Introduction: FPV Ground Stations - Simple Guide and a Basic Overview of My GS Build

Picture of FPV Ground Stations - Simple Guide and a Basic Overview of My GS Build

THANK YOU

Its been 6 months since my last instructable.
Thank you to the many people who liked and voted for my last one. Its because of you I have made time to write this FPV ground station instructable!!!!! WOOOOO.

If you find this helps please click the like button :)
Again if i get a good response i may write an A-Z Guide.
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FPV ground stations -


So you have built or bought a drone or RC vehicle of some kind and want to take it to the next level with a FPV ground station. Woooo. This guide will outline what you will need and why. It will not give full instructions on how to build an exact ground station from start to finish but rather share what I have made in order for you to design and make your own. Why ??? Well hopefully it encourages you to create and plan your own and learn along the way.
Im all about learning and its not very difficult anyway.

PLEASE!!!!!!
No matter how autonomous your setup is always have someone as a spotter who TAKES THE RESPONSIBILITY SERIOUS!!!! So if you lose signal or they notice something they can tell you. They can also tell you if you are starting to fly too far away!!!! I know a guy (experienced RC pilot) who was trying his new fatshark goggles out with a plane doing FPV with his drunk brother spotting for him. His brother went off to get another beer without his knowledge and he lost the FPV signal. So in a panic took off his goggles to have no idea in which direction his aircraft went. They searched around the property for many hours but NEVER found it!!!! To make things worse he lost his wallet while searching for it, which was full of cash as it was Christmas!!!!! Ouch… This also outlines that you should investigate and field-test the capabilities of your equipment such as range of your FPV Tx and your Remote Tx/Rx and fly within its limits.

****WARNING****PLEASE READ THIS FIRST!!!!!!!

Please remember that current restrictions vary between countries!!!!! In Australia the current laws permit
flight at less than 400 feet AGL; and in visual line of sight; and outside controlled airspace; and more than 3 nautical miles from an aerodrome or aircraft landing area; and not over a populous area; and not within 30 metres of a person, other than the operator’s personnel.

Laws on frequencies exist!!!!
Usually 2.4Ghz is ok for your remote and 5.8Ghz is ok for FPV.
(interference can occur as many wifi and other systems can operate on the same frequencies)
(this means with FPV you may get some momentary static in your feed)
(this means with your remote much larger problems such as your aircraft getting confused as parts of another signal on that frequency is telling it to do random things such as jitter around and not receive your commands).

That said a lot of the time it should be ok. Try avoid populated environments as thats where these interferences exist. That is another reason why it is better to fly in more remote areas.

TELEMETRY(not always) is around 433Mhz or 900Mhz (these can be restricted frequencies in some countries!!!)
Consult your local airspace authority to find out which frequency is legal in your area.
i think around 433mhz is ok for Europe (not sure)
i think around 900mhz is ok for Usa(not sure)

In Australia 900mhz is ok:)

So if you planning on flying long flights many kms away over cities, over 400ft AGL or over crowds of people than think again. Its not a good idea.
Why???
1. Your intruding on airspace and if you get caught you will lose ALL your gear and be fined a lot of money!!!!!
2. You could cause interference to commercial aircraft!!!!
3. You can lose control and or signal easily and without warning!!!
4. You could get lost (most common mistake in FPV)
4. Its expensive for all the gear to achieve that and you probably wont need it anyway!!!
5. If you get bad interference on your frequency it can tell your aircraft to do crazy things like full throttle spirals of death!!!!!
6. Its illegal and not worth the risk to losing your gear and or hurting someone!!!!
8. With terrorism laws as they are now you could be in BIG BIG trouble. (authorities don't find it amusing)
7. You will ruin the freedom for others to use this gear and laws will be made to ban it.

BE RESPONSIBLE!!!!

Nearly every month the news reports a NEGATIVE RC drone related story about some idiot with a phantom.
Please they are not toys!!!! They might look like toys but they can hurt people badly especially if they fall from a great height!!! Consider other peoples safety. If you see someone doing something stupid with this gear call the cops or tell them to stop being idiots!!!! Otherwise they will make laws to stop everyone using this gear!!!!

Step 1: What Is a Ground Station?

Picture of What Is a Ground Station?

So what is a ground station???

Basically a ground station is a link or base that communicates with your aircraft. It depends all on what setup you are flying with. The main functions of my Ground station are Telemetry and an FPV feed.

Telemetry???? Telemewhaaaat???? Whats that???

Basically Telemetry is DATA that can be (depending on your setup) sent from the aircraft while it is in flight.
Common Data sent could include ; (If you have the right sensors and compatible board or receiver setup)
Battery Voltage, Amp draw, Altitude, Direction and GPS DATA as well as MUCH MUCH MORE!!!!!
So you are frothing about telemetry now!!! It can be expensive but it is not necessary for most people.
Telemetry can also be overlaid onto a FPV feed in the form of an OSD. (On Screen Display)
Again this all depends on YOUR setup!!!!!! Some receivers also have telemetry functions as extra.
SOME FRSky modules and receivers can support telemetry if you buy a sensor hub and sensors appropriate to the data you wish to monitor. You will need to check either if your flight control board or receiver permits this. GOOGLE IT. Get to know what you have and what others are achieving with it.

Next is the FPV setup. Im assuming if your reading this you have a basic understanding of FPV. If not do some homework before buying anything. Wise man say the second you buy something you will find a better product or learn that you have wasted your money. Spend a lot of time reading in forums and researching the products your thinking about purchasing!!! Search in forums, ask other people and google your ass off. This could help you get a reliable setup that works well in your area/country etc.

But always remember people have different opinions. Some may swear by some products and others hate them and have had bad experiences. Its up to you to make up your own mind. Sometimes dumb mistakes happen at the factory but sometimes dumb people hook things up wrong in a hurry and are actually the ones to blame!!!
Take your time and dont be quick to point the finger. Read the manuals!!!! if it does not have one google for it or find a forum. Maybe the place you bought it from has a link. Sometimes the factory do a crappy job soldering a connection or it wears away quickly. Have a look. Use your brain. If you are confident you see what the problem is and you feel it is achievable to fix by yourself go for it but remember at your own risk.

PLEASE!!!!
Double and triple check what voltage things run on and what polarity they are BEFORE hooking them up to a battery!!!

Step 2: Things You Should Consider and What Your System Could Include.

Think about
-A plan (cos if you don’t know what you want you wont achieve what you want!!!)
-What do you want it to display/hold/carry?
-Where do you want your components and how are you going to layout your wiring and circuits etc?
-How are you going to power your components? Lipo? Sealed Acid Battery?
-Are they all compatible with each other?
-Are they reliable?
-Do i need them?
-Can i afford all this for what it is?
-Do i have the tools required?
-Get GOOGLING and get some ideas about how you want your Ground station to look!!!

About your components;
-What voltage do they require?
-Are they are requiring a common voltage? 11.1- 12v ????
-Is your battery capable of powering for long enough?
-What is your strategy to avoid battery damage or stability if using lipos?
-Are your antennas for the correct frequency?
-Are your antennas the right polarity? (RPSMA male to RPSMA female) (SMA male to SMA female)
-Do you require adapters from RPSMA to SMA etc?
-Is your Remote (transmitter) a different frequency to your FPV transmitter?
Commonly most remotes are 2.4Ghz so if this is what your remote uses you CANNOT use a 2.4Ghz FPV transmitter because they will make bad crazy magic happen!!!!

-Commonly if you are using a 2.4Ghz Remote a 5.8Ghz FPV setup is the way to go for most users including myself.

Your FPV system should include.
- FPV Monitor and or FPV goggles
- A power source(battery)
- A FPV receiver (some monitors and most goggles have one built in) must also receive the same channels as your FPV transmitter!!!!!! (not your remote/transmitter)

Your Telemetry system should include.
- All Hubs, sensors etc.
- Both sides of a compatible telemetry link!!! (So a receiver and a transmitter) again these TX and RX systems are extra and are separate to your FPV TX and RX and your Remote TX and RX

AND OR

- Optional OSD (on screen display) which can be connected to your FPV transmitter so the video feed has your sensor data on the video.

After considering all this you could also include;

- USB and other power ports (if you know how to achieve this and need it)
- Lights
- Fans to cool your components when they get hot
- Joystick or another mode of control (if you know how)
- Computers/tablets
- Switches and led displays
- Antenna Tracker setups
- Speakers
- Phone chargers
- Mini DVR (Video Recorder)

Whatever else you want!!!!!

WARNING

AGAIN I DON’T KNOW YOUR COMPONENTS!!! Check and plan before connecting anything!!!!

****HELPFUL TIP

DON’T TURN ON ANY TRANSMITTER AND OR RECEIVER WITHOUT A SUPPLIED ANTENNA CONNECTED OR ALMOST INSTANTLY YOU WILL FRY IT!!!!!!!! EVEN FOR A SECOND!!!! OR YOU WILL HAVE A NON FUNCTIONAL SCALE MODEL OF SAID TRANSMITTER AND OR RECEIVER!!!!!!!


That said please connect everything up to test it before you start to fit it with in the case. This is so you know it worked before you powered or installed it to your case and if it doesn’t work you may either be doing something wrong or may have a defective product.

From here on I will display and briefly discuss the process of my ground station build. I wont go in depth into the wiring the electronics, as it gets confusing and a lot I cant remember. I will share from memory what I can without taking it to pieces.

Step 3: Starting Your Build.

Picture of Starting Your Build.

YOU WILL NEED

- A case (obviously think about what you want to fit within it before buying one!!!)
- A battery/power source
- Your chosen FPV gear (if any)
- Your chosen Telemetry gear or OSD (if any)
- Switches (if you plan to get all high tech)
- Suitable Wire
- APPROPRIATE Connections for your FPV components (if needed)
(if you are fitting and wiring switches be careful simple mistakes can fry your new gear!)
- Soldering iron and solder
- Other assorted tools

Optional

-Multimeter (very handy)
-Carbon fibre or in my case carbon fibre looking vinyl (Vinyl looks good/ can wrap your wood in it)
-Fuse system (to protect your stuff)
-Voltage display (needs to be able to handle the voltage of your power source!!!)
-Other wanted components
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I decided to use car audio connections to connect to my switches. Some of them slide on perfectly so i did not need to solder them. I bough mine at Jaycar but you can should be able to find them at any electronics store.

Look for a case with some elements to work with if you can. Cases can be expensive!!! I started by placing a lot of my gear inside the case to see how much space i used. I then measured up some rough dimensions and began the epic quest!!!!!

I had some large plastic hinges laying around so i made a compartment for wires and the battery.
If you have a case like mine be aware it may get smaller the deeper you get to the bottom. I had to cut some inward angles to get appropriate pieces to fit. I made a divider out of a piece of perspex i had. The rest i used just bits of plywood attached to a sub frame i made from a piece of wood i found. It did not need a lot of support as it rests on tabs within the case. Make sure it fits nicely so when it is closed you still have room without your monitor etc fighting against your wood frame. I rushed into it in excitement but then realised i then needed to take it apart in order to make holes for the switches, leds and my voltage display etc. DAHHHH


Step 4: Away We Go

Picture of Away We Go

MARK IT OUT
When you think you have a decent internal framework to work with its time to move onward.
Where do you want your to mount your switches and leds? Try get a mental picture of what your after. Mark it with a pen. Recheck its correct and the dimensions are correct. We want a nice snug fit if we can help it. At this point when you have figured out and marked exactly where you want your switches etc to go its time to start drilling and hacking in some holes. Test to see if they fit well or they need a little bit more space to fit. Take your time. Depending on what tools you have and the size of your switches you may be able to use a dremel tool. But you could just drill out some holes and file and cut away what you can manually.

Your going to have to mount your monitor if you have one. I do not have a photo but i made a bracket and connected my monitor to the framework. I had some screws that happened to fit nicely with the mounting holes of my monitor. If you use your own screws make sure they do not go too far into the monitor or they may damage and or short it out. If the screws/bolts fit but are too long then try make a spacer if possible so they only can screw in so far.

WIRE PREP
Start any preparations for wiring your gear up to switches etc. If possible test them before soldering to switches. This is why i used the spade connectors as they can easily be removed if needed. I made removable wire setups to link between switches fuses and leds and the opposite compatible power connector to plug into my monitors power input. If you plan to do this make sure you check the polarity first. If your monitor came with a mains power connector/transformer you can test this to see. Mine was center positive as i believe most would be. Which means the middle of the plug is positive and around the sleeve in negative incase you did not already know. Please be careful!!!! Use a multimeter only if you understand what you are doing. If not get some help from a tech savvy friend.
REMEMBER electricity can be very dangerous. Be cautious and TAKE YOUR TIME AND KEEP IT SAFE!!!


Step 5: Wrapping and Wiring It Up

Picture of Wrapping and Wiring It Up

Vinyl wrapping

Ok its all coming together now your getting pumped being able to see it all coming together before your very eyes.
If you used wood like i did you may have purchased some sleek pro looking vinyl to wrap your frame in.
I cant remember how much i paid for mine but i got it on ebay and it was for car mods or something.
To give a rough estimate I paid around $30 but i had a heap left over for future uses incase i decide to add or refit my case. Make sure you measure NOT JUST the surface area and take all the visible sides into account.
I ordered over triple what I needed as i had not option for a smaller amount but It came in VERY handy as i forgot to cut a hole for my voltage display. DOH!!!! So i had to rip all the vinyl off the top frame and cut a hole then REWRAP in the vinyl again!!!! Do not make the same mistake!!!! Double check and look at your plan.

BEFORE WRAPPING MAKE SURE THE TOP SURFACES ARE SANDED AND SMOOTH!!!!!!!!
OTHERWISE WHEN THE SUN HITS YOUR VINYL YOU WILL SEE THE DIFFERENCES.
ANY LARGE GAPS ETC SHOULD BE FILLED IN WITH PUTTY TO ACHIEVE THE BEST FINISH!!!

SAVE ALL YOUR OFFCUTS AND STICK THEM BACK ON THE WAXED SHEET THAT YOU PEELED THEM OFF!!!!!

The reason for this is as you start to wrap smaller things you may be able to use these instead of cutting more from the roll. I used mine to cover some of the frame that i could see when i opened the hinged compartment.

Cutting the holes in the vinyl for your switches is next. I stabbed a hole in the center of the vinyl covering the gaps and then cut from the middle to each corner then cut them in half and folded them inward on to the back.
Test if your switches still fit!!! Mine was all good:) If they dont you may need to cut the vinyl back at the very corners. Remember you want the switch to cover the edges of the vinyl!!!

Wiring things up

BEFORE YOU HOOK IT UP REMEMBER ANTENNAS ALWAYS GO ON BEFORE POWERING UP ANY OF YOUR RADIO TRANSMITTERS OR RECEIVERS!!!!! MAKE SURE THE PAIRS ARE ON THE SAME CHANNEL (CONSULT THE MANUAL AND TEST EVERY CHANNEL CHANGING BOTH EVERY TIME TO FIND THE BEST QUALITY CHANNEL FOR YOUR FPV FEED)
Now we can start fiddling around with the wiring which you should have tested to function properly first.
Label your connections and have a visual circuit diagram of how it all connects.
When you are sure it all is correct start sliding in those switches and things and hook them all up.

Step 6: TEST TIME

Picture of TEST TIME

-TESTING TESTING

So your sitting there like Clark Grizwald in national lampoons christmas about to turn on your crazy masterpiece. Its make it or bake it. To save face maybe test it alone so your not the next video sent to funniest home videos or youtube. IT WORKS!!!!! YESSSS AND PUNCH THE SKY!!!! YELL LIKE TOM HANKS IN CASTAWAY WHEN HE MAKES A FIRE FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!(hopefully you did not make a fire too!!!)

Well thats it thanks for reading and if you feel this helped you click the like button :)
AND if you like my instructables please subscribe!!!
I make a lot of crazy things so hopefully when i refine them a bit more i will make instructables for them too :)

UNTIL MY NEXT TIME

HAPPY MAKING

Comments

Zuhdan Ubay (author)2015-04-18

Thankyou.

scmeyn (author)2015-03-03

Great one, you have given me a number of ideas. I was going to have a box to carry around the drone and all that I needed in it. Now I will have a box attached to a box, one to carry around the drone and parts etc, the other will be the FPV ground station.

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