Picture of Radio Telemetry for a Model Rocket
Flying model rockets is fun, but there is always the question of how high did it go. Using a programmable micro-controller and some sensors, you can monitor the entire phase of flight and measure acceleration and altitude, among other things. With this project, I’ll show you how I did just that, using off-the-shelf open source hardware and software to build an Arduino compatible flight telemetry system.

Model rocketry telemetry is nothing new. Amateurs have been stuffing electronics in rockets since the beginning of the hobby. A programmable micro-controller coupled with a low-power radio, however, allows us to take the hobby to a whole new level. What makes this project notable is:
- Wireless data transmission allowing in-flight monitoring or post-flight data downloading without the need to physically access the on-board hardware.
- Constructed from easily available open source hardware and software, allowing anyone with modest soldering and programing skills to put together a configuration to acquire and record any data they desire. No custom PCBs, chip programmers, or toolchains to setup as in my last well received, but little followed Instructable (http://www.instructables.com/id/Buggy-A-Crafty-Programmable-LED-Creature/)!

If you haven't heard of Arduino yet, or if you are rolling your eyes at "yet another Arduino project", you should read Phillip Torrone's take on it and his prediction that "within the next 5 to 10 years, the Arduino will be used in every school to teach electronics and physical computing."

Details, in brief:
A 50 gram, on-board micro-controller collects pressure and acceleration data and then transmits it on 915 mHz using a Hope RM12 module at a rate of about 50 reading per second. A separate micro-controller connected to a laptop via USB receives the data and transfers it to a serial port. A software program running on the same computer graphically displays the data as it is collected, and also saves it to disk for further analysis. Piece of cake, right?


olivia12324 months ago
wow i am going to use that
Starsword75 months ago

great idea!

another way to calculate the height of a rocket is to stand a set distance away, use a protractor to measure the angle relative to the ground and use trigonometry, but this requires less work and allows you to find more information about your rocket.

kbckiwi1 year ago
You could try using an Xbee radio. There are plenty of versions available with different ranges from 100 meters up to 16km
halamka1 year ago

I wish the computer was a commodore or atari.

Lt. Rooney1 year ago
I know it's been a while, but I can't get any kind of response from the JeeLink when I upload Transmit. Is there some further change that I should make to get this to work? I know the included libraries needed to be updated before any of the codes would compile.
MakersBox (author)  Lt. Rooney1 year ago
When all else fails, fall back to the last working sketch. Have you been able to get the example Jeenode code for each of the sensors to work? What all have you got hooked up?
The RF12 demo works fine on the JeeLink and both the receive and transmit sketches compile. I have the Jeenode and plugs connected as you recommend in the instructable. But when I try to test it I get no response from the receiver.
MakersBox (author)  Lt. Rooney1 year ago
Sorry you are having trouble. I'll have to pull out my hardware and see if I can replicate the problem. What Arduino IDE are you using?
1:1.0.5, the most recent stable version.
jhunmar1003 years ago
Hey aspro648, how did you make the rocket??? can you gave me a steps in making your rocket...???

God Bless.
MakersBox (author)  jhunmar1003 years ago
Surely somebody has done a soda-rocket Instructable. I built mine based on an article in Make Vol. 5.
Wazzupdoc4 years ago
Great addition to the literature of Makeology. Always something to glean from other's projects. We all stand on the shoulders of giants and you've done some nice "up-stretching"! Thanks for a great 'ibble.
Tried your project, but the sketch doesn't compile. You made changes to the Ports library that are not part of the official version "setRange, getRange, setSettings, & getSettings. Could you tell us what they are?

MakersBox (author)  grateful_dead4 years ago
Sorry! It turns out I modified the Ports library to get the accelerometer +-8g settings. I've uploaded the modified file to the instructable. Let me know how that works.
_Scratch_4 years ago
A water rocket can pull 8Gs?? Wow...
MakersBox (author)  _Scratch_4 years ago
8G was the limit on the accelerometer. The simulator calculated 60G. That's probably more than twice what a Estes rocket with a C motor would pull. I've got a 250G sensor now and just need some flight time!
again, wow. And i wouldn't be surprised if an Estes rocket with a c motor could pull 40-60Gs, those things are fast, if you use a d motor, you can barely see it leave the ground before its 700 feet in the air.
sbiltoft4 years ago
Could you put a small antenna with an amplifier on it and get a range of miles? Or would it be possible to use GPS. I'm wondering in hopes of doing a near space balloon project without having to use the SPOT GPS system that we have. I've done the project with the SPOT and a CBL with sensors but I thought it would be cooler to do the project more from scratch...
MakersBox (author)  sbiltoft4 years ago
If you are looking to extend range, I think an XBEE radio would be the way to go. They have a higher power transmitter and more antenna options.

For a balloon, I would definitely go GPS because you would want to track it's horizontal movement as well as altitude. I've seen a couple of balloon projects that return fantastic photos from 100k+ feet.
OK. We'll continue with using the SPOT GPS system then, tt worked well last time. Plus you can track it on the internet which makes it nice.
snooprob4 years ago
Great project, and i appreciate the video. Why do you need the wireless capabilities, when it seems you can download it via USB after the flight? Is it just for convenience?
MakersBox (author)  snooprob4 years ago
The original idea was to monitor it in-flight, but the range has been limited. It is nice to not have to hook it up to query it, and also, since the non-volatile memory is limited, it lets you start the read & record cycle right before launch.

I've got the radio range up to 300 feet now, and am working on a standard Estes rocket to try it out on.
ANDY!4 years ago
what's the range for the wireless transmission?
MakersBox (author)  ANDY!4 years ago
The way it was set up, only about 100 ft. I think I had a loose solder joint. I just put on 1/2 wave mono-pole wires (~6") on both the transmitter and receiver it was getting good reception at 300 feet (91 m). The transmit power is only 15 ma, so I guess we can hope for too much more than that.
CrLz4 years ago
This is an awesome build and a great Instructable! Thanks for sharing and the links.

Well Done!
bertus52x114 years ago
Great! I'm working on an I'ble involving shocks and I always wondered if the electronics would survive it.
You have answered my question!
That is awesome!
wizgirl4 years ago
thanks! i think i'll try this!
TSC4 years ago