Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Trackuino Shield

This is really exciting! Kyle Crockett has designed a new Trackuino shield. Just plug it on top of an Arduino board to turn it into an APRS tracker complete with GPS, a Radiometrix HX1 FM transmitter and a temperature sensor!

The whole thing is powered through the Arduino jack (7-12V), and the only external components needed are the GPS and radio antennas. The total footprint is much smaller than the previous board, so its price is also cut by more than half. And because all the Atmega pins are broken out to female headers, It can be easily extended by stacking more shields on top of it.

For now, you'll have to figure out the bill of materials from the Eagle schematic, but we'll post a proper BOM shortly. The SCH and BRD files can be downloaded from the project page.

46 comments:

  1. These July updates are awesome. I can't wait to build this!

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  2. I would also like to build this so I can use it as an APRS tracker for other projects. Might even see if it could be used as a Foxhunt transmitter. With the GPS off :D

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  3. This is very awesome, was just about to order some components to finally get my APRS setup working. I haven't had a chance to look at the schematic yet but I'm guessing it would be fairly simple to bypass the HX1 and use your own transmitter?

    I have specific need to do this, I already have a transmitter with simple PTT button and input jack, and do not want to use the HX1.

    You might remember we spoke a couple of months back.. well I actually have the time/money to do this now haha!

    Without looking at the schems, I'm guessing it would be as easy as simply not using the hX1 and then wiring in my PTT signal line and input lines.

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  4. Terry: good luck. It should work with any radio. I think I gave you some directions in our previous conversation as to how to interface with any radio (remember you'll probably need to invert the PTT logic with an NPN transistor and audio will likely need voltage conversion with a resistors divider). If you have a CRO, make sure you get a perfect sine wave on the receiver side and you're good to go.

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  5. Is there a "for dummies" page for all of this? I would really like to use this system to track my balloon but I'm getting lost in the vernacular.

    Will I need an amateur radio license to operate this using the hx1?

    I apologize for the anonymous tag. My mobile device gave me trouble submitting otherwise. My name is Conrad.

    Thanks

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  6. Hi, I had a question about the differences of using the trackuino shield versus the board. I plan on adding in things like wireless communication with the arduino for certain things while it's up in the air and thus I need it to be a part of the tracker, so I should go with the arduino shield right? Is completely different code required to use the trackuino shield than to use the trackuino board? how does that change things? also, how does powering it and everything else change from the trackuino board to the shield?
    Thanks

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  7. Anonymous:

    1) The shield is more flexible when it comes to extending functionality because you can stack more shields on it. Just make sure there are no pin conflicts between shields. The trackuino firmware uses pin D3 for audio, D4 for PTT, D9 for the buzzer and RX/TX for the GPS. Some other pins are used to get temperature readouts from external sensors (D6/D7/A0/A1).

    2) The same code works unchanged on both boards.

    3) You can power the Arduino + Shield through the Arduino jack (7.5 - 12V) or the Arduino Vin pin (same voltage). The stand-alone board is powered through the Vcc/GND terminal block with 6V-12V if you are using the HX1 radio or 9V-12V if using the MX146.

    Hope it helps.

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  8. Thanks so much! My name is Andy btw. Sorry about posting anonymously both these times. Is the PCB for the trackuino shield available on any site to order online or should I use the Eagle files to order it myself?
    Thanks again,
    Andy

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  9. Second to last anonymous: there are special versions of the HX1 that you can use on license-free frequencies. While you don't strictly need an amateur license to operate on those frequencies, you'll lose the ability to use the amateur APRS network to track your balloon.

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  10. Andy: we're working on making the PCB available somewhere. For now, you'll have to order it yourself. Sorry.

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  11. I've been having difficulty finding an available 8 V SRBMX146 online so I think I may use the 5 V SRBMX146LV instead. What hardware and/or software modification would I have to make to the trackuino shield to make this work?
    Thanks,
    Steve

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  12. Steve: the trackuino shield only supports the HX1 radio. If you want to use the MX146LV, you can build the stand-alone board (see the project page). Everything in the schematic should be compatible except you can skip the 8V regulator (and its two related capacitors) and power the MX146LV from the output of the L4940 instead (by shorting together the output pads of both regulators, for example).

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  13. Great project... Eagerly waiting for the BOM files and more updates... so that I can build the shield.

    Dinesh
    KC2YQJ

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  14. I am building this, just received the HX1 and the Venus gps is on its way. Now I just need to order the board. If anyone is interested we could get the cost of the boards down if we bought more then one at a time.. I don't know at what quantity the price starts coming down but it cannot be that high. If you interested let me know.

    Chris
    KC0ZNT
    Denver Colorado

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  15. @Andy, @Dinesh, @Chris and anyone interested in group ordering: we just started a forum at http://hab-ham.org/forum/. Please join it. It's not too active yet, but that will be the place where we will centralize group orders of boards, components and maybe even balloons.

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  16. On the trackuino shield Eagle file, what is the value of R9 (resistor 9). The file doesn't specify the value, only the series or model type or whatever that designation means.
    -Steve

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  17. @Steve: you can skip that resistor altogether. R9 can be used to measure a capacitive humidity sensor (or any kind of capacitive sensor), but it's not implemented in the code yet.

    The idea is that the capacitor is charged by pulling D8 to +5v for a few milliseconds, then you pull it down to 0v and use A2 to measure the discharge rate through R9. That will give you a measure of the capacitance and thus, the humidity. R9 should be chosen so that the RC time constant is within a reasonable and measurable range. Hope it clears things up?

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  18. Clears it up perfectly! Thanks so much
    -Steve

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  19. When I said pull down to zero I really meant set D8 in high impedance mode, but... Yea, that's the general idea :)

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  20. Hello everyone, iv been looking at the board for this as i would love to build one (as a learning curve, and just because its a very interesting thing to do). i was looking at the eagle file and just wondered why are all the negative connections on the PCB unconnected?

    thanks everyone!

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  21. Click on the ratsnest or the auto-router buttons and you'll see the copper pour.

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  22. Hello!

    Is it compatible with latest Ardiuno Uno R3? And more important is it compatible with this http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardSerialSingleSided3
    (there is Atmega 168, can I use 328?)

    I would like to do it by myself, but I'm unsure about compatibility.

    Thanks a million!

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  23. I am very interested in building this shield for use this spring in conjunction with a launch. I am working with a class at local school to incorporate it into a weather section and would love to be able to gather data during flight.

    Anyone have a BOM for the build?

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    1. Javi, School is shooting for late April for launch. Does it look like you'll have something in time for that, or should I start looking for an alternative?

      Thanks!
      Aaron S

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  24. Hi

    Will this shield be available on BatchPCB? Any update on the BOM?

    Regards,
    Jesper

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  25. BOM would be great (for farnell) Would You be so kind to post it for us? There is a Mouser BOM list on HAB HAM forum (good for USA but some of those parts are difficult to find in europe). What about rev2 shield? Any progress? Thanks for your help!! Great project!!

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  26. Aaron/Jesper: I'm working on a revision of the shield with a few new features: a battery meter, 3.3/5V operation and on-board buzzer driver for louder recovery aid. Just ordered the boards from iteadstudio and they are coming my way. I'll post updated eagle files and a mouser cart as soon as I'm done testing. I'll make sure all the parts are available in Europe since I'm from Europe too.

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    1. Thanks Javi. Will the boards be available for sale too? Or at least at BatchPCB?

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    2. I will post the gerber files, so you will be able to order it anywhere. I've recently used iteadstudio, which I believe is cheaper than batchpcb.

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    3. Javi, wondering where you are at on the updated project. Jr. High class I am working with is getting close to weather study and ballon launch.

      Thanks!
      Aaron S

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  27. I would also like to build this so I can use it as an APRS tracker for other projects. Might even see if it could be used as a Foxhunt transmitter. With the GPS off :D

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  28. Hi, I would like to use this on a camping trip across the appalachian mountains so my friends can track my progress online. Does this work at the ground level, or only at high altitude?

    Thanks
    Aaron

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  29. Aaron: APRS trackers work best if there is a line of sight between you and a digipeater that can gate your position through the internet. Chances of having your packets gated improve as you go higher, but it also depends on the density of digipeaters in your area of interest. Have you considered using a SPOT tracker? If there is GSM coverage you want to consider one of those Xexun trackers as well...

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  30. Are the voltage regulators necessary in this design? Looking at the schematics, the Trackuino shield regulators do the same job as the on-board Arduino regulators, do they supply higher amperage necessary for the components?

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  31. The 5V output should be enough to power the radio, but the FTDI's 3V3 is definitely too weak for the GPS. I'm talking about the Duemilanove, not sure about the newer Unos since they don't have a FTDI chip anymore.

    Another side effect (feature or defect, your call :)) is that the shield won't use any power when connected to the computer's USB port.

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    1. I think I see now, originally I thought the 3.3v & 5v voltage regulators were connected to the Arduino's supply voltage (which had me raising my eye brows), but upon second glance, looks like you just take the VIN from the Arduino and get your own supply from that.

      Further note: Seems the Arduino 3.3v supply is limited to 50mA draw, not much at all!

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  32. Dear Javi,

    Sorry for posting this here. I have some questions:

    I do programming, but I want to track two cars moving from a starting point (reporting where it is now in 2-3 miles range). Does Trackuino comes with GPS built-in? This is what I think Trackuino is like: http://www.ladyada.net/make/gpsshield/

    So basically, what else do I need to transmit and receive on earth and on the objects (car in this case)? How do I track which car is transmitting back the signal? I am new in this hardware area, if you can help me it would be nice.

    Also, is this new version available for purchase?

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  33. Hy
    cool is a good projekt for an ballon tracker with more sensors and telemetrie.
    i need the arduino code, i build an ballon tracker for an school porojekt.

    73 DO5MZ
    Markus

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. Dear All:

    Is there a way to just transmit telemetry data?

    I don't want to transmit GPS positions.

    How can i change the code to achive that.

    Regards.
    Alfredo Mendiola Loyola
    Lima, PerĂ¹

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  36. Where i can buy it?

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  37. Any idea whether it would be possible to use this gps rather than the venus?
    https://www.adafruit.com/products/746

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    Replies
    1. Craig: I have plans to migrate away from sparkfun GPSs to adafruit's in the near future.

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  38. I am looking to make a trackuino, but then came across the following quote

    "2012/08/25: Inexplicably, Sparkfun has decided to reshuffle the pinout of their Venus GPS board, rendering the trackuino design obsolete. A new shield and firmware are in the works. Documentation inconsistencies will creep through. Stay tuned." -- https://code.google.com/p/trackuino/

    Is this true, and if so, am I currently out of luck for making a trackuino?

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    1. Build the 2.2 board and use the 1.4 firmware. That should work and it's compatible with the newer gps part.

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