Lightweight GPS tracker

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Lightweight GPS tracker

Postby j91321 » May 20th, 2014, 5:24 pm

Hi, me and my friends are looking for some sort of lightweight GPS tracker for an airplane model (F1H and similar FAI categories). Because it's pretty easy to loose model like that. (Under the right weather conditions it can fly pretty far away). Right now we are using some custom made RF transmitters, that broadcast on certain frequency and when we want to locate the lost model we run around with walkie-talkies and listen to beeps to find the right location. I find this really ineffective and unreliable :? . (Considering the costs of these transmitters and many hours and material that we invest into building these models)

I've searched through articles here on hackaday and found many interesting trackers mostly for balloons. Then I also found on the net some crazy things like cat trackers :D etc. (Now really if you can buy something for tracking your cat why not airplane model).

Now from what I've figured out GPS modules are cheap, the real problem is to transmit the GPS coordinates from the module into some sort of receiver (hand-held device laptop or something) the best solution for problem like this as far as I figured out is probably using APRS.

We are mostly limited by size and weight. Also we need to be able to locate models over distance (let's say around 10Km). Precision of GPS is not that important something like 50-100m radius will do.

I think I'm looking for something like Tracker3 model T3-Mini. I'm not sure really, I'm more of a software hacker and programmer than hardware hacker. So that's why I'm looking for advice here. What I've read Tracker3 model T3-Mini is also capable of receiving commands which is cool and also might be useful for us but we really need a reliable and precise way of locating our models.

Can you give me any advice and tips for what HW I need to build something like this? Is it possible to build something like this in reasonable budget?
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Re: Lightweight GPS tracker

Postby asheets » May 24th, 2014, 5:32 pm

I use a trackuino as my car/balloon/general purpose APRS tracker. http://www.trackuino.org/
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Re: Lightweight GPS tracker

Postby wildjoe » July 29th, 2014, 9:53 am

There are 50 gram gps tracker on amazon that uses a cell phone sim chip. It has a 30 hour battery life, and all you have to do is send a text message to it and it will send coordinates back. They are about 30 bucks. They cost about $3.33 a month to keep service on it, or if you use it less than that, a 10 dollar prepaid on an H20(ATT) wireless card will last you 90 days and is good for 200 messages.
They are waterproof too.

These trackers also go as far as having a geofence that can be set up so it will start sending text messages as soon as it leaves the area.

I'm 100% with using APRS and love it for stationary projects or in the air telemetry. But you need a pretty good antenna and transmitter to get to a repeater in every scenario, so if you are dealing with a flyaway/crash scenario, APRS will be a bit heavy and coverage could be spotty vs ATT cell coverage, and the additional weight affect your flight time.

Edit: If you want to track your mission and "hack" the tracker, then install an openlog circuit piggybacked onto the serial output on the GPS. That way you will have a complete summary of your flight.

Joe
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