Skywalker X8 - Video and Telemetry via 3g internet

Here is a short video presentation of my Skywalker X8 UAV using 3g broadband internet for video and telemetry.


Onboard my X8 i have this ZTE MF60 3g/Wifi router which handles the communication for the APM2.5 and the Raspberry Pi model B. I didn't wanna use the Dronecell because i will place the load away from the APM2.5. I could have put a 3g USB adapter in my Raspberry Pi as well, but the Pi have more than enough to do transcoding the video-stream, so i use a Cisco Wifi USB adapter in my Pi to communicate with the 3g router and GCS.


The telemetry from my APM2.5 is sent to a Serial 2 Wifi converter which then is connected via Wifi to the 3g router. I then connect to my APM2.5 using TCP from Mission Planner.


The Raspberry Pi are using VLC Player for Linux to transcode the videostream from the Microsoft Lifecam webcamera to a resolution of 352x288 at 500kbit/s and 10 fps. If you want to use the same solution just change the hostname and port to you needs in the command below. I use Dynamic DNS (client configured in my Raspbery Pi) since mye 3g router gets a dynamic IP adress on every new connection.

Command in the Pi for starting videostream:

"sudo -u pi vlc-wrapper -I dummy -vvv v4l2:///dev/video0 :v4l2-width=352 :v4l2-height=288 :v4l2-fps=10 :sout='#transcode{vcodec=MJPG,vb=500,fps=10,scale=1,width=352,height=288,acodec=none}:std{mux=ts,access=udp{ttl=10},}' :sout-all :sout-keep"

At my GCS i start VLC using this command in a .CMD file to recieve the video from the X8 and re-stream it to the Mission Planner:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc.exe" udp://@ --sout=#transcode{vcodec=MJPG,vb=500,fps=10,scale=1,width=352,height=288,acodec=none}:duplicate{dst=http{mux=mpjpeg,dst=:8080/},dst=display} :sout-all :sout-keep

In Mission Planner you just enter "http://localhost:8080" in the "SET MJPEG Source" when right-clicking the Hud. I have a 6GB per month dataplan in my 3g router and my calculations says that this can give me more than 52 hours of videostream. My sim card is a non-firewalled APN.


For now everything is powered from a MaxAmps 11000mah LIPO  This is a high capasity battery and the weight is only 825gram. My plan is to have 2 of those in my X8 for a really long range flight.

Right now i'm using a Sanwa 35mHz radio, but i waiting for my Turnigy 9XR and 433mHz modules from Hobbyking. I don't use 2.4gHz because of the 2.4gHz in my 3g router.


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Comment by Paul Mijoiu on May 5, 2013 at 2:49pm

Great job Tommy! I see you gave up on the easycap solution. I am curious to see how the 3g connection will work in flight.

Comment by Paul Mijoiu on May 5, 2013 at 2:50pm

crazy battery, wish I could afford few of those :)

Comment by Tommy Larsen on May 5, 2013 at 3:01pm

Tnx Paul :)

I did not give up on the Easycap. Just so much other things to do so i put the webcam onboard for now :-)

Comment by Tommy Larsen on May 5, 2013 at 3:07pm

And yes that battery is awesome! Can charge 12563mah into it :) that times 2 will give alot of time in the air :)

I will also try to make something like this instead of large batteries, but much more compact :)

Comment by John on May 5, 2013 at 3:27pm
Wow very very nice. So you think the Rpi would be too loaded up to handle vid stream+TM+a USB 3G dongle? That was my plan, but your setup might be the ticket. Have you taken it out far yet?
Comment by Tommy Larsen on May 5, 2013 at 3:34pm

Yes i know it is too much for the Pi. I need to overclock to "Medium" to get the video working alone.

The range i have been, is a small secret for now ;-)

Comment by Mike T on May 5, 2013 at 4:07pm

this is fantastic! have you tested this with a mission yet?

Comment by Eduardo Romero on May 5, 2013 at 5:16pm

Wow this Is great!

Comment by Jack Crossfire on May 5, 2013 at 7:32pm

Streaming video must go through your bandwidth cap pretty fast.  Not the kind of thing anyone can afford without a company phone.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on May 5, 2013 at 7:39pm

@Jack: Here in Finland you pay €10/month for 2Mbit/s capped 3G unlimited volume. For 20€ you get the same with 3G/4G/LTE without speed cap. I'd guess, Norway isn't THAT much different.


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