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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  • So is your 3G router on the plane configured with a dyndns static IP address that forwards the incoming TCP connection from the GCS to the WiFi->Serial->APM?

    Then do you also have a dyndns IP for your GCS machine so the out-going UDP packet stream goes WebCam->RPI->WiFi Dongle->3G router ?

    Have I understood that correctly?

  • @Mike t: No i havn't tested with a mission yet. I need to feel safe about everything first (Servos, reciever, battery/bec etc)

    @Jack C: I can use 6GB per month and only pays like 25 EUR. That's like 52 hours of video per month with this stream settings.

    @SaadTiwana: The video latency is about 500ms when i run telemetry at the same time

    @Nicholas: I connect to the APM2.5 using TCP. This means that i connect to the APM and not a UDP stream from the APM to my GCS.

    @Biggles: Yes i have thought about that. But my goal is to use my GoPro connected to a video capture device. These days i'm testing different capture devices on my RPi with variable luck so for now it's a Microsoft webcam who does the job.

  • Tommy, this is great!  What a simple idea, and so powerful.  I've already ordered the wifi-serial converter, and I have a 3G hotspot at home that I'll put in there.

    Something I may add to this discussion though, have you thought about using a standalone pan/tilt webcam?  I have one that I'm going to try, it has everything in one unit that weighs around 500g and can be controlled via the web from anywhere.  Combined with some gyro stabilisation, and a zoom lense, that could be quite a powerful and inexpensive solution.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I don't understand how you get the telemetry data from the APM out to your home machine and vice versa. The video stream's destination is programmed using the RPi, but how is the destination of the telemetry data programmed?

  • Tommy,

    How much end-to-end latency are you experiencing with your setup?


  • @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.

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

  • Wow this Is great!

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

  • 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 ;-)

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