It’s hard to explain why, but High Altitude Ballooning is fascinating, and a little addictive. We’ve been following the antics of UK-based Andrew Ashe, who together with Mikal Hart (author of the fantastic IridiumSBD library for Arduino) has successfully tracked a balloon, and been able to recover its payload thanks to RockBLOCK.
Their setup is based around an Arduino Teensy, with a RockBLOCK and GPS module attached, powered by 3 AAA lithium batteries.
As this was a test flight, the onboard camera was pretty low-spec, but nonetheless took some pretty impressive photos.
Apparently, that’s London’s Heathrow airport, although the black of space is more impressive!
A 3D view of the balloon’s flight.
The elevation profile, showing a maximum altitude of 27km.
The payload, found in a field, thanks to RockBLOCK.
Andrew’s work regularly takes him to Malawi, and he’s planning a hydrogen balloon flight there where he hopes to exceed an altitude of 35km, and get some amazing photos of Lake Malawi. We’re looking forward to tracking it!read more
As followers of The Register’s epic Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project will know, they recently laid their grubby mitts on a RockBLOCK Iridium satellite comms unit and now they are giving one linguistically deft reader the chance to do the same…
As a condition of the LOHAN launch, the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea (State Air Security Agency) and Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (Spanish Airports and Air Navigation) have asked that The Register have an emergency cut-down for their payload, to detach the meteorological balloon in the event that our mighty orb menaces a centre of population.
Cue the RockBLOCK-Arduino sandwich, lovingly crafted by LOHAN team member Dave Akerman:
There are more details here on just how, in case of emergency, they can command the the Arduino, via the RockBLOCK, to cut short the mission.
Suffice it to say, The Register’s beloved readers quickly demanded an abort box with a proper red button, and their man Dave obliged with this magnificent, if entirely preposterous, piece of garden shed tomfoolery:
As you can see, there’s a key switch to power the beast up, at which point the red LED indicates “power on and booting”. The amber LED shows RockBLOCK connection status. To command the abort Dave has to sit in a big black leather swivel chair, stroking a long-haired white cat with one hand, while lifting the toggle switch cover, and holding the switch up while pressing the red abort button with the other hand.
The green LED will flash to confirm the cut-down command has been sent, then light continuously when the the deed is done. At this point, we will attempt to make our escape from the burning LOHAN volcanic lair command centre by either maglev monorail, amphibious car, personal jetpack or autogyro.
So, as is The Register’s custom, they now need a backronym for our box of doom, and we have offered one RockBLOCK to the person whose suggestion ultimately beats off the competition to rise to LOHAN glory…read more
We’ve been working with Arduino guru Mikal Hart (of Arduiniana fame), and we’re pleased to announce the release of his IridiumSBD library. It’s designed specifically to make it easy to integrate RockBLOCK into your Arduino project.
As well as controlling the RockBLOCK’s features through a simple API, it also takes care of retries and timeouts in marginal conditions. It’s non-blocking too, using a familiar callback loop.
Mikal’s also written a great sample Sketch, ‘Beacon’ which makes it really easy to turn your GPS, RockBLOCK and Arduino host into an autonomous (and truly global) tracking device!
Read more, and download the library at http://arduiniana.org/libraries/iridiumsbd/
Don’t panic! There’s no need to get the harpoon out – this Kraken is man made. The pupils at Sutton Grammar School made an ocean drifter to measure wave parameters and currents and aptly named it the Kraken. The main concept behind the buoy is its primary usage as an oil response unit which aims to make it easier for oil companies to clean up spills quickly and effectively.
It was released on Sunday 7th April off the coast of East Anglia, with the aim measuring wave amplitude and frequency. It was a proof of concept buoy with a second to be deployed by the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) betweens the coasts of Scotland and Iceland in May.
The Kraken’s progress across both seas can be viewed here
Here’s the electronic wizardry bit:-
The electronics are based around an Atmel Atmega 328 and use a uBlox GPS for positioning. The RockBLOCK Satellite Modem was easily configured for use on the buoy and for very simple satellite communications. The relatively low power was also a big bonus as the pupils wanted the Kraken to be at sea for as long as possible.
The team were originally involved in high altitude balloon launches. However, with the introduction of affordable
satellite transceivers, building Ocean Drifters is another vehicle that students can use to develop and hone their engineering skills.
Back at the school a Raspberry Pi has been employed to help display the Kraken’s journey on a monitor in one of the school’s corridors. The entire school is watching to see where the sea monster will end up.
Want to know more? Then visit the website
We have a few hundred GPS modules that need a good home. Originally built for a tracking project, they’ve served their purpose and now we’d like to offer them to you at a low price. They play very nicely with Arduino, as shown in the photos below. And Raspberry PI too, of course.
Based on the AARLogin GPS-3T module, they use the SiRF III chipset and have a built-in active antenna. Our little PCB also provides some big capacitors to maintain the GPS almanac in case you choose to switch the power off for a few hours – this means a much faster fix when you wake it up.
Connected straight to an Arduino UNO:
Note that the cable assembly comes with it, but the tail ends are unterminated. All you need to know is:
Black – Ground
Red – 3.3V
Brown – Sleep (pull low to power-save GPS)
Yellow – TX
Blue – RX
A really simple Arduino sketch to get started:
Output is standard 9600 baud serial NMEA sentences. There’s an excellent GPS NMEA decoder library for Arduino here which works with this module.
We’re offering them at £12 each. Click here to buy yours. When they’re gone, they’re gone!read more
Just a quick note to say that we’ve updated the RockBLOCK Developer guide to include some more detailed information about input current consumption. You’ll find the new version in the Downloads section, or here.read more
This week (Tuesday 9th – Thursday 11th April) we will be exhibiting at Ocean Business 2013, in Southampton.
On display will be our RockSTAR units, ideal for tracking fleets of vessels, buoys, and remote workers.
Also being demonstrated is the RockBLOCK – a simple-to-use plug and play unit which allows you to add two-way communications to your remote sensors. If you operate equipment which is regularly out of GSM coverage, and you need reliable two-way communications, the RockBLOCK could well be the answer!
We’re on stand W43 – please come along and say hello!
For more information see the official event websiteread more
Rock Seven is exhibiting on stand 48 at the EGU2013 meeting this week – if you’re in Vienna at the conference, please come and have a chat to us, and see the RockBLOCK in action. We’d love to spend some time showing you what it can do!read more
A new RockBLOCK Product Information Sheet has been added to the Downloads section. It’s designed as a simple two-page information sheet to describe what the RockBLOCK does, and how it can benefit you.read more
We’d like to thank one of our earliest customers, Razvan Dragomirescu, for his work with RockBLOCK so far. He’s the creator of a new service called Veri.Fi, which is a clever way of making an http request where the return value is based on the real-time response from a real live human. A bit more about that later – it’s due to launch in February.
Razvan has been testing just about every function of RockBLOCK. He’s asked us a few questions we weren’t expecting, helped us to iron out some bugs in our management and billing systems, and made some good suggestions to improve our documentation. He’s also developed a really good Node.js library, which he’s happy to contribute back to the RockBLOCK community.
You can download the library here:
If you find it useful, please let us know! If you don’t know much about Node.js or why you might choose to use it (we didn’t), these articles will help: