The ArduinoTrack flight controller uses the APRS network to report location data.
High-altitude balloons are unmanned, helium or hydrogen-filled balloons that are released into the stratosphere, generally ascending to heights between 60,000 to 120,000 feet. While the most common ones are deployed to monitor weather, they are often used as a platform for experiments in the upper atmosphere as well. Modern apparatuses generally contain electronic equipment like radio transmitters, cameras or satellite navigation systems that relay data. However, what if you wanted a way to track your balloon without sending that data over a cellular network?
That’s exactly what Zack Clobes and the team behind the Project: Traveler project set out to accomplish with their position-reporting board that uses the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) network to report location data, all while easily fitting on an Arduino in the form of a shield.
The Project: Traveler group has been using the aptly-named ArduinoTrack flight controller in one form or another since 2010. After successfully completing eight flights on the platform, its creators believe it is ready for release to the public.
The shield hardware is based on an ATmega328P along with an LMV324M rail-to-rail operational amplifier, a Telit Jupiter SL869 GNS Version 002 GPS module, and an optional RadioMetrix HX1 VHF transmitter. All it requires to report position data is a small antenna and a battery. In addition, the ArduinoTrack Configurator allows a user to adjust the settings which are stored in non-volatile EEPROM.
For those unfamiliar with the network, APRS is an amateur radio-based system for real-time sending of data packets in a local area. Devices using APRS can transmit a wide-range of information including GPS, text messages, weather reports, radio telemetry, and signal direction finding should GPS not be available. As our friends at Hackaday note, the project can also act as a shield as well, meaning that more data lines are available for tasks like monitoring sensors and driving servos.
Want to learn more? Fly over to the project’s official page here.