHz-6GHz.

The Pharos Antenna can be used on both the drone and the Ground Control Station (GCS) sides. When used at the GCS side it works as a solid state 360 degrees tracking antenna but without moving parts i.e. motors.

It is compatible with the Pixhawk autopilot so its plug and play on the drone side. On the GCS side it can either use a Pixhawk or a Teensy board as a controller. 

We have developed a custom firmware version for both the Pixhawk and the Teensy board that works with Mission Planner. It is open source and will be available by the end of the campaign at GitHub. We have also developed a custom 3D mapping software application that adds more functionality and control over the antenna that we offer for free for the duration of the campaign. 

Geo-Registered Pharos Antenna Control 

Drone Version Pharos Antenna


GCS Version Pharos Antenna 

Kickstarter link

We are eager to launch this technology and we are always open to suggestions for improvement and additional features!  

Views: 2663

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 24, 2016 at 5:55pm

Where can we buy the 5.8 GHz Microhard Digital Data Link?

Comment by James on June 25, 2016 at 3:03am

Gongrats guys!!  Very well documented and supported!.

Now i understand why youve lost the DroneExpo Greece!  AUVSI and Pharos kept you under the radar.. We are proud for Manufacturers like you that aim high, constantly evolve and succeed!

I sure like the form factor and compatibilty with Pix and simplicity!(please explain a liitle more the airside)

 Over and out...iam going straight to back this little Cube!

Best wishes from UCD Team

Comment by MAGnet Systems on June 25, 2016 at 3:38am

@ Chris, We buy the modems directly from Microhard:

They have different flavors at 2.3, 2.4, 3.3 and 5.8GHz. We use the 5.0-5.8GHz version as it offers more versatility depending on the environment you operate.  We have been using their modems for 6+ years and we are very satisfied by their performance especially the combination of video plus telemetry into one device. Their power output is 100mw-1 Watt adjustable.  I’m not sure if there are other modems like it out there (especially on this form factor) but this specific one in conjunction with the Pharos antenna allowed us to achieve the goal of a 10Km range quadrocopter (see the video on the Kickstarter link).

The modem integration with the Pixhawk is super simple as the modem’s signal levels are identical to Pixhawk Rx/Tx lines (TTL).

Microhard offers a daughterboard for these modems but we found it big for drone applications so we developed our own miniaturized version that allows you to connect a camera and telemetry directly to it. See image below that shows our daughterboard with the Microhard modem installed on a 3DR IRIS. We will also make our daugherboard available from our web site this summer for users that decide to use the Microhard modems. 

Comment by MAGnet Systems on June 25, 2016 at 4:36am


@James, We wish we could participate at DroneExpo, Greece but we had made arrangements well in advance for AUVSI and unfortunately the dates were overlapping. We will definitely be there next year.  

About your question of how the Pharos antenna works on the air side:  We have added a few lines of code to the Pixhawk firmware that reads the True bearing from the drone towards the HOME point and assigns it into one of 4 sectors of bearings, each one 90 degrees wide (Nose, Right wing, Tail, Left wing). Each time the drone-to-HOME bearing lies within one of these 4 sectors, the Pixhawk outputs a discrete signal at one of its AUX ports (the port number is adjustable).

The Pharos antenna MCU reads this signal and activates the corresponding antenna that faces the HOME point. The assumption is that the Ground Control Station is located near the HOME point regardless of if the HOME point is mobile or fixed. This way, a directional RF beam is always focusing its energy from the drone towards the Ground Station as the 1st thread animation above presents.

This is pretty similar to what a ground based antenna tracker does but in reverse and also digitally (no moving parts).

The interface of the Pharos antenna with the Pixhawk is a servo cable as shown on the thread drawing above. The antenna connects to the Pixhawk AUX port where it receives the control signal and draws power from it. 

Comment by James on June 25, 2016 at 7:24am

I thought that you must did something for pharo to be self aware, but now i understood you used pixhawk to take care of that (brilliant!). Just dont forget to send a note to devs, to kindly add your Git changes to main code so it would be easier for novice users to use it and to keep up with the updates!

Comment by MAGnet Systems on June 25, 2016 at 8:55am

@James, To make the Pharos antenna completely self-aware you need to add an external controller like the Pixhawk or Teensy board, a GPS, a compass and a radio to it. The external controller takes data from the sensors, runs the firmware described above and controls the Pharos antenna. This option is available for users that do not use a Pixhawk. For example, a Teensy board can be used to connect all the sensors together and control the Pharos antenna. This is a typical GCS set up (using a Pixhawk on the GCS side is also an option).

But for Pixhawk equipped drones, all the sensors are already there so we followed this approach to minimize the complexity and make it kinda plug-n-play.

We hope that the firmware modification we developed will be added to future ardu-versions as it is really minimal. We will certainly contact the dev team if it makes sense for them to add this functionality. 

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 25, 2016 at 12:19pm

How much does a pair of Microhard modems cost? There's no price shown on their site. 

Comment by MAGnet Systems on June 25, 2016 at 1:28pm

Hi Chris, We buy the modems at $630 per unit which is not cheap but concerning their capabilities they are the only ones covering our needs. In my opinion, it precludes a big chunk of users that want to keep the cost of their systems low but I guess this is the case with other similar performing modems i.e. the Lightbridge that sets you back by a good 1$K. For us, an analog video data link is not an option as we do a lot of video processing in our GCS side i.e. object tracking, spherical vision, etc.

In all cases, I wanted to mention that the Pharos antenna is not, by any means, affiliated to the Microhard products. We show various cases of maximizing the data link performance and these modems is one of them when combined video and data are required in a single device.  But the Pharos antenna is an independent product that can use the Microhard modems, or any other radio in the 5.8GHz band. If the core controller is used then the available radios can operate from 10 KHz up to 6 GHz. That's why we decided to offer the core controller as a standalone unit as well i.e. offer more flexibility to the users on the antennas and radios they wish to use with it. 

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 25, 2016 at 4:08pm

Gary, that's just for the antennas. It doesn't include the Microhard radios. As the MAGnet folks mentioned in the above comment, adding the radios would add another $1,260.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 25, 2016 at 4:23pm

Can this work for 915 telemetry radios, too (with different antennas)?


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

© 2019   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service