WiFi Sucks For RC Vehicles, Upgrade To 3G

This is the Kyosho Blizzard, a tracked remote control vehicle that’s a blast to take out in the rapidly retreating snowpack. [Antibore] was interested in performance testing the range of the thing. It includes a camera that streams video back to a tablet or smartphone. Both the video and the controls use WiFi for communications. As he expected, the rover loses control signal at about fifty meters, with the video has a disappointing twenty meter limit. His workaround is to saddle the crawler with a 3G bridge. Not a bad idea that may be feasibly completed with hardware you have on hand.

In this case he grabbed a Beagleboard-XM. It runs embedded Linux and has USB ports which is perfect for the other two parts of the added hardware: a Huawei E230 3G dongle and a WiFi dongle. This means no alterations to the rover were necessary. He set up OpenVPN and performed a few other tweaks. The WiFi signal is constant, as the transmitter and receiver are both attached to the rover. We just wonder about the latency of the 3G traffic. Let’s hear your thoughts on that in the comments below.

We would be remiss if we didn’t tie-in the potential of this hack. Previously this winter we saw a Kyosho with a 3D printed snow thrower attached to the front. More snow removal power, arguably unlimited range… you can do your entire block from the comfort of the couch. To the Future!

22 thoughts on “WiFi Sucks For RC Vehicles, Upgrade To 3G

  1. Before anyone suggests this is a good idea to scale up to something of a reasonable size for removing snow on a larger scale.

    As an electric plastic toy, the worst that can happen is someones hair or ungloved finger getting caught in the auger.
    But as a machine large enough to, “….do your entire block from the comfort of the couch.” Exemplifies the immense stupidity with a largely unsupervised piece of machinery with a spinning auger.

    The full sized beasts are well known to chew up full sized cars and leave your insurance company the tab on both machines if your car should ever damage the snow equipment. Even the much smaller machines will chew up anything that will fit down that maw, witless small children playing in the snow not withstanding. Leaving these machines unattended is a recipe asking for trouble.

    1. lol you could easily attach an intercom to tell the children to run for their lives!! or do it at night when no one is around.

      The point is it is not unattended it has a camera and controls. It is probably more dangerous to back your car out of the driveway than remove snow with that thing.

      Anyway sweet RC vehicles!

      1. you could probably attack large cattle prods or somthing with a large electrical arc to the machine and maybe a small flame thrower just enough to scare the children away to keep your insurance down on a large scale model of this

      2. Around here, they are required to have a person walk in front of a large snow blower to check for children and animals among other things. Too many kids and animals have been chewed up over the years. And, no, they don’t all go away at night.

        I agree, this would be a bad idea to let run from a distance if scaled up in size.

  2. I think the article has value for someone looking to establish a 3G or other link to equipment and looking for info on how to do it, but for the immediate application, what’s wrong with the usual R/C equipment?

    This seems to be a (well done) adaptation of an adaptation; that is, the original vehicle replaces the standard Tx/Rx arrangement (which offers enormous range, digital binding etc.) with something you can control/view with your phone as a selling point. This hack exchanges the low-range relatively low-latency selling point control system with dependence on a 3G system which is a bit iffy for any real time motion control.

    Why not unplug the servos, throw out the boards altogether (or leave them for the camera feed) and plug the servos into something a little more old school?

  3. Possibly stupid question, but I’ve always wondered, so I’ll just ask – When you hook something like this up for RC purposes with 3G – does it require you to use/have an account with a cell phone carrier and go through the cell system (and cost money for said communications), or does it just connect to the 3G tx/rx end on your control device like a regular wifi connection just with more range?

    1. You need to have a SIM card from a carrier and also pay for the traffic in most countries.

      Luckly (at least over here in germany) you can get an extra card for your normal smartphone account, so your homemade devices can benefit from your (already paid) internet flatrate for your smartphone.

      1. Thanks – good to know, especially with the ridiculous prices in Canada for cell data ($60 per month gets me a measely 150 daytime minutes and 200MB data on my phone…) – I wont be using this if I ever get around to making something remote controlled. Regular wifi or another free cost frequency will have to do.

    2. Same here, I have one sim card which is bundled with my home internet connection. Unfortunately as stated in the article, I needed to one from another service provider to get public ip. Now that card costs me 1,50 € / day with unlimited data. The price is quite steep for continuous use, but great for this purpose, as I only need to pay for the days that I use.

      1. Thanks. I wish the prices here for data were more reasonable… But they aren’t. 1.50 Euros is around $2.06 Canadian (as of this post..), but our rate plans suck in Canada, no matter which carrier you choose.

  4. I took the easy way. Just take an old android-phone, an ioio board and tape them onto the rc car.
    I did set up a Openvpn on a linux subnotebook as a server @ home, because my router had no settings for any vpn.
    Then i set up vpn on the “old” android phone and was free to go via mobile connection.
    Latency on 2g was awful about 500ms but on 3g it was round about 50ms, so it was controllable even on decent speeds.
    (Communication over TCP should have done UDP and no fancy low bandwidth protocol, in fact i sended readable xml to control the car)
    Was just a hobby-“case study” for me.
    Since then i always wanted to migrate that whole project to windows, even bought a kinect v2 lately, for vision.
    But i didnt find the spare time to do so yet.

    Heres a gallery back from 2012.

    The car and the phone have changed, but i did not take any photes till then
    and for now the Hardware is burried deep in a store box.

  5. As a working example of how remote controlled vehicles can function on a small scale, perhaps one day we’ll see remotely steered cars incorporating, if not this same technology, at least this same design methodology. Yet another example of how IT continues to change the world around us.
    –Emil Isanov, Etech 7, Inc.

  6. Doh… 3G adds huge latencies and requires a cell tower nearby while WiFi does not. Short ranges with WiFi are due to low power/sensitivity and crappy antennas. Get high quality cards with modifiable output power then connect good antennas on both ends and you’re done. Also use good quality cables, not that 3mm thin crap they sell in computer shops: at 2.4 GHz a decent cable is very thick. If in doubt ask any HAM radio operator for help.

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