Tag Archives: RC planes

A DIY altimeter for RC planes

A Maker by the name of Qubist has created an Arduino-based altimeter targeted at RC planes. For the uninitiated, an altimeter or altitude meter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level.

According to Qubist, the DIY altimeter documented on Instructables is capable of measuring altitude with an accuracy of 0.3 meters, all while saving the highest and lowest values.

Key project components include:

  • Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega168 MCU)
  • 40 mAh Lithium Polymer battery
  • LCD bubble display
  • MPL3115A2 Altitude Sensor
  • 3D printed case (optional)
  • Button
  • Switch
  • JST connector

“The entire build adds up to around $30, but you may have some or most of the parts lying around already,” said Qubist.

“You can make this! It is not a very difficult project, and could be good practice for through-hole soldering and coding if you want to do modifications.”

Qubist kicks of the DIY altimeter project by soldering the bubble display, adding the button and JST connector/switch.

Next up?

“Solder the JST connector into the GND and RAW pins on the Arduino. Then, cut the lead that goes to RAW in half. This is where the switch circuit will be added so we can turn the device on and off. Glue the switch into place. Push it right up against the button so there is enough space to program the Arduino with FTDI later. I used superglue to stick it in place. We won’t be using any of the pins that it is covering up so you can glue it right onto the board,” he continued.

“Next, twist the JST connector so it is facing the rest of the board instead of the switch. This will allow the battery to plug in (there wasn’t enough space before). Only one of the leads of the connector is in the Arduino now, so it should be easy to twist. You may need to do some supergluing to get the metal pins that stick into the plastic part of the JST connector to stay in place. Solder the button into the cut lead of the JST connector as shown in the picture and you are done with the power circuit.”

After connecting the altitude sensor, Qubist prepares and installs the battery, uploads the sketch and makes a 3D case to house the completed device.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.