Car PC Tracking Software

For the car I have a “car PC” which is a miniature low-power PC motherboard housed in a tough metal case with a power supply designed specifically for car use. Externally is has a Wifi dongle for internet access via a 3G access point, a GPS receiver, and a 7″ touchscreen monitor. Internally it has an accelerometer.

For this I’ve written a simple program designed for touchscreen use, providing functions such as mp3 player, clock and a GPS/accelerometer screen. I’ve now extended that to include special functions for use when chasing a high-altitude balloon. Here’s the main menu screen:

The GPS/accelerometer screen shows the data from those devices:

More interestingly, there’s a screen for showing where the balloon is. The compass shows the direction and distance (using a log scale) to the balloon, plus a second smaller compass to show the speed and direction of the balloon. The two together give an idea where to drive to so you meet the payload as it lands.

Finally there’s a split screen which has the HAB information at the top, above the dl-fldigi modem program which receives the payload telemetry. This allows the operator to adjust the tuning of the modem at the same time as viewing the payload position etc.

Telemetry from the balloon is uploaded to a web server, either via the chase car or by fixed stations at the homes of other enthusiasts.  The server runs a map which anyone can access using a web browser, so I added a browser to the program:

Finally, I added a special browser for Google Maps.  This browser reads the car position from the GPS, and the payload position from the incoming telemetry, and can then plot a route between the two:

7 Responses to Car PC Tracking Software

  1. Nigel says:

    Hi Dave,

    Found your site whilst googling RFM22B and Arduino.

    Your work is not a million miles away from some of the stuff we are doing – aerial camera work.
    I fly radio controlled model planes – battery powered foam ones with live video feed, telemetry, tracking etc.
    In the UK, we are legally allowed to fly on 459MHz and we are trying to get the RFM22B working properly at 459MHz.

    Have a look around – especially in the ‘Transmitters Receivers and Servo’ section

    You can buy some of this stuff ready built nowadays and it’s open source…

    Best regards,


  2. Earl N8TV says:

    will your program run on a laptop with/without modifications?
    I fly balloons one every 2 weeks as a university project.
    Currently 7/14/2012 we are going to try a glider. I have 2 raspberry Pi’s to play with.
    I use APRS for tracking. Call sign ke5vsh-1 and ke5vsh-2
    Have done 5 flights so far.
    I would be interested in trading info on hardware/software setup.
    Thanks, Earl. N8TV

  3. Earl N8TV says:

    oops…..flight will be 7/27/2012

  4. Dave Blomfield says:

    Excellent project,
    A group of students here at UEA in Norwich are now putting together a similar project. They’ve had one launch already but are interested in doing the Pi design as well. Although I’m an Electronics tech. (mostly control systems) I don’t quite understand the tracking and GPS circuits on the strip board I’ve read up the data sheet on the NTX2 but am still a bit phased by transmission stuff (been a few years since college :). Could I be cheeky and ask you for the connection stuff. Am quite happy to repay by drawing up the circuits in EaglePCBCAD and even making a board for you if you need one.



  5. Hi Dave, we did a balloon the other week. We use a 70cm transmiter to relay the gps. How did you get the gps positions from the balloon for tracking.



  6. Anand VM says:


    How to make this system Using Raspberry Pi ..? please recoment me Any software for server & device / circuits for the purpose..


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