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Send telemetry from an RC airplane 2 miles up

  1. Sep 29, 2012 #1
    Send telemetry from an RC airplane from 2 miles up

    here is what Im trying to do.
    I got a Nerdkit to learn the basics of electronics(I'm not an engineer, just starting) and I need a project to develop and since I'm passionate about airplanes and remote data sending(?) I want to tackle this that sounds like going to the moon to me to learn about this intimidating field.

    So I could do it in different stages until I get to the final objective. The airplane should be piloted through the laptop and the telemetry should appear in the laptop to. Sounds cool and hard! which is a good signal if I want to learn.

    I want to build every component from scratch (as much as possible) but also considering that my plane cannot carry more than 300g in components (battery and tx not included).

    The telemetry I want to send back is: Altitude, temperature, as the main ones and GPS data would be awesome but not necessary for now.

    where should I start?

    Also if some of you live in DC, VA or MD and wants to work with me you are very welcome.

    I promise I'll make a video with all of it.

    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2012 #2
    You will need to find altitude and temperature sensors and a microcontroller board that can read them. You may have to build inferface circuits to put the outputs of the sensors in the range the microcontroller can read. I believe there are also GPS modules that microcontrollers can read.

    Then there's the transmitter. Your best and probably cheapest way of transmitting the data is to get a ham license and build your own transmitter and receiver.

    All of this plus battery will be difficult to keep under 300 g.
  4. Sep 29, 2012 #3
    Hi Skeptic thanks for the suggestions.
    Do you think I can integrate the altitude and temperature sensors with the transmitter in one board? I know that there is a learning curve in this project but that is what I'm trying to do so I can use what I learn in engineering.

    I just check for a local place to get the ham license and it seems like a very interesting thing to learn so I'll get in touch with them on Monday (great suggestion, I didn't know about that)

    I'n regards of the weight I'm just trying to be as conservative as possible but I could modify the plane to make it lift that weight but I would rather to have e sense of the electronics before starting to worry about the plane. 300g is a reference.

    FYI: I'm getting some books about simple circuits like temperature, pressure etc. With my Nerdkit Im able to test them in a breadboard and I'll be making them in PCB once I know they work.

  5. Sep 29, 2012 #4
    The microcontroller will be the heart of your system and there are many microcontroller boards available. The engineers on this forum tend to favor the arduino. The microcontroller can read each of your inputs sequentially, altimeter, thermometer and GPS, and assemble the readings from each one into a sentence which it will output to the transmitter. Note: If you use a GPS unit you won't need the altimeter.

    It's not important to keep everything on one board. The sensors as well as the transmitter could be built on a perf board. The microcontroller would be on its own board.

    I recommended a ham license because unlicensed transmitters likely won't have the characteristics nor the power to reliably transmit that distance. Getting a license for a licensed transmitter will cost over $500. With a ham license you can build your own transmitter the way you want it without having to get it type accepted.

    To conserve the battery power you could have the microcontroller turn everything off and go into sleep mode and wake up every minute or 5 minutes for a transmission.
  6. Sep 29, 2012 #5


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    Hi PauloE

    this is a very complex project considering you have admitted to being a beginner in electronics. It would not be something you could design and build from scratch till you have some years of electronics and in particular RF and digital electronics experience behind you.
    There are RF modules that are designed for data transmission and reception that would at least cut out a major part of the complexity for you. You will still have quite a task learning how to interface your various sensors to the transmitter and then figuring out how to decode that data out of the receiver module.

    LiPo batteries are the best for hi power capabilities for their relative size, and between them and the very small size of the commercial TX/RX modules it would be the only way you would have any hope in keeping anywhere near to your weight limits.

    As Skeptic2 suggested ... getting your amateur licence will open you up to the probibilities of hands on help that you will definately need to complete a project like this :)

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