DiddyBorg with QGroundControl – remote control joystick

In this blog I describe how I evolved the joystick / gamepad remote control of my RPI-controlled DiddyBorg to QGroundControl and MAVLink as communication protocol.

This has given me the basis to process more sensors in a standard environment in the future and to plan and execute missions for the DiddyBorg.

Software installation on the Raspberry Pi (RPi)

On the RPi, first install pymavlink, the Python version of the MAVLink libraries. The easiest way to do this is with PIP:

pip install pymavlink

After that you have to replace the module mavutil.py, because otherwise there will be no connection between the RPi and QGroundControl due to a pymavlink-issue. To do this, find the installation location of the pymavlink library with:

pip list -v  

Then replace the mavutil.py module with the version in the github repository for this blog. The new version is backward compatible.

Finally, create a directory, e.g. diddy2QGC into which you copy the Python modules diddy2QGroundControl.py and ThunderBorg3.py. In this directory you then start the Python script later with:

 python diddy2QGroundControl.py

Software installation on the desktop

Install QGroundControl on your desktop.

Starting the applications

Make sure the RPi and your desktop are on the same network and run QGroundControl (QGC) and the Python script (the order is irrelevant).

The DiddyBorg logs into the QGC and you will then find the option to teach your joystick in the Vehicle settings. Please note that diddy2QGroundControl.py in mode 2 uses the roll channel for right/left control and the inverted value of the pitch channel for motor control.

Modernized User Interface for CompuFly by Flytron

In this blog I am presenting my Windows-App USB2PPM4CompuFly for the CompuFly USBtoPPM Converter V2.0 by Flytron. This software replaces the CompuFly – programm available on the Flytron web-page.

The USBtoPPMforCompuFly-app maintains the proven user interface of the CompuFly-programm to a large extend but presents itself as a completely rewritten Windows 10/11 app with a more modern inerface and new features.

When started the app will automatically connect with the converter and the first DirectX capable Joystick or Gamepad found. Your configuration will be saved and reloaded when restarting.

The user interface of the app is intuitive and self-explanatory: simply associate joystick axes, sliders or buttons to channel outputs. In order to accommodate the specifics of your application, channels connected to sliders and axis can be trimmed and the pulse range can be adjusted (EPA).

On top of the feature set of the open source CompuFly.zip version 1.35 buttons can be turned into on/off switches. You would assign a button to an output channel. By checking the “sw” box which replaces the inverse option after you assigning a button to an output channel.

You will find the USBtoPPMforCompuFly app in the Microsoft app store.

 

Remote control DiddyBorg with gamepad or joystick

In this blog I present my Windows app JoystickRC4DiddyBorg for remote control of the DiddyBorg (from PiBorg) with a joystick or gamepad.

The DiddyBorg sample programs published by the manufacturer PiBorg also include a Python remote control script with joystick, but it uses Bluetooth and therefore has a rather limited range.

The app presented here uses the existing WLAN and UDP as protocol to ensure sufficient agility of the remote control. For safety reasons, the time-out logic of the ThunderBorg motor controller is activated.

Software installation

The DiddyBorg needs a Python script JoystickRC4DiddyBorg as receiver, which you can find on github.com. In addition to the receiver program, you will also find a version of the ThunderBorg – Library for Python 3.x in the repository (the sample programs for the DiddyBorg are still based on Python 2.x).

The easiest way is to copy the two files additionally into the directory with the examples – then the script should work without further adjustments of path names.

On the PC side, install the Windows app JoystickRC4DiddyBorg of the same name, which you can get for free from the Microsoft App Store.

Operation

First start the Python script on the DiddyBorg. If you have a screen connected, then the program will log in and indicate that it is waiting for a client.

When you start the PC app, it will automatically search for a DiddyBorg with an active and compatible receiver on the local WLAN (to which both the DiddyBorg and the PC being used must be connected). If no connection can be established, a corresponding error message is displayed.

After the connection has been successfully established, the channels can be assigned to the various joystick axes and keys. Channels 3 and 4 are used as push buttons and allow for example fast / slow rotation (the function of the push buttons can be traced in the Python script).

The assignment of the channels is saved and restored at the next program start.

Open Source Android App for Bluetooth R/C

Overview

The “picCAR” App turns an Android-Tablet or Smartphone with Bluetooth into an R/C transmitter.

The app is based on the Cxem Car 1 Open Source Projekt. The app has been extended and revised to interface with a PiKoder/SSC RX receiver.

The picCar app is open source and released under a GNU General Public License Version 3. The app can be installed via the Play Store. The source code is provided through github.

User interface

picCar Main activity

The user interface of the picCAR app is pretty intuitive and straight forward. You can select one of four control modes by touching the respective screen button: button control, a virtual joystick, accelerometer (control by moving the device) and a combination between accelerometer and a slider. The Bluetooth connection would be established once the mode has been selected.

For building your receiver please refer to the PiKoder/SSC Bluetooth receiver page. The App is supported by all PiKoder/SSC firmware versions. It is recommended though that you use a PiKoder/SSC firmware 1.03 or above in order to deploy the TimeOut-Funktion of the Android app.

picCAR User’s Guide (.pdf File, EN)

The picCAR User’s Guide describes the picCAR app in detail.

Metz Mecatron transmitter 191/1 – conversion into Baby 2 transmitter 191/11?

Some time ago I bought a Metz remote control transmitter 191/1 on ebay. The description stated that the transmitter had been converted to a connection to 12 volts (plug for cigarette lighter).

When I looked at the transmitter a few days ago, I came across an interesting inner workings: in addition to the expected DC voltage regulator for 6 volts according to the battery voltage, a circuit board was built into the battery compartment with a relay, wire potentiometer, motor and a break contact.

After a few tests and considerations, it soon became clear that the transmitter would be clocked by the motor with an interrupter. The switching disk on the motor ensures a pulse-to-pause ratio of 1: 1 and the pulse length can be adjusted via the rotary resistance.

At first this was astonishing to me, since the remote control technology of the time worked more with tone frequencies than with pulse lengths and I tried to imagine the required receiver logic.

After doing some research, I came across the following publication in Funkschau issue 21/1965, in which the process is well explained. Apparently someone has recreated the logic of the transmitter using electromechanical means.

I am not sure whether the approach worked, as my system is quite “built-in” – the integrated voltage regulator is probably the result of a later adjustment / repair, the mechanical and soldering quality are very different, so that the attempts by several owners are assumed and the structure found will certainly not work with its current wiring. But maybe this conversion was also presented in a model making or electronics magazine? – I would be very grateful for any relevant information!

The description of the Metz system in the radio show gives a pulse duration of 5 ms. This would correspond to an engine speed of 6,000 rpm. My measurements with the oscilloscope show that the contacts are at a pulse length< = Bounce heavily for 20 ms. On the other hand, based on the receiver circuit, I can also imagine that a reliable channel differentiation is possible even with larger pulse lengths. As soon as I can get hold of a working receiver, I will check my thesis.

To be continued…

Arduino remote control transmitter with iRangeX multi-protocol module

The previous blog describes the Arduino PPM encoder. Together with a multi-protocol module, you can set up a complete remote control transmitter with little additional effort.

To do this, adapt the module using an Arduino prototype shield. However, not all shields are equally suitable. Some shields do not have a hole pattern in the lower right area but a specific layout like the red circuit board in the picture. But you need a prototype board with a complete breadboard like the blue circuit board.

Arduino Prototype Sields

You make the electrical connection between the Arduino and the module with a five-pole pin header with extra-long pins. Insert the pin header into the socket header on the back of the module. Then position the module on the prototype shield and find the correct position for the module and the soldering points that you need to use.

To ensure a secure hold, I have also provided Velcro tape. Since this additional intermediate layer changes the height of the soldering pins again, you can only solder the pins now.

The wiring for the power supply and for the PPM signal can be found in the picture. The assembly is completed when the module is plugged in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USB2PPM by Arduino

My previous blogs about connecting a joystick to a model remote control via USB have always used one of my PiKoders. But of course an Arduino can also take over the PPM signal generation.

To implement this idea I created an Arduino Sketch USB2PPM_by_Arduino (Open Source), which you can find on Github . The program implements a PPM encoder whose parameters and channel values are set via serial commands.

For example, you can switch the polarity of the output signal and select the number of PPM channels in the range from one to eight in order to adapt the encoder to your transmitter.

The PPM signal can be found on pin D8. To connect to the student input of your model remote control, you will then need a corresponding cable. It may also make sense to use an Arduino prototype shield that accepts a suitable socket to ensure a stable connection.

For the integration of the PPM encoder into your application, the definition of the commands and messages can be found in the header file protocol.h.

Additionally you will find the Joystick2PPM4Arduino app in the Microsoft Store with which you can connect a joystick or gamepad (DirectX-compatible) to your Arduino-based PPM-Encoder. The app connects to the Arduino Uno, Nano and Pro Micro.

Joystick model remote control with iRangeX multiprotocol module and Android smart device – even more compact!

The previous blog described how the originally used remote control transmitter can be replaced by an iRangeX multi-protocol module and how the entire setup can be simplified.

In this blog, an even more compact structure is described in which the USB hub, the USB2PPM PiKoder and the multi-protocol module are mechanically combined into one unit, which then only needs to be connected to the smart device and the joystick.

The following steps are required for the implementation:

    1. Extend the USB hub cable
    2. Modify USB2PPM PiKoder with USB connector
    3. Realize mechanical rack
    4. Assemble and wire modules

Extend the USB hub cable

The common USB OTG hubs (on the go) usually have a very short connection cable (0.1 – 0.15 m). In practical use, this results in restrictions, since the hub must always be close to the smart device and possibly hangs in the air next to the holder and so a “rigid connection” with the PiKoder is not possible.

The extension of the connection cable is not a problem. It is only to be noted that an OTG connector with the corresponding coding (see picture) is still used as the connector, because otherwise the hub will not be recognized and will not be supplied with voltage.

The easiest way to extend the extension is to solder a piece of USB cable of the desired length to the hub board and attach the existing plug with the short cable end to the other end and fix it with shrink tubing.

Modify USB2PPM PiKoder with USB connector

For the direct connection between the USB hub and the PiKoder, the USB2PPM requires a USB plug (see picture on the right) instead of the normal USB micro socket. So that the connector can be installed, saw the circuit board in order to then be able to push through the fastening straps. In addition, a hole is required in order to be able to wire the connection cables of the plug (see picture below).

Then stick the connector to the circuit board with two-component adhesive and equip the circuit board with the remaining components (see pictures below). Note: In the further course of the project I replaced the three-pin header with a Molex connector.

Finally connect the pins of the USB connector with the corresponding PiKoder pins; a thin, insulated wire is used for this. The following pictures show the schematic connection and then you can see the actual wiring on the underside of the circuit board.

Realize mechanical rack

The subrack consists of a simple angled wooden structure. The square base plate with a side length of 85 mm accommodates the hub and the USB2PPM Pikoder. The multi-protocol module is clamped in the vertical fork. To improve the appearance of the cable routing, I drilled a corresponding channel.

Assemble and wire modules

You can see the complete setup in the following pictures. The hub is fixed with double-sided adhesive tape, the USB2PPM PiKoder is plugged in and fixed with screws through the two front mounting holes. It is best to use some washers as spacers so that the circuit board does not bend.

With the micro USB connector, the “compact transmitter” is initially intended for connection to an Android device. With a small adapter, e.g. from Micro USB to USB C plug, the transmitter can of course be easily connected to a Surface Notebook.

Joystick model remote control with multi-protocol TX module iRangeX IRX4 +

In the two previous articles on model remote control with joystick, a “completely normal” remote control transmitter was used to transmit commands. The control sticks and various switches of the transmitter were not needed because the control itself is done by the joystick.

The overall structure can therefore be simplified by using a multi-protocol TX module such as the iRangeX iRX4 + instead of the complete remote control transmitter.

The module can – just like the remote control transmitter – be controlled directly via the PPM signal from the USB2PPM – PiKoder. Since the iRangeX already operates with an operating voltage of 5 volts, the power supply is also provided via the USB2PPM PiKoder and no additional battery is required.

Setup

The USB2PPM PiKoder is set up according to the instructions. Even if you have only equipped one cynch socket so far, the three-pin header can be retrofitted without any problems.

The connection between the iRX4 + module is made via a three-wire cable (Vcc, PPM and Gnd) (see picture below left). At one end of the cable there is a three-pin socket for plugging into the corresponding pin header of the USB2PPM, on the other side the five sockets of the module are adapted – you can see the pin assignment that the module expects in the picture on the right.

No further adjustments or changes are required.

And the structure described here can of course also be used in connection with a Windows notebook.

Joystick model remote control with Spektrum DXe (2)

The first entry in this series used a notebook to translate the joystick inputs into commands for the USB2PPM. Alternatively, an Android (TM) smart device with a corresponding app can be used for selected joysticks.

The hardware structure in the title picture is the same as the configuration in the Part 1 Except for the computer, which is replaced by the smart device, and the hub: a USB OTG hub must be used in conjunction with the smart device.

With regard to the preparation of the remote control transmitter, the same considerations for ergonomics apply and it is advisable to expand the remote control with a switch as described in Part 1.

With regard to the app itself, you can choose between the free app Joystick2PPM and a special app for quadrocopters Joystick4UAV (see below); you can find both apps in the Google Play Store.

Joystick2PPM (Android App)

The user interface of the app largely corresponds to the Windows implementation and is intuitive and easy to understand. The joystick controls are on the left and the servo channels are mapped to the right with drop-down boxes.

The joystick and the USB2PPM are automatically recognized after starting the APP. When using the application for the first time, the user must enable access to the corresponding USB interfaces.

Please note that the app currently only supports a limited number of joysticks and other operating devices. The current list of the compatible devices can be found in the Playstore at any time.

Joystick4UAV (Android App)

The Joystick4UAV app is an advanced version of the Joystick2PPM application, which is geared towards the needs of remote control of quadrocopters or other vehicles (UGV) and boats (USV) with a flight controller.

The basic structure of the Joystick4UAV corresponds to the apps already described. The four joystick axes are mapped to the remote control channels 1-4 according to the usual assignment for flight controllers. You can of course adapt this assignment within the four channels according to your preferences. All channels can be inverted by checking the associated box.

The flight mode is coded in channel 5. There are six modes available. The flight mode selection takes place by pushing the joystick buttons 7-12 (see figure below right), where button 7 sets flight mode “1” and button 12 sets flight mode “6”. The selected flight mode is displayed numerically (“1” in the picture above) and the bar corresponds to the transmitted channel value.

The remaining buttons 1-6 (button B1 .. B6 in the upper area) and the hat switch are available for special functions and can be assigned to channels 6-8 as required. If the box belonging to the channel is activated, the button behaves as a switch.

Please note that only the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick is currently supported in the app.