DIY RC radio link: the problem of protocols

So, you want to build your own RC radio system? Long range maybe? Cool, I want to do it too. Since I'm pretty deep in that topic now, I can give you a hint or two. For example, have you thought about a protocol your radio system will implement?

RC link simplified

Or rather should I say: protocols? Why plural? If you want to do a RC link that talks with popular radios like FrSky Taranis on TX side and servos or flight controllers on the RX side, it will have to implement at least 2 different protocols. More likely 3. And if you will want to add telemetry downlink, 4 or even 5…

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Hands on: FrSky XSRF3O flight controller

Since I just started to add support for "old" FrSky XSRF3O flight controller to INAV (expect this in a release after 1.8) it might be a good idea to share few words about it.

FrSky XSRF3O flight controller in a box

First of all, it comes in a box. Why am I mentioning this? Because none of my flight controllers, and I own at least more than a dozen, came in box. C'mon, this is huge! I'm not joking, this is really a nice touch.

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Generate S.Bus with Arduino in a simple way

Did you noticed that lately I write about radios quite often? Well, I do and it's not a coincidence. Proper introduction for what I'm working on will happen in a next few days, but now I will only write that this will be a mid-range, cheap, DIY radio link for UAVs. By mid-range I mean up to 5km. So, it will be positioned somewhere between 2.4GHz systems and full sale LRSes like DragonLink or TBS Crossfire.

Back to business. I've discovered, that there is very little in The Internet how to generate S.Bus with Arduino. OK, there are few libraries for reading Futaba S.Bus protocol like mikeshub/FUTABA_SBUS or zendes/SBUS but the only library made simple I've found is bolderflight/SBUS. Too bad it works only with Teensy devices. So, after a few hours of hard work, reading code of OpenTX, MultiWii, INAV, reading RcGroups and final help of Konstantin Sharlaimov (Digital Entity of INAV), I give you:

Generate S.Bus packets with Arduino in a simple way

But first, few simple facts:

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Hands on: Tiny Frsky 8CH Receiver from Banggood

I have a nasty habit of buying things and then forgetting about them. Something like that happened to Tiny Frsky 8CH Receiver (Wolfbox F802 software compatible) from Banggood I’ve purchased last year. For some time I used it in JJPro P175 quadcopter, but then it landed in a box and I forgot about until last week.

Tiny FrSky 8CH DIY Receiver Pinout

So, let’s do overdue “hands on” on Tiny Frsky 8CH Receiver from Banggood… Continue reading “Hands on: Tiny Frsky 8CH Receiver from Banggood” »

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FrSky SmartPort Telemetry on AnyFC F7

STM32F7 CPU family present in newest, experimental, flight controllers like AnyFC F7 (as well as upcoming AnyFC M7 with smaller STM32F722) simplifies many things. For example, comparing to F4 boards, SmartPort or S.Bus connection is extremely simple and can be done on any free UART. No more hardware hacks, external inverters and other “special” ways of doing things.

It’s super simple again, and here is how to do it in Betaflight (Cleanflight 2.x) and INAV

Hardware

The only required hardware is a cable to connect SmartPort enabled receiver with free UART port on F7 board. This will work on X8R, X6R, X4R, X4RSB, XSR and any other. The trick is to connect S.Port pin with UART TX pin only.

How to connect F7 flight controller to SmartPort

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Talking Taranis – teach FrSky Taranis to talk to you

One of the most important features of modern, computerized, radios is that you can make them talk to you. After all, with setup telemetry link from UAV, radio should “know” things. Things like battery voltage for example. Why not make FrSky Taranis (or Horus or Taranis X Q7) talk to you and report LiPo voltage in a smart way?

Before we proceed, you have to setup SmartPort telemetry or “legacy” FrSky telemetry. This post does not covers this topic. You might want to take a look here and here.

Let’s go

In OpenTX menu navigate to last page called Telemetry and check if VFAS is reporting proper value.

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Mini Flying Wing: MiniWing v2

Miniquads are fun, right? After all, there is a reasons most uf us flies 210-250 quadcopters. If so, small flying wings should be fun too! I tried that already in late 2015 and failed miserably! My design did not survived maiden flight. Well, things like that happens from time to time, so few months ago, after learning few new things, I’ve made a second attempt. And this time I’ve succeeded.

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SmartPort inverter for F4 flight controllers

While STM32F4 family processors installed in newest flight controllers are superior to STM32F3 (and F1 of course) in terms of raw speed, they are inferior to F3 family in terms of IO handling capabilities. For example, F4 family is not equipped with UART port inverters. And that creates a series of problems when it comes to connecting various serial RX receivers and telemetry systems.

The most popular FrSky (Futaba) S.Bus serial RX protocol and FrSky SmartPort telemetry require inverted UART signal. If there is no hardware inverter on hardware UART port, they will not work. While S.Bus requires only one data line, external inverter is not a big issue. Some time ago I’ve published The Simplest Harware Inverter. One MOSFET transistor, one resistor and that’s all.

In case of SmartPort, it’s slightly more complicated. Not only signal is inverted, SmartPort also combines TX and RX UART line into single wire. That means the following:

  1. More complicated inverter is required
  2. Software has to support this case and fallback to unidirectional UART mode

Hardware

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FrSky X12S Horus spotted in the wild

Last weekend I had a brief opportunity to take a look at new radio from FrSky: X12S Horus. One thing is sure, this thing is quite impressive. For me it is slightly too big and too expensive. Plain old Taranis suits all my needs. Owner seems too be quite happy with his X12S Horus, and here are his main thought about it:

  • Big and heavy with a stiff frame. As long as you do not have to carry it attached to your neck for a longer period of time, it is completely fine
  • LCD screen is nicely visible in daylight
  • Nice Hall effect gimbals!
  • Rubber bumpers allows to put Horus on a car’s roof or hood without the risk of scratching it
  • Shipped with FrSky software, that is not as good as OpenTx
  • External antenna connector with a VSWR

FrSky X12S Horus

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