A few months ago, I started a project for an integrated groundstation. The idea was to combine Arduino, MAVLink, FrSky and a good TX system (Sky9x board) into an integrated system to control any kind of UxV. After making good progress, the project stalled because I'm waiting for documentation and samples from FrSky and after the FrSky Taranis and the Turnigy 9XR came out, both the Sky9X and the gruvin9x boards were discontinued.

Then came school for me and lots of stuff...

Recently I started hacking the external mode switch panel which I just posted about. After reading the comments and feedback on that, I started thinking again and decided to go back to the groundstation project. As I am now a little bit more clever - I know how to generate a PPM stream, which always was the biggest obstacle for me - I decided to start making everything - a real integrated system, based on an Arduino Mega.

Why Arduino? Well, I want the system to be easily hackable. The whole system will be easy to DIY. I will refrain from using special PCBs as much as possible. And of course, everything will be open source.

For the special "cool touch", I am also designing avionics-style panels. I even found a company in Spain which is interested in that project and will make those panels for a good price.

But of course, the most important part is functionality. Here are a few initial points.

  • Modular - as much as possible stuff will be put into modules to easily select what we want
  • Basic control goes via RC TX (JR style modules), simply because there's lots of robust solutions on the market - solutions which also have communication authority approvals!
  • No bells and whistles in the RC part. No expos, wild mixes, etc. The sticks are to tell the APM what to do and the APM does the stuff. There will be a very small number of RC functions, like a switch to put the elevator a few degrees up for hand-launch and similar
  • No touchscreens, no colorful LCDs, etc.! Why? Because those stuff is either not sunlight-readable or idiotically expensive. We will have some modules with 1 or 2 line STN displays, but that's it.
  • Panel will be designed close to avionics standards. The main goal is to keep it intuitive and to help people keep the overview. I might even adapt some mechanical (simulator) gauges or create some myself.

This being said, I kick the ball in the community's corner. What do YOU think would be a useful function / a useful module for the perfect UAS-TX? Please comment, but keep it realistic!

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MR60
Comment by Hugues on August 6, 2013 at 2:01pm
Hello ? I would hope to see some telemetry data on my Tx especially RSSI of the radio AND of the telemetry link.
Nice project. Are you Belgian or Dutch?
Comment by Stefan Gofferje on August 6, 2013 at 2:09pm

Neither. German.

Comment by Ahmed Shareef on August 6, 2013 at 5:36pm
You have my full support! The could be revolutionary.
Comment by Earl on August 6, 2013 at 10:54pm

Sounds cool.

Earl

Comment by Francis Pelletier on August 7, 2013 at 6:34am

make it rugged! for field use! really good idea to have the avionics style panels! you have my support if you need!

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 7, 2013 at 6:44am

Stefan, I think this is a good idea, I built something very similar to what you are proposing already.  I built mine into a Pelican case, but I have also thought about making a smaller, simpler version which would simply install all the components into a G-10 frame/sandwich.  

I've got the basic code working, and flying, including the 6-button mode selection.  It generates the PPM stream and outputs it to an FrSky Tx module.  It has model memory, timers and some other stuff.  I would like to expand the functionality to include FrSky telemetry and/or MAVlink telemetry.  I'm using a 4x20 line STN display for the same reason you are: it's tough to beat the functionality in sunlight for a reasonable price.

If you'd like to combine efforts, I'm open to it.  

BTW, I do think that some expo is still helpful on roll, pitch and yaw.  I haven't actually added the feature, but want to.  Flying without it, it's a bit less smooth.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on August 7, 2013 at 7:09am

Robert, there's a number of Arduino-based TX-solutions out there.I found those which are very interesting:

Normal version

USB joystick version

I'm yet defining the functionality. I do that by designing panels :D - I know, I have a bit strange way sometimes.Anyways, I'm not sure about the sticks yet. I am sure that I don't want normal RC gimbals. I was thinking of either industrial 3-function joysticks with a button or make a USB version. Or just make that modular too - put the joystick-stuff into a separate HW module which simply communicates with the core unit via I²C/SPI or something like that. I think, that's the most important thing - define a core module and a way to communicate with the modules

About the smaller, simpler version - don't laugh but now as I have learned how to create a PPM stream, I wanted to make a micro-TX. I have an arm-mounted enclosure flying around and was thinking to make a supersimple TX out of 6 or 7 pushbuttons and 2 PS2 joysticks :). Still also have a FrSky DIY-module in my parts box.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on August 7, 2013 at 7:11am

I was thinking of opening a project at GitHub, to start collecting ideas and definitions in the bugtracker... What do you think?

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on August 7, 2013 at 7:42am

Interesting that you link to Ian's project. That is in fact where I started.  I used his non-USB code and went from there.  However, there is very little of the original code left.  There were a number of problems, and the specialization required for UAV/APM use meant that just about everything is changed.  The only thing left, pretty much, is the original PPM Stream generation code.  John Arne looked at it and said it was OK, but he can do better.  I wanted to implement something he put together eventually.

I currently am using industrial joysticks, and they are not very good.  They don't feel very precise, and the value maxes out way before they reach the end of travel, so there's a terrible deadband on the outside.  Then they don't center well, so you need deadband in the middle.  

I can fly it, but it's not "nice".  I plan to replace them with Hitec Aurora gimbals.

Github repository:

https://github.com/R-Lefebvre/Altas-Ground-Control

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on August 7, 2013 at 7:52am

Out of curiosity - which joysticks do you use? I mainly want those because I'm not and never have been a classical "RC-person". Driving yaw with a separate stick drives me crazy regularly. As I am flying mostly copters nowadays, I want to twist the cyclic for yaw in the field and use proper pedals on a more stationary setup.

That's why I was thinking of keeping it modular. There could be two modules, one digitizer module which reads analog joysticks and one USB-host module. Both could send the values for throttle, pitch, yaw and roll and maybe a few buttons via I²C/SPI to the central unit. Kind of some abstraction layer, if I make any sense :D. That would also again take some strain off the CPU.

I think, I'm gonna draw up some conceptual drawing...

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