Using transistors as switches

I think all popular computerized DIY devices like Arduino, Raspberry Pi or any other microprocessor/microcontroller based boards has one common drawback: low output current. Few miliamps per pin. While this is enough to light a single LED or provide input to other electronics device, it is far from enough to run a motor or power a LED strip. It’s all about current.

Good thing this problem can be solved with two additional devices: resistor and bipolar transistor. Together they can act as a switch. Idea is simple: low current (and voltage if you wish) applied to transistor base causes bigger current (and voltage) to be passed between collector and emmiter. We have two choices: NPN or PNP bipolar transistor. Switch that uses NPN transistor is open/enabled when positive voltage is applied to base. In other words, base is connected to plus.

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DIY FPV LC power noise filter

Both electrical motor and ESC are source of electrical noise that influences all devices connected to the same battery. This is why, very often, on airplanes or big multirotors FPV circuit is powered from separate battery. On small or medium drones this can be hard to archive: additional weight will influence both flight performance and flight time. So, when your setup is suffering from a power noise manifesting itself as vertical bars or other image distortions on goggles/monitor, you can do 3 things:

  • use separate battery to power camera and video TX,
  • cut the noise using LC low-pass power filter.

I would choose low-pass filter. Cheaper and lighter. You can buy one for a few dollars/euros or make 10 by yourself for the same price.

LC power noise filter for FPV

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Raspberry Pi: reset external I2C devices (not only I2C)

Electronic, and specially computerized, devices likes to hang from time to time. There are many reasons: software bug, hardware error, voltage drop, interference, too long wire, random incident. I’ve learned this hard way during work on my Raspberry Pi based weather station. From time to time external DTH22 temperature/humidity sensor refused to work. Only solution was to cut power to DHT22 for a second (or less). It was kind of irritating to go the attic, unplug sensor and plug in again. Later on I had similar issues with HD44780 LCD display over I2C bus. Device was hanging and only solution was to cut power. So, I’ve found a solution: as a prevention cut power for a second every 30 minutes with a simple electronic device I’ve called “Power Cutter”.

Raspberry Pi power cutter

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Raspberry Pi + MOSFET = High power switch

With all the possibilities, Raspberry Pi requires additional hardware to turn on and off any additional hardware. GPIOs built in power limit is low: 3.3V, 16mA per GPIO, but not more that 50mA total). And while it might be enough to light a small LED, it is not enough for anything else. Forget about motors, strong LEDs, relays. Anything that uses more that 16mA on input will destroy Raspberry Pi.

Luckily, there are things called MOSFET. To keep things short: they are special kind of transistors that can be used to turn on and off devices with high power requirements. Unfortunately, most MOSFETs require more that 3.3V Raspberry Pi GPIO provides. So you either have to use 3.3V logic compatible MOSFETs or add few other elements and use more common 5V compatible MOSFET like 30N06. And 30N06 MOSFET transistor can handle a lot of thing: up to 30A and 60V. So it’s more that enough to handle most 12V motors, relays, lights, LEDs, etc.

30N06 MOSFET Raspberry Pi


Required elements:

  • NPN BC547 (or compatible) transistor,
  • PNP BC640 (or compatible) transistor,
  • 30N06 MOSFET transistor,
  • 3x 10kOhm resistors,
  • 4.7kOhm resistors,
  • 1N4001 (or similar) diode

If it was Arduino with 5V logic, transistors would not be required. But with Raspberry Pi’s 3.3V logic they are required to bump voltage from 3.3V GPIO port provides to 5V MOSFET needs. Additionally, if we would be powering any coil device (motor, relay), flyback diode would be required to secure MOSFET from voltage spikes. Even if there is no coil, flyback diode still can be used. Just to be safe.