Launch And Track Your Model Rockets Via Smartphone

Building and flying model rockets is great fun. Eventually, though, the thrill of the fire and smoke subsides, and you want to know more about what it’s doing in the air. With a thirst for knowledge, [archy587] started building a project to monitor the vital stats of rockets in flight. 

The project mounts an M0 Feather microcontroller board into the rocket, along with a 900 MHz LoRa transmitter and a GPS module. This allows the rocket’s journey to be measured and logged, and is particularly useful for when a craft floats off downrange during parachute recovery. There’s also a relay module onboard, which dumps power from a dedicated separate battery into the rocket motor igniter. This allows the rocket to be fired wirelessly.

On the ground, the setup uses an ESP32 fitted with another LoRa module to receive signals from the rocket. It’s designed to hook up to an Android smartphone over its USB-C port. This allows data received from the rocket to be displayed in an Android app, including the rocket’s GPS location overlaid on Google Maps.

Being able to remotely ignite your rockets and track their progress brings some high-tech cool to the launch pad. You’ll be upgrading your rockets with micro flight controllers and vectored thrust in no time. Just be sure whatever tech you’re using is compliant with the rules for model rocketry in your local area.

13 thoughts on “Launch And Track Your Model Rockets Via Smartphone

  1. Nice project. Things have really come a long way since the old Estes TransRoc but the penalty for lofting all that hardware (as the project states) is the need to use a D size motor as a minimum.

  2. Vectored thrust (or any control) in the USA.

    Welcome to federal prison.

    You just made a guided missile, legally the same as a machine gun. 10 years federal.

    Don’t do it.
    Backup plan: don’t get caught.

    If anybody asks you to do it, odds are 99% they are feds. Kick ’em square in the balls then report them.
    You didn’t know. ‘Oh my goodness. How will I live with having kicked a fed in the balls and getting away with it. The shame.’ (Failing to hide grin.)

    1. Don’t build an unregistered destructive device (or however the ATF terms it nowadays) and also don’t kick feds in the balls. Both are recipes for a bad time :)

      Really too bad they crack down on even servo-driven stabilizer fins. I suspect that eventually they will ruin the fun with drones as well, but who can tell. What happens if you launch an unguided model rocket from a drone platform? I’m not gonna try it regardless. Good morning NSA btw

    2. “Vectored thrust (or any control) in the USA. Welcome to federal prison.”

      Apparently not:

      https://www.youtube.com/c/BPSspace/videos

      There are many more examples on YouTube, but BPS Space’s efforts are most impressive. He’s mainly trying to propulsively LAND a finless rocket like SpaceX.

      There’s some guy in China with equally or even more impressive thrust vector control and propulsive landing work:

      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvOOejRYeoctsRgOEby0vvA/videos

      ROLL control using control surfaces for onboard video stabilization has been around for a LONG time in hobby rocketry, it’s just not very common at all which is understandable considering the level of sophistication required even for that.

  3. This is very cool, the only potential issue I see is the remote launch. There is a manufacturer that has gotten the OK from Tripoli for remote arming over WiFi, and the safety is built into the software. (Not sure on the SIL rating), once it’s armed, if you refresh the page, it is disarmed. I like this project a lot, and have actually worked towards a project like this myself, except I’m more concerned with making sure it comes down gracefully.

  4. That’s a big fat “[Citation needed]” claim right there. Not only do hobbyists in the US do this regularly, they have youtube channels that explain how to do it, with links to their code and 3d printer files.

    1. Do which parts specifically? Or did the article get edited to remove possibly gray legal stuff? I’m no lawyer, but I will say that if you aren’t either I would lean towards understanding that not all offences are universally enforced—and you might just be the lucky one who gets charged for it. Even though people on youtube didn’t. And the DA would probably help out (aggressively) with the citation you want, pun intended. Not trying to FUD, just saying check thrice with rockets

  5. That is absolutel nonsense! Cannon fuse in a jar? I don’t think so, at least that is not happening at any NAR/Tripoli sanctioned event. Also there is nothing at all illegal with active guidance systems on model rockets. Most attempts I’ve seen with gimballed thrust control dont work super great anyways. But it’s done on many different levels of scale models even at the FAI world championships.

    By the way, a rocket with active guidance is still a rocket. When you place an explosive payload onboard, now you have a guided missile.

    1. What jar? Jar lid with nail hole is blast deflector (is optional). Straightened coat hanger is launch rod.

      You can play chicken with the ATF. Good luck to ya.

      An RC plane with a single fire cracker on board is a guided missile. So is a guided rocket without explosives.

      If that has changed it’s recent and likely subject to change back as soon as some pendejo federal judge gets pissed.

      Per an post in the previous thread you can have ‘active stabilization’ but not guidance. I still wouldn’t. Do you want to be the next test case? Do you know how much lawyers cost?

  6. And what about S8 event models, they launch under rocket propulsion, and at burnout they transition into glider mode. All the time actively guided by a pilot on the ground and absolutely within the bounds of the law.

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