THP Entry: Atomic Space Time

LCD featuring HaD logo

Accurate time is all around us. Streaming down from satellites thousands of miles in space, UTC time information is at all of our fingertips. You just have to know how to reach out and grab it. [hkdcsf] not only knows how to do this, he does it in style.

Tipping his hat into The Hackaday Prize contest, [hkdcsf]‘s atomic clock is masterfully crafted. Not only does it get time information from GPS satellites, it also has the ability to grab the infomation from the DCF77 transmitter. And if ever it’s in a position where neither signal can be found, an RTC crystal keeps the time and date accurate.

His design is based on a PIC18F25K20, and bristles with so many features that it might make you dizzy. So be warned – you might want to be in a seated position before taking a look at this project. [hkdcsf] does a great job at detailing exactly how his clock works, and his efforts to provide this level of detail will surely help other hackers to add similar features to their future projects.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

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Track Your Dog With This DIY GPS Harness


Have you ever wondered how far your dog actually runs when you take it to the park? You could be a standard consumer and purchase a GPS tracking collar for $100 or more, or you could follow [Becky Stern's] lead and build your own simple but effective GPS tracking harness.

[Becky] used two FLORA modules for this project; The FLORA main board, and the FLORA GPS module. The FLORA main board is essentially a small, sewable Arduino board. The GPS module obviously provides the tracking capabilities, but also has built-in data logging functionality. This means that [Becky] didn’t need to add complexity with any special logging circuit. The GPS coordinates are logged in a raw format, but they can easily be pasted into Google Maps for viewing as demonstrated by [Becky] in the video after the break. The system uses the built-in LED on the FLORA main board to notify the user when the GPS has received a lock and that the program is running.

The whole system runs off of three AAA batteries which, according to [Becky], can provide several hours of tracking. She also installed a small coin cell battery for the GPS module. This provides reserve power for the GPS module so it can remember its previous location. This is not necessary, but it provides a benefit in that the GPS module can remember it’s most recent location and therefore discover its location much faster. [Read more...]

GPS For A Graphing Calculator

GPS [Chris], graphing calculator hacker extrordinaire, has seen a few of his projects show up on the front page of Hackaday, mostly involving builds that turn graphing calculators like the TI-84 Plus shown above into something that copies a few features from a smartphone. His latest build, a hardware GPS module attached to the TI-84 Plus, is yet another feather in his cap of awesome and impractical addition to a classic piece of hardware.

There were two major technical challenges behind adding GPS to a graphing calculator. The first of these was powering a GPS sensor. Many a calculator modder has put a lot of work into documenting the USB port on the 84 Plus, revealing it is a USB OTG port, capable of serving as a host or device. It also supplies 5V of power to just about anything, burning through batteries as a result.

The next challenge was reading the data coming off the GPS sensor at 4800bps.The TI-84 Plus series of calculators have a series of interrupts that can fire at fractions of the 15MHz clock. By setting the timer up to fire every 197 clock ticks and dividing again by 16, [Chris] can read data at 4758.9bps. It’s close enough to get most of the data, and the checksum included in the NMEA protocol allows the software to discard bad messages.

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GPS Engagement Ring Box


[James] got engaged recently, in part thanks to his clever GPS Engagement Ring Box, and he sent us a brief overview of how he brought this project to life. The exterior of the box is rather simple: one button and an LCD. Upon pressing the button, the LCD would indicate how far it needed to be taken to reach a pre-selected destination. After carrying it to the correct location, the box would open, revealing the ring (and a bit of electronics).

Inside is a GPS antenna and a Stellaris Launchpad, which are powered by three Energizer lithium batteries to ensure the box didn’t run out of juice during the walk. To keep the lid closed, [James] 3D printed a small latch and glued it to the top of the box, which is held in place by a micro servo. Once the box reaches its destination, the microcontroller tells the servo to swing out of the way, and the box can then open. As a failsafe, [James] added a reed switch to trigger an interrupt to open the box regardless of location. It seems this was a wise choice, because the GPS was a bit off and the box didn’t think it was in the correct place.

Swing by his blog for more information on the box’s construction and the wiring. We wish [James] the best and look forward seeing his future hacks; perhaps he’ll come up with some clever ones for the wedding like our friend Bill Porter.

$20 GPS/GLONASS/Beidou Receiver


Sticking a GPS module in a project has been a common occurrence for a while now, whether it be for a reverse geocache or for a drone telemetry system. These GPS modules are expensive, though, and they only listen in on GPS satellites – not the Russian GLONASS satellites or the Chinese Beidou satellites. NavSpark has the capability to listen to all these positioning systems, all while being an Arduino-compatible board that costs about $20.

Inside the NavSpark is a 32-bit microcontroller core (no, not ARM. LEON) with 1 MB of Flash 212kB of RAM, and a whole lot of horsepower. Tacked onto this core is a GPS unit that’s capable of listening in on GPS, GPS and GLONASS, or GPS and Beidou signals.

On paper, it’s an extremely impressive board for any application that needs any sort of global positioning and a powerful microcontroller. There’s also the option of using two of these boards and active antennas to capture carrier phase information, bringing the accuracy of this setup down to a few centimeters. Very cool, indeed.

Thanks [Steve] for sending this in.

Build a Cheap Airplane ADS-B Radio Receiving Tracking Station

airplane tracking with ADS-B radio receiving

Do you have commercial or general aviation flying over your home or near your home? Would you like to know more about these airplanes: identity, heading, speed, altitude and maybe GPS data along with even more information? Well then [Rich Osgood] has just the project for you and it’s not that expensive to set up. [Rick] demonstrates using a cheap USB dongle European TV tuner style SDR (software defined radio) tuner that you can get for under $30 to listen in on the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) 1090 MHz mode “S” or 978 MHz mode “UAT” signals being regularly transmitted from these aircraft.

He steps us through configuring the radio to use a better antenna for improved reception then walks through detailed software installation and set up to control the radio receiver as well as pushing the final decoded data to mapping software. This looks like a fascinating and fun project if you live near commercial airways. You won’t need a license for this hack because you’re only listening and not transmitting, plus these are open channels which are legal to receive.

There are some frequencies you are not legally allowed to eavesdrop on—private communications for residential wireless telephones and cellular frequencies to name just a few (Code of Federal Regulations Title 47, Part 15.9). So remember you do have to be careful and stay within legal frequencies even if your equipment is not restricted from such reception. Also note that just because you have a legal right to intercept conversations or data on some frequencies it could be illegal to publicly share the intercepted content or any details on the reception or decoding (just saying for the record).

We wonder if [Rick] could partner with [G. Eric Rogers] to upgrade [Eric’s] motorized telescope airplane tracking system to extrapolate the radio telemeter data into vector data so his Arduino can track without relying on a video feed. That merger might just get them both on a short TSA list.

Join us after the break for some extra informational links and to watch the video on setup, installation and usage of this cheap airplane tracking rig.

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A Low-Cost Modular High Altitude Balloon Tracker with Mesh Networked Sensors

[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.