Looking for a way to track your high-altitude balloons but don’t want to mess with sending data over a cellular network? [Zack Clobes] and the others at Project Traveler may have just the thing for you: a position-reporting board that uses the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) network to report location data and easily fits on an Arduino in the form of a shield.
The project is based on an Atmel 328P and all it needs to report position data is a small antenna and a battery. For those unfamiliar with APRS, it uses amateur radio frequencies to send data packets instead of something like the GSM network. APRS is very robust, and devices that use it can send GPS information as well as text messages, emails, weather reports, radio telemetry data, and radio direction finding information in case GPS is not available.
If this location reporting ability isn’t enough for you, the project can function as a shield as well, which means that more data lines are available for other things like monitoring sensors and driving servos. All in a small, lightweight package that doesn’t rely on a cell network. All of the schematics and other information are available on the project site if you want to give this a shot, but if you DO need the cell network, this may be more your style. Be sure to check out the video after the break, too!
Continue reading “APRS Tracking System Flies Your Balloons”
Them kids with those Arduinos don’t know what they’re missing. A serial connection is just too easy, and there’s so much fun to be had with low bandwidth modems. [Mark] made the MicroModem with this in mind. It’s a 1200 baud AFSK modem, capable of APRS, TCP/IP over SLIP, mesh network experimentations, and even long-range radio communication.
As the MicroModem is designed to be an introduction to digital wireless communication, it’s an extremely simple build using only 17 components on a board compatible with the Microduino. The software is built around something called MinimalProtocol1, a protocol that will be received by all other listening stations, features error correction, and automatic data compression. There’s also the ability to send TCP/IP over the link, which allowed [Mark] to load up our retro site at a blistering 1200 bps.
The code is extremely well documented, as seen on the Github for this project, with board files and even breadboard layouts included. [Mark] has three PCBs of his prototype left over, and he’s willing to give those out to other Hackaday readers who would like to give his modem a shot.
[Ethan] just tipped us about a project he and a few colleagues worked on last year for their senior design project. It’s a low-cost open hardware/software high altitude balloon tracker with sensors that form a mesh network with a master node. The latter (shown above) includes an ATmega644, an onboard GPS module (NEO-6M), a micro SD card slot, a 300mW APRS (144.39MHz) transmitter and finally headers to plug an XBee radio. This platform is therefore in charge of getting wireless data from the slave platforms, storing it in the uSD card while transmitting the balloon position via APRS along with other data. It’s interesting to note that to keep the design low-cost, they chose a relatively cheap analog radio module ($~40) and hacked together AFSK modulation of their output signal with hardware PWM outputs and a sine-wave lookup table.
The slave nodes are composed of ‘slave motherboards’ on which can be plugged several daughter-boards: geiger counters, atmospheric sensors, camera control/accelerometer boards. If you want to build your own system, be sure to check out this page which includes all the necessary instructions and resources.
If you dabble in the ham radio hobby we’re sure you’ve heard of GPS position monitoring or tracking using APRS packet data commonly transmitting over the VHF ham band and FM modulated. One of the issues you’ll face using this common method is range limitations of VHF. [Mike Berg] a.k.a [N0QBH ] tipped us off to his latest project to greatly increase the range of a standalone APRS system utilizing the HF bands on single-sideband (SSB).
There are some unique challenges transmitting packet data using SSB over HF bands. High Frequency APRS has been around for decades utilizing FSK AX.25 packet transmissions at 300 baud, but it was quite susceptible to noise and propagation aberrations. More recently PSK-31 at the slower 31 baud speed helped alleviate many of these issues. [Mike] utilized the somewhat updated APRS with PSK-63 and the “APRS Messenger” program to overcome these challenges. [Mike’s] hardware solution consists of a PIC 16F690 micro which is coded to receive data from a GPS receiver, convert it into PSK-63 and then transmit on 30 meters over an attached HF radio. A second receiving station or stations at great distances can pick up and decode the transmission using the “APRS Messenger” program connected to the receiving radio over the computer’s soundcard. The program can then forward the tracking information, if good, to tracking websites like FindU.com and APRS.FI.
You can build your own FreeTrak63 by downloading [Mike’s] parts list, assembly code, HEX file, manual and schematic. The PCB is available on OSH Park if you don’t want to make your own or wire point-to-point. Let’s not forget to mention how hackable this hardware is, being really just an eight bit DAC, micro, serial in and radio out. One could reprogram this hardware to do other modulation schemes like AX.25 packet or MFSK16, the sky’s the limit. If short-distance on VHF with existing Internet linked receiver networks using an Arduino compatible platform is more to your taste, then checkout the Trackuino open source APRS Tracker.
The hardware seen above is used to bridge a local RF radio network to the APRS-IS network. The APRS-IS is an Internet Service that uses a web connection to communicate between APRS networks in different parts of the world. The Raspberry Pi is perfect for this application because of its ability to connect to a network, and its native use of Linux.
On the software side the majority of the work is done by a Python script. It is responsible for setting up and monitoring a connection with an APRS-IS server. To connect to the handheld radio unit a USB sound card was used. The Multimon package is used to send and receive audio packets through this hardware.
[Sunny] has a few upgrades planned for the system. The device needs to report its location to the APRS-IS server and the plan is to add functionality that will look of the WiFi AP’s location automatically. It may also be possible to get rid of the radio all together and use a DVB dongle as a software defined radio.
[Shane Burrell] decided to spend some time learning how the keypad on the his Kenwood TM-710A APRS radio mic works. It uses a different technique than you might think. Normally a grid of buttons is scanned as a matrix to detect keypresses, but this hardware actually counts pulses on a serial wire to take each reading.
The stock radio sends a steady digital pulse to the handset and with each pulse the mic pulls the line low. It then uses a 4017 decade counter to see what comes back. If the edge count matches it means nothing is pressed, but a change in the number of pulses returning to the base unit can be used to extrapolate which button has been pressed.
[Shane] went on to implement this control technique using an AVR chip in place of the radio base unit. He used the data gained from measuring the pulse behavior using an oscilloscope to write the firmware for the project. He filmed a bit of a demo after the break which shows his findings.
We’re not quite sure how this would translate into your own home-brew projects, but the thought of scanning a keypad with two pins of a uC is quite desirable. Sure there is the 555-timer frequency technique, but we’re always down with new ideas.
Continue reading “One wire reads the keypad from the APRS radio mic”
[Chris Kantarjiev] is an amateur radio enthusiast (call sign K6DBG) and does a lot with the APRS. We think his build, turning a WRT54gl router into an APRS gateway will be very useful for the APRS tracker builds we’ve been covering.
Setting up an Internet Gateway, or igate, on APRS usually requires a ‘real’ computer. [Chris] didn’t like that idea, so he took aprs4r, igate software for embedded devices, and pruned it down to fit on the 4MB of flash and 16MB of RAM in the WRT.
The actual APRS hardware is connected though headers soldered onto the WRT54gl’s board which go to a small PIC-Based TNC. [Chris] argues that the APRS ‘backbone’ is great, but there aren’t enough nodes on the network for full coverage. We thing this would be a great way to put cheap hardware out in the wild to cover those gaps in the APRS network.
Check out the video for a rundown of the modded WRT54g after the break. If you’re interested amateur radio, Field Day is coming up in just 2 weeks. Find a local club and check out what’s possible with amateur radio.
Continue reading “Turning a router into an APRS gateway”