RX5808-based Laptimer Solution for a Lonely Drone Racer
Clone or download

README.md


###NOTE: this project is outdated and won't be supported. Please switch to the improved solution - Chorus RF Laptimer

#Solo DIY RF Laptimer DIY lap timing solution for a lonely drone racer. When you become a seasoned drone racer, you want to know how fast you are. Using the Laptimer you can catch moments of passing the start/finish gates using just the signal of a Video Transmitter installed on your drone (no additional equipment on a drone is required).

##Features

  • No additional equipment besides 5.8GHz Video Transmitter required on a drone.
  • Measure lap times with 1ms resolution (in theory; need to perform live tests).
  • Android application for controlling the Laptimer via Bluetooth.
  • Compatible with EasyRaceLapTimer software v.0.6 (can act as a VTx sensor).
  • 5V * 250 mA power consumption
  • Low cost (around $16, excluding power supply), compared to similar solutions available on market.

##Limitations

  • Tracks up to 100 laps.
  • Limited to 8 Raceband VTx channels so far (it's just a software configuration limitation - any channel from 5.8GHz range can be used with slight modification of Arduino code)
  • Doesn't work with digital VTx equipment (like Connex)
  • Monitors single VTx frequency, thus tracks only one drone per race. I'm already working on a Multi-tracking Laptimer solution.
  • Settings and measurements data is kept on Arduino side and gets lost when the Laptimer device is powered off.
  • No software for iOS yet.

##How it works The Laptimer device measures a VTx signal strength (RSSI value) and compares it with a threshold set up. If the RSSI value is above the threshold, the drone is considered passing a finish gate.

##Hardware ###Used parts:

  • RX5808 (with SPI patch)
  • Arduino Pro Mini 5V 16MHz
  • HC-06 Bluetooth module
  • Piezo buzzer (5V, without built-in generator) - optional
  • 5V power supply (for example 2-4S LiPo with 5V BEC)

###Bluetooth module setup Make sure your bluetooth module baud rate is set to 115200 (use any of numerous tutorials on internet). Generalized steps:

  1. Connect HC-06 -> USB-UART Adapter -> PC
  2. Open Arduino IDE, set adapter's COM port, run Serial Monitor
  3. Send command: "AT+BAUD8" (module replies "OK115200")

You might also like to change BT device name and default PIN (which is "1234") using commands "AT+NAMEdevicename" and "AT+PINxxxx" respectively.

###RX5808 SPI patch (required) (copied from sheaivey/rx5808-pro-diversity repo)

In order to get the RX5808 to use SPI you will need to open it and remove a single SMD resistor.

RX5808 spi patch

For older versions of RX5808 use these instructions.

###Wiring Parts may be connected directly without using any additional components:

Wiring schematic

It seems to work fine being connected this way, however adding 100 Ω resistors in line on SPI wires (Arduino pins 10, 11, 12) is a good idea to prevent possible glitches with channel selection:

Wiring with resistors

###Assembly Correct positioning of RX5808 module against the finish gate area is vital for correct measurements.

I tried using different types of antennas and shields with RX5808 to achieve the best possible accuracy, and finally found that the module itself may be treated as a short-range directional antenna. The non-shielded side of the module is a surface that should face the gate, so consider this fact upon assembling.

Here's how my prototype looks:

Prototype Assembly

##Software ###Arduino Download the project from Arduino folder, open solo-diy-rf-laptimer.ino file with Arduino IDE and upload to device.

###Android App Download the Solo_DIY_RF_Laptimer.apk file from Android folder and install on your Android device or use the following QR code to download:

QR code

(Make sure to allow installation from unknown sources in your Android device settings).

####App User Guide Application startup screen:

Application startup screen

  • Connect: tap to connect to Laptimer Bluetooth module.
  • Raceband Channel #: use +/- to tune the laptimer to next/prev channel.
  • Minimal Lap Time: use +/- to increase/decrease minimal lap time. Set enough time to let a drone leave the "above-threshold RSSI area" after lap time is captured.
  • RSSI Threshold: use +/- to fine-tune RSSI threshold.
  • Capture Threshold: tap to capture currently measured RSSI value as a threshold.
  • Start Race: tap to start tracking laps.

When connected, the application polls the Laptimer device each 30ms and displays current settings and measurements:

Application operation screen

Note the RSSI label below the Disconnect button - it shows current RSSI reading, which might be useful for monitoring VTx channels or positioning the device.

Race mode:

Application race mode screen

In a Race mode you cannot change Channel, Min Lap Time or Threshold to prevent from occasional loss of the race results. Up to 100 laps can be tracked. But the more lap times are recorded, the longer it takes to retrieve the data from Laptimer to Android App. It doesn't affect the accuracy, but might introduce delays in the app performance.

When you stop the race, Laptimer device immediately clears saved lap times, but they remain visible in the application until new race is started.

##Setup and Usage Guide

  1. Power on the Laptimer device and place it on one side of the finish gate.
  2. Start the Android app and connect to the Laptimer device.
  3. Fully prepare your drone for a race and power it up (VTX must be powered in racing mode).
  4. Go a bit beyond the opposite side of the gate (normally 3-4 meters from the installed Laptimer).
  5. Capture current RSSI value as a threshold using the Android app (use "Capture Threshold" button).
  6. Start Race in the app.
  7. Fly the track and see the lap times being captured.

Device placement and setup

Also I'd consider shielding the Laptimer device with a piece of metal on one side where drones are approaching from. It might increase the accuracy by reducing the VTx signal strength before drone is inside a gate.

#Contacts

Feel free to ask questions, suggest improvements, report your usage results.

Happy flying!