Introducing Amateur Radio Robotics

Introducing Amateur Radio Robotics

One of the original projects prototyped with HamShield was a robot that was controlled by the DTMF pad of a handheld transceiver. While it was a fun novelty, and made for a good promo video, but it wasn't entirely useful. You needed to be in visual range to operate the rover. But it was at least the start of amateur radio robotics.

We have discovered over the last 5 years that our academic customers wanted to do amazing things with HamShield. They want to build satellites, rockets, landers and deploy semi autonomous rovers on simulated alien planets. It was done with great success in 2018 and 2019, with more projects on the way. It is very exciting to hear what our customers are doing with HamShield

One of the special projects at our Cape May, NJ Lab is to build an experimental rover. We will also be writing a multi-part tutorial on building a rover of your own. It will utilize the coverage area of the Cape May LARPS network, powered by LoRa, and perform various beach missions for us on an semi-autonomous basis. We will use HamShield: LoRa Edition to accomplish this task.

I am working on stocking some of the more exotic components to make this possible. In the mean time, I welcome you to follow along.

Anatomy of a Amateur Radio Robot

RC cars are fun, but most use unlicensed short range telemetry. We will fit our amateur radio robot (which we will call the amateur radio rover from now on), with a few fun components:

  • HamShield: LoRa Edition
  • Arduino
  • TTL Serial Camera
  • GPS receiver
  • Motor Controller
  • Motor Speed Indicators
  • Tractor drive for use on grass, roads, sand, etc.
  • Proximity sensors to avoid obstacles
  • Variety of sensors

While the LoRa radio will be at ground level, we can expect many kilometers of service area from our single LARPS repeater. Using the various packet formats, the LARPS network will easily receive periodic GPS and sensor data. It will also relay waypoint telemetry. 

What about image data?

While LARPS handles periodic data with ease, it also can handle reliable transport of data. Its expected that a transaction of image data should only take a handful of seconds. Since we get a CRC value of each packet in sequence, and detect missed sequences, we can request retransmissions from our LARPS repeater if something doesn't look right. That way, we can get fully intact images and make sure that all movement instructions are concise and complete.

Component Search

While we have most components in the lab (most are products we carry), I will have to source and design some robotic components as well as the sensors over the next weeks. What sensors would you suggest? Would a spectrometer be useful to perform experiments? Comment below. 

I will post soon once we finalized its design.


1 comment

  • Jim O'Hern

    I’m experimenting with RTK GPS and for under $500 I now have 2cm accuracy in an open field. My robot is made from an electric wheelchair frame and motors, driven by an Arduino and will require that high precision. My next step is how to use the GPS data to precisely maneuver the robot autonomously. Your LoRa radios will likely be a part of this project, as well as part of my high-altitude balloon communications.

    I’ll follow your progress and pay attention to your ‘lessons learned.’ Good luck!

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