Smart Antenna Tracker

An antenna tracker that adjusts for real-time changes in location, tilt & heading. It replaces a 915MHz 3DR ground radio module.

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Ever dreamed of having a mobile command center for your copter or plane? Maybe you don't like the idea of calibrating an antenna tracker before you use it. The Smart Antenna Tracker will allow you to place your antenna tracker on the ground or on your vehicle. It can sense it's heading, tilt and location to correct for sloping terrain or moving ground stations.

The Smart Antenna Tracker acts like a 3DR Radio Ground Module. Meaning it is compatible with your 3DR Radio Air Module as well as Mission Planner. The best part is the Smart Antenna Tracker can operate without Mission Planner! So if you want to leave your laptop at home you can.

The Smart Antenna Tracker will determine its location and attitude using a GPS, accelerometer, gyro, and a magnetometer. The Smart Antenna Tracker will then determine the 3D location of your copter/plane/rover by sniffing the MAVLink data from the TTL serial line between the radio module and the FTDI chip. With that data the Smart Antenna Tracker can then point the antennas in the direction of your copter/plane/rover.

  • Mechanical Prototype

    Brandon07/06/2015 at 17:48 0 comments

    I have made a wood prototype. The horizontal bar will be cut to length and a counter balance will be added once I get antennas. Now I will begin work on adapting the gimbal controller to fit the application.

  • New Functional Schematic

    Brandon03/31/2015 at 21:43 0 comments

    The new functional schematic is here!

  • Re-imagined Smart Tracker!

    Brandon03/30/2015 at 03:11 0 comments

    I have had plenty of time to think about my antenna tracker and no time to work on it. This has allowed me to re-invent the smart antenna tracker for the better. I plan to use a brushless design much like the go-pro gimbals used for FPV. I will create a "Parasite" controller board that will attach to a gimbal controller and input corrections for azimuth and elevation. An early design of the mechanical structure can be seen below.

    The black cylinders are brushless motors and the white squares are patch antennas. The electronics will be mounted in the gap between the two vertical masts. I'm not sure where the battery will go. That depends on how much power the motors will consume. Hopefully, I can send power through the slip ring and leave the batteries below the azimuth motor.

    What isn't shown is a balancing mechanism. Brushless gimbals heavily depend on well balanced systems. So a counter weight is necessary.

    Solidworks files are uploaded to github.

    Please feel free to critique me on my solidworks abilities. I'm an nx guy so if you have links to solidworks tips, it would be appreciated.

  • Status Update

    Brandon08/21/2014 at 05:49 0 comments

    It's almost the August 20th deadline!  Here is an introduction to the Smart Antenna Tracker: 

    The mechanical portions of the build are going great!  I have dusted off my woodworking skills and started building an attractive yet light weight base for the antenna tracker.  Anticipate pictures within a week!  

    Also, I am seriously considering some ServoCity gearboxes that will make the build sturdier and will save some space on the PCB.

    Fun Fact: The Smart Antenna Tracker is going to look like it fell out of a Portal video game.  A happy accident!

  • All Electronic Parts are on Their Way

    Brandon08/07/2014 at 00:32 0 comments

    I have ordered my PCB from ITEAD and a whole bunch of parts from Digikey.  Digikey didn't have a HM-TRP module but a quick google search revealed a few suppliers.  Now we play the waiting game.  ITEAD can take up to a month to reach your doorstep.

    Now I can start working on the mechanical potions of the build!  This might be my greatest challenge so far.  Stay tuned!

  • I Lied About Finishing the Eagle Files

    Brandon08/05/2014 at 03:31 0 comments

    When I finished my eagle board I went to digikey and began sourcing my parts.  I found out that one of my power ICs was no longer available so I had to change one of my buck convertors.  Then I decided to change out my Accelerometer/Magnetometer for a LSM9DS0 which is a 9DOF IC including an Accelerometer, Gyro, and Magnetometer.  This will help me sleep at night knowing I will have very good attitude awareness of the antennas.

    Also if you read my last log entry you will notice I had some trouble getting a .GKO from the CAM job provided by ITEAD studios.  A .GKO is a board outline file.  Unfortunately, the CAM job provided by ITEAD does not produce a .GKO but it does produce a .do and a .GML which appear to be similar.  I was unsure which file I should send in to I emailed ITEAD's customer service.

    ITEAD opened a service ticket and immediately closed it.  I did not get a response from them.  Two days later I sent them a nasty gram and I got this response.

    Maybe I am doing something wrong, but this customer service sucks.  I used ITEAD once before and I think I just renamed my .GML to .GKO.  I'll try it and see what happens.

  • Eagle Files are Complete

    Brandon08/01/2014 at 18:54 0 comments

    I have finished the schematic and board files for the Smart Tracker Controller.  The files are up on GitHub, the CAM files will be there soon.  I will be submitting them to ITEAD Studios to be manufactured.  I have used ITEAD studios once to make a PCB for a wildlife camera.  The boards there a cheap!  The trade-off is it can take a while to get them back from the fab house.   Last time I ordered from ITEAD was during the Chinese festival so that was the hold up.  The board quality these is not as good as OSH Park, but it is a fair trade-off for the price.  My last board had all the layers a few mills out of alignment, but the board still functioned.

    The only problem I have is the .cam job ITEAD provides does not produce a .GKO and ITEAD requires a .GKO (board outline).  The .cam file produces a .do and a .GML which both appear to be similar to what a .GKO is.  I sent ITEAD an email so we'll see what they say.

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Indigaz wrote 09/13/2015 at 08:53 point

Brandon, are you still working on this, or stuck out of country?  This is a project that interests me greatly.  Thanks for what you've done so far!

  Are you sure? yes | no

ted wrote 12/04/2014 at 15:51 point
Hi, any update to your project? Interested in how it turned out

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Brandon wrote 12/04/2014 at 17:26 point
I started a new job and they sent me out of the country for a few months so I haven't worked on it in a while. I do have the completed boards back in the US. My next post will be demonstrating the ability to determine the tracker's attitude/orientation. You can expect to see this by March. Thanks for your interest!

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