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14471Tracker interest

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  • Alan Adamson
    Aug 15, 2014

      I'm not sure whether this will happen or not, but I thought I'd see what
      the reaction would be.

      As most know I did an integrated controller, gps, radio type tracker, it
      was primarily setup for pico flights, but it could do anything actually.

      It has both a lipo/solar power option and a single cell AAA or AA option.

      Specifics on what it looks like, etc are located here -
      http://peachflight.blogspot.com/ look back through the post to find it.

      I really have no interesting in mass producing this, I did it just as a
      learning project and to have some fun with. But I continue seeing
      people trying to cobble together multiple boards to make the same basic
      functionality. So I wondered if others would be interested in this?

      The main board is about 3" long and less than an 1" wide. Today it's
      configured with integrated antenna for the gps, the radio side can
      either be a dipole or ground plane antenna or there are provisions for
      an SMA connector.

      The board runs at 2.0v and as a result, even though it has a 100mW
      transmitter chip on it, it will only put out about 35mW at max power due
      to the down rated voltage.

      The main board weighs approx 4grams all built, including the gps module.
      The power boards are around 1gr or less. It can be built with
      connectors to allow switching the power board if you wanted or you could
      permanently attach one of your choice.

      I have spec'd the passives for -55C and the silicon/crystals for -40C.
      I'm going to fly it this weekend to 100K to see how it performs (that
      will be it's first time above 25k feet :) ).

      I also recently finalized the hardware, both main and power boards.

      Originally I thought about releasing it as gerbers and schematics and
      letting people DIY it.... But I've come to learn that that may be more
      of a challenge than some are willing to take. Its not that it's hard or
      difficult, it's just different - It doesn't use an Arduino (Atmel AVR)
      processor, it uses a 32 bit ARM processor (STM32L151). Programming it
      is all in C/C++, but the mechanism to program the part is different, it
      uses a JTAG SWD interface (which come with most ST Discovery boards or
      can be purchased standalone - its called an ST-Link v2), instead of a
      serial interface with bootloader. This SWD interface also allows full
      hardware breakpoint support when debugging code if needed. As a result
      the programming environment is a bit more complex than an arduino
      environment. While I use a GUI to develop and program, There is a
      single file with most of the options and it could be edited and use a
      makefile approach to the compiler to make building the code easier than
      a full up development environment. I plan to look into that option.

      The hardware is all SMD parts on the board, smallest is 0603, but there
      are some very fine SMD silicon parts. So building them isn't just as
      easy as soldering wires.

      But on the good news side.

      I've got the main board parts down to approx $23 in qty 10's The GPS
      can be had for around $15-17 and I think for us in the US, I'd be
      willing to talk to Anthony in the UK and see what we might be able to do
      on GPS pricing for more than qty 1 ... it uses the ublox Max 7C part.

      Power options are either about $10 for the solar/lipo board or around $4
      for the AAA/AA board.

      The above pricing is based upon 10 unit quantities from Digikey or Mouser.

      The boards themselves are around a $1 each as I've been working to get
      those down in price.

      Life is really too short (and it takes away from my fun) to try to
      create any form of business around these... I may make a few available
      from time to time for material price plus something for my time.

      I also plan to make a second version that would run on 3v3 instead of
      2v0, it would support 100mW and perhaps have an amplifier option. Power
      option is still up in the air, but the basic design is already enabled.
      (no idea on timing, will be a different board layout, most likely with
      usb for some form on UI, SMA antenna connection both radio and gps etc.).

      Of course, If you can bear with all my debugging and testing that goes
      on, I have no issue with releasing the source code that I'm using. It
      needs a little clean up at the moment and some header comments to give
      credit for some of the open source parts and open source in general, but
      I'd certainly make that available if this comes together. I'm always
      adding and trying things, but so far, I've been pretty good at creating
      *stable* releases for my test flights :)

      This isn't an open solicitation for orders, I'm just wondering what
      interest might exist if I decided to make a few and make them
      available... and at what price would be fair given the above.

      Thanks and let me know what you think.

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