Tracker Build

Here’s a photographic step-by-step showing the build of a small, lightweight (16g) tracker from off-the-shelf modules.

First, the modules, from left to right the BMP085 pressure and temperature sensor, Arduino Mini Pro 3.3V 8MHz, RFM22B radio transceiver, and a Falcom FSA03 GPS receiver:

First step was to solder on wires and header pins to carry power and data. All the modules are held to each other using those headers, making a reasonably solid assembly. I chose the physical layout very carefully so that as many header pins as possible could be used to directly connect from board to board. In most cases those pins are used for power or data, but in some cases they are used for support only. Some of those link together unused lines but in a couple of cases the pins only are soldered at one end only and are cut short before the reach the adjacent module. These are the prepared modules, BMP085 then RFM22B then Arduino (GPS needs no preparation):

And here all of the modules on top of a scribbled circuit diagram:


The Arduino has a couple of resistors added so it can measure the incoming supply voltage:

So, on to joining the modules together. First the BMP085 mounts onto the Arduino:

Next is the RFM22B. This one is a lot more tricky as it has several wires going between it and the Arduino. Also the connector pitch at 2mm is different to the Arduino at 2.54mm, and the pin headers have to be splayed out for the extra width of the board.

Finally the GPS module and a DS18B20 for external temperature measurement:

That’s the complete tracker, needing just power (from 3 Lithium Energizer cells) and an aerial for the radio transmitter.

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10 Responses to Tracker Build

  1. Kamil M?trak says:

    Very nice little thing.
    I’m planning to build sth simillar and I’m wondering what range RFM22b can achieve in real world (of course airborne).

    • dave says:

      I’ve flown this once so far. Performance was about the same, possibly better, than the NTX2 that we normally use in the UK. I’ve personally received those at 600km and the record is close to 800km.

      • Kamil Metrak says:

        Impressive! How about ground station – what radio do You use for this? Can I simply use another RFM22b or NRX2 (with aerial) or it would be unsufficient? I need range about 50km (about 35 up and 35 radius on ground – just for chasing car).

        • dave says:

          You need a ham radio, or scanner, that has SSB modes. Few scanners do have SSB, but the AOR8000 and Yupiteru MVT7100 do, and I’ve used both with good results. Cheapest ham radio is an FT790. All 3 of these sell for around £100 on ebay.

          An NRX2 or RFM22B won’t be nearly sensitive enough.

  2. John Mayo says:

    Nice! Did you write code for all this?

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  4. tarek says:

    hi dave i am tarek and i am a student in the faculty of Electronic Engineering and will your circuit in my project so i need to know after making the tracker how could i make it work is it need a software or what ??? i need more information if you do not mind,,,

  5. Nader Omer says:

    Hello Dave and thank you very much for the nice shots and illustrations .
    I’ve got the mini arduino ,the RFM23B ,sparkfun venous GPS and the sensors . Are those modules work with Trackuino code ? Any more advice/code/help- I will be much appreciated .
    thanks in advance
    Nader Omer
    st2nh

  6. Peter Berrett says:

    Hi Dave

    Do you have a link to the firmware/software for this project?

    cheers

    Peter VK3PB

    • David Akerman says:

      It’s not something I’ve shared.

      The above tracker uses an RFM22B radio, which was never very reliable (several failure modes which would require reprogramming of the registers and sometimes a hard reset. Depending on your aims it’s be much better to use an RFM69 (I don’t have s/w for that) or an MTX2 or LoRa transceiver; for the latter my “FlexTrack” software is on github.

      Dave

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