Easy, Cheap Locator Beacon <$5




About: The things I make are somewhat minimal in complexity, but I still manage to make some pretty rad gadgets.

Simple general use plug and play locator beacon for lost R/C model, transmitter hunting, etc... I know it looks odd because I used an old empty medicine container as a water resistant project box to encase the beacon.

Step 1: Watch the Video.

The video shows a demo of how to locate the beacon, and also the circuit diagram. It's pretty self explanatory.

In case you are on mobile and cannot see the video embedded: Video

Step 2: Acquire the ESP-201 Module

You can buy a ESP-201 on sites such as eBay.com, Gearbest.com, or Aliexpress.com. The shipping can take up to 40 days. Consider using PayPal to stay slightly more secure.

Step 3: Acquire the Battery and Wires.

I just used an old toy quadcopter battery and spliced jumper wires from eBay, but you can buy these on the sites I mentioned in the last step, or salvage them.

Step 4: Assemble!

Follow the wiring diagram and assembly photos from the video!

The wiring is fairly simple, the ESP-201 pins GPIO15 and any GND pin both go to battery negative (ground wire), and any of the 3.3V pins and the CH_PD aka CHIP_EN pin both go to the battery positive wire.

Then just snap the external antenna on.

Step 5: Build the Reflector Can

Wrap a can such as a Pringles can or in my case a corn meal can with aluminum foil using tape. Make sure your phone fits in it snugly.

If you want to try something to maybe, theoretically speaking, increase range significantly, a cheap USB OTG Host Power Splitter like this one: USB OTG SPLITTER and USB power pack like this one: USB POWER BANK, you might be able to use an external WiFi antenna like this one: USB WIFI ANTENNA to locate the beacon from 3 kilometers away or so. I know that the OTG splitter + USB power bank + USB WiFi antenna + Android phone setup does not work with Motorola phones because of driver issues, and the app may not be compatible either, but you could try it if you want. I saw on YouTube a USB WiFi antenna working with the Nexus 5 1st gen. The purpose of the USB power bank is to supply power to the USB Antenna, because the phone cannot supply that much current.

Step 6: Download App

Android signal meter app with audio Geiger counter style feature: WiFi Analyzer app by Farproc on Google Play.

This app is still in beta and buggy now (10/23/15), but it would work instead of using a foil wrapped can, but with reduced range: WiFi Radar app by Paul Girsas on Google Play

Step 7: Ready to Track!

Comment your ideas for other uses for the beacon. I'd love to hear them!



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    5 Discussions


    Reply 1 year ago

    The esp-201 is a wifi transmitter, not 433mhz


    2 years ago

    Can anyone recommend an iPhone app that is comparable to those mentioned for Android?


    3 years ago

    Could you explain a little about how the ESP-201 works outside of the video? Mobile users can't see videos. Thanks!

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I added a regular non-embedded link to the video, and a wiring diagram, plus more info. Can you access the video on mobile now? I apologize, I started writing this 'ible on Android mobile app, then I switched to PC, so that may be the issue.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks, yes that works for me. It wasn't a problem with the way you did things, just a long standing problem with the mobile app. Nice job by the way, this is pretty cool!