Arduino?! - RC Groups
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Mar 08, 2012, 08:25 PM
Wrend's Avatar


I picked up the Arduino Mega 2560 R3 microcontroller board this last Saturday from one of my local RadioShacks (imagine that), and can't get enough of it. This thing is so cool!

To a lesser degree, electronics engineering is another hobby of mine, along with RC, and a little HAM radio, astronomy, and theoretical physics on the side. I've never programmed a microcontroller more directly in this way before now though, and while I did take a class in C++ over a decade ago, I never really did much with it. So I've got some catching up to do.

Arduino is basically a full open-source software/hardware microcontroller programming solution, designed more with the hobbyist in mind (though capable enough for the prototyping professional and their less resource needy design applications).

This Arduino board connects up to a computer with a printer style USB cable, and the compiling software to program it is a free download from their website. The programming language and library is based on something called "Wiring," which is basically a type of C/C++. The software bundle has a lot of example programs (or "sketches," as they call them) to play around with too. There are also on-line guides on their site to help out the newbies like me, and their forum has a large and active following.

Probably many of you guys in this section of the RCG forum have already heard about "the Arduino revolution," but it's new to me, and gives me options for setting up radio, servo, sensor, motor, LED, LCD display, Wi-Fi, GPS, and so on, programmable interface and control solutions. Why would I need that? To build a bad- semi-autonomous stereoscopic FPV RC robot with range triangulating lasers to take over the world with in proper style, of course! (Alright, so I've only programmed in some servo movements and Morse code on one of the on-board LEDs so far, but it's almost the weekend again...)

If you're into this sort of stuff, and perhaps more of a newbie like me that wants to jump headfirst into it, consider this an emphatic recommendation. I won't bother you guys with links. (Google is your friend.)

Oh, and for the record, it's pronounced arr-dwee-no.
Last edited by Wrend; Mar 10, 2012 at 02:32 AM.
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Mar 13, 2012, 09:21 PM
Happy Newbie
I've recently become fascinated with the autopilot uses of the arduino. I had heard about the programmable microcontrollers ages ago through a similarly interested family member, but never thought I had the means to play with them, it always seemed so expensive. (As an aside, he used an old atmel IIRC to replace a broken timer function on his drier! Gave it new life and more controllability with the push of a button!)

The autopilots have gotten into my brain and I can't stop thinking about putting a 'brain' into my crawler. That and FPV. Stereoscopic FPV FTW!

Some fascinating and fun uses of the new technology for sure.
Mar 14, 2012, 08:54 PM
Wrend's Avatar
Speaking of autopilots, Chris Anderson (the Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine) started DIY Drones (.com), and they use Arduinos in their autopilots.

I think what makes Arduino different than just using a microcontroller is that it's more approachable for the general hobbyist, DIYer, and hacker, having a simpler user interface that you can just download and program the chip with, and not having to load the initial boot stuff onto the chip. Being all open-source helps too I think, that way people are free to modify it however they want and share their solutions with others.

I personally probably wouldn't have bothered getting into microcontrollers for RC, if it meant I had to start from scratch and program in assembly, or similar.

The servo control code is almost drop in and plug and play for the digital pins on the board to connect up to the servos' signal wires. What's going to be a little more challenging for me is programming it to read all of the servo output channels from a 14 channel receiver, store and update that data, then mix it or use it to trigger different things. I'll probably program gyro feedback into the Arduino to use eventually too. From looking through the forum over there and talking with some of the guys, it looks like it's doable. The trick will be programming in interrupts that read the servo signal pulses instead of having the program wait looking for each signal.
Last edited by Wrend; Mar 14, 2012 at 09:02 PM.
Mar 14, 2012, 08:57 PM
Happy Newbie
Yeah, I just registered over there, have been lurking for ages. Funny how each site references the other, I've seen quite a few links from diydrones back to here too.

Good luck with your project, it sounds very interesting!
Mar 14, 2012, 10:45 PM
Team of ONE....or...Team Me
DeadTom's Avatar
I love micro-controllers, I have several of the pro boards. One of them is in my electric Cobra helicopter, here is the link here on RCGroups:
It is contolling the led's different flash rates and a servo which drives the 30mm cannon and the TSU on the front of the heli.
Mar 20, 2012, 02:29 AM
Wrend's Avatar
Sorry, Scurvy, I meant the Arduino forum was where I was talking to some other Arduino users about programming it, but the DIY Drones site is definitely cool too. (Haven't signed up at DIY Drones yet myself.)

And thanks for the well wishes. I'll post some code here with notes once I've got everything sorted out and working, so people can program in their own Arduino brains between receivers, gyros, servos, and ESCs to do any kind of programming they want.


Thanks for sharing your account of how you're using the microcontroller, Tom. I took a look through your build log there. Looks pretty cool.
Last edited by Wrend; Mar 20, 2012 at 02:35 AM.
Apr 07, 2012, 10:47 AM
Registered User
You def want to look at the ArduPilot/Mega and its source code. Even though the board is slightly different physically, than the on you bought (i recently bought mine too), it is the same, but with broken out headers for the servos. Also, look at the links, as there is source code available for you own sketches and stuff! Its all really cool, but be sure to wire it up where your receiver has primary control. When a bug appears, its not the happiest to have it appear when your $1000 aircraft is 1000ft LOS and you have no real control
Jul 27, 2012, 03:17 AM
Waiting for parts
6788's Avatar
Arduino is awesome. I have several, and if you're interested in this kind of thing you might like to know about the Raspberry Pi.
It is in many ways similar; about the same price, almost the same size (larger than the Duemilanove, Uno, and Leonardo, but smaller than the Mega as far as I know.). The difference is that it is almost a computer. It has an ARM SoC (SoC = System on a Chip, it has the CPU, GPU and (256Mb of) ram in there) running at 700mhz, 2x USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet, composite video out, and GPIO (GPIO = General Purpose Input/Output, meaning you can control physical things like with the Arduino), and runs Linux (It can run ARM versions of Debian, Fedora, and various other OS's, which means you can do things like web browsing, watching movies, coding, etc.).

All for $35, or $25 if you get the one without LAN.

I haven't fiddled with mine all that much yet, but it seems awfully neat and I'm in the process of building a robot with my brothers that will be controlled over the internet using it and Arduino.


P.S. I haven't tried them, but sells knockoff Arduinos at rock bottom prices ($16 for a Nano instead of $40). I've had good experience with dealextreme with all the orders I have made and plan to try one of thier Arduinos soon.

P.P.S. You may have to wait a while for your RasPi; there is enormous demand and their site was knocked down when it was released. I had to wait five weeks plus shipping time...
Jul 27, 2012, 10:47 AM
Happy Newbie
@6788: Please point me towards a build thread or information re: your RaspPi Bot. I've been watching/waiting for a RaspPi for AGES, I've finally come to close enough to the top of the waiting list to backorder one, so now I'm waiting in another line!

Also, I saw recently a board designed as a RaspPi-Arduino interface, to get one to talk to the other. Sorry I don't have the url on hand!
Jul 27, 2012, 01:08 PM
Waiting for parts
6788's Avatar
Originally Posted by Scurvy
@6788: Please point me towards a build thread or information re: your RaspPi Bot. I've been watching/waiting for a RaspPi for AGES, I've finally come to close enough to the top of the waiting list to backorder one, so now I'm waiting in another line!

Also, I saw recently a board designed as a RaspPi-Arduino interface, to get one to talk to the other. Sorry I don't have the url on hand!
The bot is still in its early stages. We're using cordless drill motor/gearboxes with lipos for power, though we may change that since one of the lipos we got from HK was DOA. We're going to use and Ardweeny for the motor control since it has built-in PWM, with the Pi for the high level stuff. The plan is to make a capable platform with the RasPi that we can expand with modules. Some of the ones we've been thinking of are Telepresence, Voice control (not anything fancy, this is the code we'd use: Voice Controlled Robot using a Raspberry Pi (2 min 46 sec)
), and other things like that.

The RaspPi-Arduino interface sounds interesting... we're haven't decided how we're going to get the 'duinos talking to the Pi, and this could help if we can't use GPIO to the digital inputs.
Jul 28, 2012, 08:02 PM
Happy Newbie
It was from Hack A Day:

Sounds like a very cool idea!
Jul 28, 2012, 08:20 PM
Waiting for parts
6788's Avatar
Thanks for the link; I'll have to look into this further when we get to that stage of the build. The one flaw I can see is that it looks like it can only handle one 'duino, and we're planning for 2 plus -- there might be a way to get it to talk to another arduino though.

Last edited by 6788; Sep 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM.

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