Adventures in ADS-B

I find myself using websites like Flight Aware and Flight Radar 24 quite a bit. Whether I’m tracking a flight with friends/family on board, just checking to see what big quad-jet is flying overhead, or keeping tabs on the occasional ‘unicorn’ squawking ADS-B I usually find myself wishing I had a subscription.

Snap from FlightRadar24.com based off ADS-B data.
Snap from FlightRadar24.com based off ADS-B data.

Both sites offer free subscriptions if you’re willing to contribute ADS-B data to their databases. To do this, you need an antenna, and some way to get the ADS-B data from the antenna to the internet. The most common being a RTL-2832 USB dongle, and a Raspberry Pi. You can request they send you a kit (I doubt I’d qualify as I live in an area that already has decent ADS-B coverage), you can purchase a prepackaged kit, or you can piece everything together and save a couple of bucks. Guess which option I chose…

I see this as a win-win as it’s a combination of three of my hobbies (ham radio, electronics, and aviation). Not to mention that I’ve always wanted to tinker with a Pi.

I placed an order for the Pi, SD card, power adapter, and a second RTL-2832 dongle today. Current plans are to build an antenna and mount everything remotely as close to the antenna as possible.

I’ll run 5v power outside for the Pi and hopefully still have a strong enough WiFi signal to avoid running a patch cable outside as well. Eventually I’d love to track power consumption of the Pi and piece together a solar setup (small panel and battery) so that the unit is entirely sealed and stand-alone….but we’ll save that project for the future.

This project will also be forcing me to re-mount my 2m HAM antenna since the same mount will most likely be used to attach the 1090mhz antenna for the Pi. The antenna has been down since we re-roofed the house.

More to come soon!

KISSed out Alien: ARGHHHHHH!

Finally building out my KISSed out Impulse RC alien.

Trying ESCs on for size.
Trying ESCs on for size.

ESCs soldered to motors, PDB, and to KSS FC. Powered up and smoke checked without issue.

Motors reversed as necessary.

All soldered up and ready for a flight controller.
All soldered up and ready for a flight controller.

Micro MinimOSD configured and flashed with KISS OSD firmware, tested, attached in line and mounted piggyback on my HS1177.

Running my Micro MinimOsd piggyback on my HS1177. Needs a dab of hot glue to lock down the wires.
Running my Micro MinimOsd piggyback on my HS1177. Needs a dab of hot glue to lock down the wires.

Finally soldering up the power leads to the FC and…F*CK! While soldering the negative lead, I ended up with a gob of solder on the backside of my solder tip. The solder took a small SMT capacitor off the board, and I lost both the gob of solder and capacitor when I cleaned off my tip (before I realized the cap was even gone).

FAAAAAAAAACK!
The tiny capacitor just disappeared…couldn’t even tell it was gone at first until I pulled up a picture of a new FC…

Emailed Flyduino support to ask if the capacitor was necessary and if I could power the board without it…hoping it was only there for an obscure feature like running a Spektrum satellite receiver or something. I even asked if they could provide me the component value and size so I could order a couple from mouser and try to repair it myself. They said they would investigate and get back to me. Unfortunately its now been a couple days, I’m still waiting and given how busy they probably are, doubt I’ll ever get an answer.

In the meantime, I ordered a new board from Rotor Riot…just waiting for it to arrive so I can de-solder everything and try and get her in the air.

Ugh…

Update:

The new board I purchased from Rotor Riot showed up and I had it installed in an hour. Quad flies great, and is a HUGE improvement over my previous hunk of junk. A day or so after the new board arrived, the folks at Flyduino provided me with the value and type of part that I accidentally knocked off along with a link to DigiKey (making ordering a replacement a snap).

I placed an order (ordered 10 since they were only $0.16 a piece). When they came in I was able to get the board repaired with a little cursing and a little care. So, thankfully I have a backup board (or a board for my next quad) rather than a keychain or mirror hanger.