RockBLOCK Mk2 - Iridium SatComm Module


The RockBLOCK Mk2 allows you to send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a clear view of the sky and it works far beyond the reach of WiFi and GSM networks. Maybe you want to transmit weather information from mid-ocean? Or use it to control your robot in the middle of the desert? Perhaps you need to communicate in an emergency, when other networks might not be available? RockBLOCK can help you.


  • Plug and play satellite communication
  • Full 2-way communication system
  • Integrated antenna and power conditioning
  • Optional external antenna connector
  • Truly global operation, using the Iridium satellite network
  • Data arrives via e-mail, or directly to your own web-service

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  • I'd personally go for FindMe Spot. Initial price is much less, service plans somewhat competitive, plus it has GPS therefore can run in stand-alone mode. Seen some easy hacks to transfer custom messages via UART.

  • Developer

    For most people and applications, a gprs/edge/3g/4g data plan would make a lot more sense. And be much easier to implement, with already made cheap boards using vanilla TTL serial.

  • @JB we are looking at the Adafruit FONA 3G breakout we need to do some range testing with different antennas, I think this is worth a shot at least for once we're on the ground to get confirmations that it's not gone.

  • @ Mark

    I think it should work fine with a companion computer, but you will need to filter it to essential data only, and make sure it keeps up with the heartbeat to be compliant. Might be worth testing and touching base with the organizers to confirm, seeing CASA has pulled the type 2 autonomy now ie we need continuous telemetry. To be honest I don't think we'd bother this time around unless someone else is nice enough to get it working and share the setup! ;-)

    I'm trying to ditch the companion as well still...nearly there!

    How did you go with the 3/4G mobile stick?

  • There is an Iridium 9602 interface based on an Arduino Mini in Paparazzi. It connects to the autopilot through I2C. SBD is fine for an "alive" message every now and then but not really a telemetry link.

    Paparazzi is a free and open-source hardware and software project for unmanned (air) vehicles. This is the main software repository. - paparazzi/papa…
  • how about a simple 328p interface which can filter pixhawk mavlink from telemetry port into  Rockblock protocol for very small packets (lat Long alt volt)

  • the best use in present scenario would be to  locate a lost aircraft. so just send lat long alt would be very useful. I am sure we can so it by filtering MAVLink data.

  • Moderator

    Thats all interesting the unit landed on my desk because  a chap wants to put if in an RC airship and track the things position every 20 minutes. That in itself is not too hard but he wants data from the Pixhawk primarily power as well. I as thinking if I were doing the outback I would be looking at a LoRaWAN sort of setup. Strikes me that might have the range especially if there was a hill of any sort nearby for a repeater/concentrator. 

  • @JB We are considering this as well for outback, we would use this in conjunction with the compain computer to only send what we deam essential information.

  • We've looked at this previously for use in the Outback Challenge but found that the data rate (340 bytes FROM RockBLOCK - 270 bytes TO RockBLOCK each using a credit $0.06c) and the update rate (20 sec cold start with clear sky, minutes if not, and every 10sec max update rate) means that some form of data compression and pre-selection would be crucial to make the most of it. A lot of Mavlink data would need to be optimized and condensed.

    For example we were thinking that the first byte could be used to set the "data type mode", allowing non-time critical data to be sent sporadically after it was requested, or after a certain interval or event. Data types could then be packaged and transmitted interlaced between regular updates and triggered by events (e.g. bat low). The telemetry data type mode would allow for any customized and optimised data (for example battery could be sent as a level rather than a voltage) that would free up some space for more time critical positional and control data. Even some first digits of the lat/long could be neglected, if not operating with extreme range requirements or only occasionally updated when they actually change.

    Essentially a type of MPEG compression that only registers changes, and priorities critical and event based info would significantly reduce data flow and maintain a steady level of update. An update every 30 seconds could suffice like this, leaving some time for intermittent event based messages as required. In comparison that would cost $7.20 an hour which is more palatable, especially if it is being used as a secondary telemetry link.

    I suppose the question is how far Mavlink messages can be compressed and prioritized overall will make or break the use of this device in UAV's. That or a fat wallet! ;-)

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