Show a Quadcopter Flight on Google Earth for Under Ten Bucks

[Joop Brokking] wanted to know where his quadcopter was and had been. He thought about Google Earth, but assumed it would be difficult to get the GPS data and integrate it with Google’s imagery. But he discovered it was easier than he thought. He wound up spending around $10, although if his ‘copter didn’t already have GPS, it would have been more.

Hardware-wise, [Joop] made a pretty straightforward data logger using a small Arduino (a Pro Mini) and an SD Card (along with an SD breakout board). With this setup, NMEA data from the GPS comes in the Arduino’s serial port and winds up on the SD Card.

gearthThe interesting part, though, is the visualization of the captured data. [Joop] uses u-Center from uBlox. This Windows software can read the NEMA data from the logger and provides several ways to view it, including a Google Earth view of the flight track played back at different speeds and in 2D or 3D views (see picture to the right).

We’ve seen uBlox hardware used in automotive applications. We’ve even seen the hardware flying and collecting WiFi information. But if your flying vehicle already has GPS, this is a pretty easy way to get some very cool post flight data interpretation. You can see [Joop’s] creation in action in the video below.

23 thoughts on “Show a Quadcopter Flight on Google Earth for Under Ten Bucks

    1. At which point you would have an SD card, breakout, a couple of wires, heat shrink, and a single LED.

      I would have thought that relatively useless in isolation. Something has to convert the serial data to SPI and run the FAT. What would you use?

    1. Ublox actually output a binary format if you select it in software. The newest of them both uses GPS, Glonass, Wass 60 satelites at the same time to get 1.5m precision at 10 HZ update, almost as good as military gps with it’s 3 extra scrambled digits.

          1. Actually, the US military has used regular commercial GPS receivers for years. Three days before each Gulf War, SA (selective availability degrading) was turned off. Finally, someone’s brain functioned and SA was killed permanently. The high accuracy mode is carrier phase (transmitters are locked to atomic clocks) and you need to get a new password from the military every month to use it.

        1. National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
          In addition to lobbying activities, NEMA publishes more than 600 standards, application guides, white papers, and technical papers.

  1. Some do, but lots of SD cards won’t work at 5V – they’re supposed to work with a 3V3 supply and logic levels, as far as I am informed. Otherwise, a cool mash-up that I’m aching to tryout on the cats.

  2. I love how there’s no mention in the video, or in this HaD article, of which gps enabled quadcopter platforms this works with, as I can tell you for free this won’t work with any DJI flight controller gps combo, plus many others, as they don’t output NMEA data on any serial port.
    AFAIK DJIs kit uses the CAN bus for comms between FC and its GPS. Requires a CAN bus transceiver.

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