Timestamp support for OpenLog

13/09/2013 2 comments

OpenLog board

OpenLog board (Image) © Sparkfun

I needed a tool that can play back recorded serial stream “in real time”, so that the playback perfectly reflects the stream that was originally sent. Rather than building my own, OpenLog project seemed to be a perfect starting point. The board itself is very small, about the size of a micro-sd socket that is on the bottom of the board. By default the device records serial data received to standard ftdi-pinout serial port. The device is Arduino UNO compatible and code can be compiled and uploaded with the Arduino IDE. The device is configured by editing CONFIG.TXT file on the sd-card. If the file is not present on the card, the device creates one with default settings at the startup.

Example of config file:


As you can see, I added the timestamp option at the end. If this option is enabled, each received byte in the log file is prefixed with 4-byte unsigned long timestamp. The timestamp is in little endian order and in milliseconds. Unsigned long type provides about 55 days before counter rolls over. The value can be decoded for example in python with struct.unpack function:

buf = f.read(4)
timestamp = struct.unpack("<L", buf)[0]
char = f.read(1)

The logged files will be four times larger than without timestamping, but with large sd-cards this does not really make a difference. I quickly tested the performance and the device still seemed to be able to log the data without data drops at 115200 bps speed.

The modified codes are in my git repository: https://github.com/JanneMantyharju/OpenLog
I also made a pull request to the official repository, but let’s see will they accept it.

The python script that plays back the stream in real time can be found from the examples folder.

Categories: Electronics Tags: , , ,

DIY Remote shutter release for Samsung NX-series cameras

30/04/2013 210 comments

I’m using Samsung NX1000 for aerial photography. The camera has a nifty feature of using smartphone as a remote viewfinder and shutter release but unfortunately the good idea is watered by buggy and limited program and the feature freezes the whole camera all too often. Fortunately there is a simple way of triggering the shutter via cameras usb-port. The trick is to have 68K resistor between ID and GND pins. After this USB data lines can be used to trigger camera focus and shutter.



Tip: If you have spare micro-usb cables, it’s easy to source a connector from the cable that came with the camera. Just squeeze black plastic around the connector with a pliers and the plastic casing will crack open exposing the connector. The connector on the cable has a small pcb, which makes it easy to solder the required resistor in place. If you use smd resistor, the casing can even be reassembled.

The cable described above works fine for manual use, but to use the camera for aerial photography some interface for rc receiver is needed. Fortunately this is easily achieved with a small arduino program, which reads pwm value from receiver servo port and then pulls either shutter or focus line low based on channel value. The compiled code size is under two kilobytes, so it’s possible to use small and inexpensive microcontroller like AtTiny2313.


RC interface for camera

The schematics and sources can be found at: https://github.com/JanneMantyharju/nxshutter

Compatible with (at least) following models: NX20, NX210, NX1000, NX1100 and NX2000

Update: If you don’t want to make your own, I’m selling these ready made. Just drop me a message.

Shutter PCB's

Shutter PCB’s

Showing APM telemetry data on Hitec Aurora’s screen (3rd edition)

28/02/2013 31 comments

This is the latest iteration of ArdupilotMega to Hitec telemetry adapter. This version does not require changes to APM code anymore, but instead functions as a standalone device. Displayed information has been changed a little bit, here’s the current mapping:

RPM 1 Distance to home
RPM 2 Airspeed
TEMP 1 Battery remaining (%)
TEMP 2 Throttle position
TEMP 3 Variometer (climb / sink rate)
TEMP 4 Armed status (1 = Armed)

It’s possible to rename the fields in Aurora like this:

Fixed fields (sat count, speed, altitude etc.) function as expected. Only thing that does not work is the date and time. Sadly it’s not possible any more to display “mAh used”, since as far as I can see there is not way to subscribe to that information in APM. I wonder if anybody opposes if I’d add MAVLINK message for that. Of course if you always use same capacity batteries this is not a problem, because you can check battery remaining reading from TEMP1, but since I have many different types of batteries, I’d need to change battery capacity parameter before each flight.

It’s possible to customize displayed data by airframe type, for example airspeed and variometer are probably not interesting to copter users, whereas Armed and heading might be. If you have suggestions, please tell me!

The adapter itself is simple and small. I designed PCB this time with SMD components this time to make it smaller. SAMSUNG CSCThe adapter connects to APM telemetry port and has a pass through to radio. When the adapter is powered up, it sends messages to APM to subscribe data feeds. When APM starts to send all the requested streams, adapter turns it’s UART off to avoid disturbing telemetry communication. There’s a place to mount fet on the top side of board to connect video transmitter power after adapter detects GPS fix. I added this feature since if I have my video tx on, getting GPS fix takes for ages.

I tried to save few euros by choosing ATMega168p as a processor since the code takes only 11KB, but I quickly found out that MAVLINK message handling uses a good amount of ram, so I changed MCU type to ATMega328p to schematic. It’s still possible to use 168, if you define MAVLINK_MAX_PAYLOAD_LEN to 35. Any smaller makes it impossible to receive position message and any larger crashed the program. Compile with 8MHz clock speed and when programming, check that “Divide clock by 8” fuse on low fuse word is not programmed.



Sources and Eagle files are uploaded to Github: https://github.com/JanneMantyharju/apm-hss-emulator

Now if I only could get my hands on some different brand radios (Spectrum, Futaba, Graupner…) I could try to make this adapter universal!

Have fun and tell me what you think!

Edit 1: I think I know now how to get the same system to work with Spektrum, but the problem is that I only have Hitec system. If somebody want’s to borrow me Spektrum radio, I can participate to costs.

Update: I have now professionally made PCB’s available if you want to buy these from me ready made

APM adapter

APM adapter

Categories: Electronics, FPV Tags: , , , ,

Display mount for Hitec Aurora

21/12/2012 2 comments
Monitor mount for Aurora

Monitor mount for Aurora

My usual setup when flying FPV is to have laptop running mission planner with image capture running. This works quite well, but forces me to stand in one place to see the picture, so I wanted something more mobile. I came across Procaster DTV-007 digital TV which at 45 € price is a real bargain. I wondered how to mount it with the controller, and my father came up with an idea to machine a mounting piece that would have a slot for the controller handle.

I drew the mount as two parts, first has a slot for Auroras handle and the second has t-slot for the display. Parts fix to each other with two screws. The part was machined in G-Tronic, where they optimized the part to a single piece. Overall, I’m happy with the results, the mount is very compact and stable in use.

Since there’s now machining files for this part, the design can be replicated easily if someone should need similar part.



Side view

The part itself

The part itself

Cad files:

Categories: FPV, RC Planes Tags: , ,

Updating electricity meter to communicate via WLAN

RN-XV image (c) Sparkfun

A while ago Farnell sent email to me and offered one (inexpensive) product  as a sample in exchange for mentioning it at this blog. I browsed for a while for an interesting part and settled with Microchip MRF24WB0MA/RM WiFi module (Order code 1823142). This module is quite inexpensive and is used in products like WiShield and thus has good Arduino support.

I wanted to upgrade my electricity meter to communicate with WLAN to get rid of XBee receiver at the back of my server. After some prototyping I ended up using RN-XV module from Roving Networks. Since my application did not have to do any fancy network stuff, RN-XV was a perfect match. It has the same footprint as XBee module, which I was already using, so the hardware required no changes. The module supports WPA2 security and can remember it’s settings. Communication via HTTP request is incredibly easy, I set up the module to generate http request to my home servers address each time when AtMega output measurement data.

Unfortunately some thing are just too good to be true. The module soon proved to be quite unreliable. Each time after about 14 hours of operation the module lost connection to accesspoint for ever. I tried to solve issue with technical support. By default if module looses AP, it does not try ever to reconnect unless linkmon parameter is specified, which to me is quite braindead default setting. Even with the linkmon RN-XV did not work for long with my Cisco AP. I tried everything including rebooting the module every hour, adding commands to force reconnect and even doing hardware reboot to the module, but without much success. Eventually I changed the RN-XV to connect to different AP. It still looses the connection every now and then but it’s able to reconnect after random time. Still in every 24 hours the module is unavailable for about total of 3 hours due to lost connections. RN-XV firmware version I have is 2.36.

In the end, only changes I made was to modify server backend to accept HTTP requests and change the code running on the AtMega to output measurement data periodically instead listening request from XBee.

The RN-XV was configured with following commands:


set ip dhcp 1  # get ip from dhcp

set wlan auth 4 # use wpa2-psk encryption

set wlan phrase password # set network password

set wlan ssid network # set the name of accesspoint to connect

set wlan linkmon 5 # After 5 tries declare connection to AP lost and try to reconnect again.

set ip proto 18 // turn on HTTP mode=0x10 + TCP mode = 0x2

set ip flags 0x6 # close tcp connection if accesspoint is lost
set ip host ip # server ip address
set ip remote 8080 # server port
set com remote GET$/? # GET string to be sent to server. Any data from uart will be concatenated to this string
set uart mode 2

All in all, for simple projects, I can really recommend the RN-XV module over the MRF24 due it’s simplicity, but definitely not for reliability. Both modules cost about the same, but apart from Sparkfun I don’t know who else has them in stock. Farnell could start selling them, since ordering from Sparkfun can get expensive if you don’t live in the states.
Sources can be found from the repository: https://github.com/JanneMantyharju/electricity-monitor

Showing APM telemetry data on Hitec Aurora’s screen (revisited)

10/05/2012 53 comments

In my previous post I described building adapter which converts APM telemetry data to be shown on Hitec Auroras screen. Since then APM2 hardware has been released and some code changes made previous version unusable. I updated the hardware and software to support also APM2. I couldn’t get SPI transfer to work in APM2, but fortunately it has a spare serial port to use. The good thing is that now only three wires need to be connected to APM2 and nothing needs to be soldered.

APM1 is still supported, wiring instructions are in the previous post. When using with APM1, USE_SPI must be defined in main.cpp.

This version also includes support for showing GPS coordinates. Previously I thought it’s not really useful feature, but I changed my mind after searching for crashed plane in wintery forest in the light of the setting sun for a long time. Coordinates would have been useful after all. Time and Date are still unsupported since APM internal date format is yet to be decided.


Updated schematic

Connecting to APM2. Only three wires are needed.

Sources are uploaded to github: https://github.com/JanneMantyharju/apm-hss-emulator

Update 5.1.2013 – Error in schematic corrected. Added fet to power video transmitter after GPS lock has been acquired.

Update 7.1.2013 – Kind of a long shot, but if somebody wants to borrow me a Spectrum or Graupner system, I could modify the device to support different telemetry protocols.

Info display for home

05/03/2012 12 comments

After completing the home electricity meter hack I looked for options to have small display hanging on the wall, which would show useful information. I had previously bought Samsung SPF-87H photo frame which can be used as an external monitor. The frame connects to computer with usb and the picture is updated by simply sending it in jpeg format. Few caveats are that display needs to be first initialized to “mini monitor”-mode and the picture size must match exactly to the display resolution (800×480 in case of SPF-87H). I chose Beagleboard as the embedded computer to keep the power usage low. BB has one usb and one usb-otg port. I’m planning to change the Beagleboard to Raspberry Pi, when they became available since this doesn’t use all the resources provided by the Beagleboard.

Even that the Beagleboard has only one true usb-port, I did not need to add the usb-hub to setup, since the usb-otg port can also be used as host. The display connects to otg-port, since it has it’s own power supply (otg-port can’t supply power) and the regular usb port is used for wlan adapter.



Testing the setup

The photo frame has desk stand but no hole to hang it on the wall. This was fixed by using hot glue to attach a piece of wire to the backside to act as hanger. I learned later that I should have made a loop to the both ends of the wire to increase gluing surface. The frame dropped to floor after couple of days, resulting small crack to bezel and a dent to floor. Fortunately the display continued working.

The finished display looks quite nice. The Beagleboard and the power supply are hidden on top of cupboard and the display cables are hidden inside cable duct.

Finished display







The software “WallDisplay” running on the Beagleboard is written in C++ and uses Qt. The software simply reads Sqlite database, which contains a list of urls and time, how long the url is displayed on the screen. The web pages are loaded to QWebPage and its contents are exported as jpeg file, which in turn is pushed to the display. Qt’s webkit implementation has too many ties to the user interface for it to be used as command line QtCore-application. Since the program does not have to actually show anything on a real monitor nor accept user input, I’m using xvfb to simulate X-server. In future I’m planning to add web interface to make it easier to manage the displayed pages.

Currently the display is rotating following pages:

  • Electricity usage
  • Weather forecast
  • Calendar, exported from iCal
  • Irc log from the channel we used with my friends
  • Last picture from the security camera

The sources are available at: https://gitorious.org/home-automation/walldisplay

You also need to install software for controlling the display from here: https://github.com/Gekkio/samsung-photo-frame-ctrl

See rc.local file for an example how to run the application. Path to database and path to frame-ctrl program must be given as arguments. The database creation command is in the readme.txt file.