"Real" instruments for MAVLink UAV groundstations

 

You all might remember my integrated groundstation project, which I started earlier this year. Based on this project, I started integrating flight instruments from Dutch manufacturer Flight Illusion. Flight Illusion in one of the leading manufacturers of gauges for flight simulators and has a wide range of various instruments. Piece by piece, I will write a library which is able to control the most important gauges to display MAVLink data.

Why oldfashioned "steam gauges", you ask? There's Mission Planner, QGroundControl, Andropilot, Droidplanner?

Very simple: "steam gauges" have various advantages:

First of all, they are fully sunlight readable. Unless you have a really expensive laptop, you will have problems with reading the screen on a beautiful summer day, unless you have some bulky glare shield. Next, with "steam gauges" you save space. If your ground station has a nice big FPV monitor and you additionally have a laptop, you have a pretty bulky piece of equipment going on. When using gauges, you can have your FPV monitor and 3 or 4 gauges in one nice Peli case, ready to go with all important information at a glance. Last but not least, having "real" flight instruments in your ground station is way cool :).

Of course, gauges don't work with FPV goggles, but neither does a laptop or tablet.

A solution with gauges is definitely no universal solution for everyone, but for more professional use, it is a very good solution.

Development will also include creation of a control unit which includes the necessary power supplies and accepts a MAVLink data stream to directly control the gauges, without the need of a computer.

Over time and if there is sufficient demand, we will also think together with Flight Illusion about creating a line of instruments specifically for drone use, e.g. a speed indicator or altitude indicator with a display range more suitable for small UAVs.

Views: 1909

Comment by UAS_Pilot on October 16, 2013 at 6:54am

Very cool...

Comment by Stefan on October 16, 2013 at 6:57am

Looks really nice. Could be a nice addition to the people that have room for a full cockpit.

Comment by Stefan on October 16, 2013 at 6:58am

As an addition to my previous post, ofcourse not a full cockpit, but some "analog" gauges for airspeed, altitute and attitude could be usefull. 

Comment by Georacer on October 16, 2013 at 7:08am

Err... did that piece of hardware really cost as much as Flight Illusion's site states? $300 for a gauge is "too much" in my book.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on October 16, 2013 at 7:12am

Georacer:

The mechanics are fairly complex and the gauges are mainly assembled by hand and not in China! There's a lot of development involved in those, so I think, although expensive, the price is justified.

And if you compare the price to a real attitude indicator ($5k-6k), which basically only has two rotating masses, acting as gyros, which keep the indicators level at all times purely mechanically, it's reasonably cheap :).

Comment by Georacer on October 16, 2013 at 7:17am

I can't comment on whether the instrument is worth its money or not; I can't judge that since I don't know what it's made of.

I'm just saying that multiples of $300 (for every indicator) is a great expense for an amateur ground station, according to my pocket, of course. ;D

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on October 16, 2013 at 7:20am

So is e.g. a Peli Case for $400 :). As I wrote, it's surely not the ideal solution for everyone but in a more professional context, I think, it's a very good solution.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on October 16, 2013 at 8:41am

I like the idea, but I agree with Georacer.  $300 is a lot of money for a single gauge.  I'm not commenting on the price of the unit, but the *value* of the unit in the context of this market. 

I have no doubt that some applications will suit this unit very well.  But those applications are quite limited.  You'd be talking about a $2-5000 ground control station.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on October 16, 2013 at 8:50am

Let's wait how the situation develops :)... I just started developing and FI is watching the situation and the feedback. Chances are, if there is enough demand, that FI might offer "UAV-GCS kits" as they already offer gauge sets which are cheaper than the sum of the single prices.

Besides - a laptop with fully sunlight-readable display, e.g. a Panasonic Toughbook also costs around $4k - 6k IIRC.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on October 16, 2013 at 10:17am

Ok, we'll see what happens.  There's no doubt that there is or will be some market for a nice professional GCS in the $1000-10,000 range.   That market just isn't well represented here.

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