Monday, 19 November 2012

The Tracker - Initial prototyping

I had been wanting to get hold of an Arduino board for a while. For the past few years there have been a fair few 'cool' projects created using the Arduino, but I had no inspiration of my own to really warrant buying one. The Arduino is a programmable microcontroller prototyping board that allows for electrical components to be plugged into it and then controlled using software written in a version of C++. I will say now that I have had no previous experience with C++. I currently use web programming languages, SQL and at work and did a bit of C at university so I thought that I'd just dive right into it. I got to grips with it in a few days so it wasn't too much of a learning curve.

I followed these two examples and some help from the #highaltitude channel on freenode IRC to get things up and running:
Prototyping on the way to London on the train
Prototyping on the way to London

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Tracker and Radio Receiver

To create the tracker we needed three key components - the GPS unit, the radio transmitter unit and the flight computer to control it all. After reading around we settled on the following:

For the Tracker:

Arduino Uno, EZCAP TV Tuner, Antenna Amplifer,
Antenna Joiner, GPS Unit and NTX2 Transmitter.
These are commonly used in the high altitude balloon community and much of the example trackers are based on these or similar. The idea was to get widely used components as this was our first tracker - firstly so that we can follow examples to get things started and secondly the common components are usually more easily sourced.