Lost model locator || Distance-RC Beacon V2 - RC Groups
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Jul 18, 2015, 06:14 PM
Registered User
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Lost model locator || Distance-RC Beacon V2


Some of you (FPV) flyers may be interested in this:

http://distance-rc.com/store/beaconv2

If your model is lost, you can use a walky-talky with a directional antenna (yagi) to locate your model. It transmits three beeps, each of a lower power level. If you hear few tones, it means you are far away, and if you hear more, you are getting close.

The beacon uses a pre-programmed delay time. When the beacon is turned on it goes in sleep mode, and after the delay time has passed, the beacon will start transmitting. This is used to save battery when the plane is in normal flight.

The user can imput a custom delay and operating frequency, that we program on the beacon as factory default. The settings can be changed with the button, or with a serial adapter, with the Beacon software.

The current specs (version 2) are:
  • Standalone unit, with seperate power supply for reliability.
  • Long battery life and low power consumption.
  • Long range, around 2 km with a directional receiver antenna.
  • Configurable with serial (computer) or button interface.
  • Operating frequency: 400 - 470MHz
  • Operating voltage: 3.4 - 6V
  • Standby current: ~40ľA
  • Operating current: ~15mA (1s transmitting every 3s)
  • Very light weight (3.5 grams)
  • Small size (26x18x4mm)

We have designed the beacon to make it simple to use, and very reliable, that it continues transmitting, even after a crash.

In order to improve our beacon, would some of you be interested in extra features, like custom power settings and more customistation options? We have had feedback from various users, and we want to include that in software/hardware updates.
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Jul 19, 2015, 11:13 AM
Stuart
srnet's Avatar
Does the software have an option to limit the maximum power to 10mW ?

In the UK, and no doubt other areas of Europe, the power limit for an ISM band license exempt device is 10mW.
Jul 19, 2015, 02:19 PM
FPV in Hawaii
iskess's Avatar
I would like to see the ability to charge the battery from the onboard 5v.
This would allow for a permanent installation inside the plane with the assurance that the beacon battery will be fully charged at the time of impact. This would require an external remote switch to turn the unit off.
How about selling an additional breakout board that can be mounted outside the aircraft. This external unit would have a super bright LED, a beeper, and a switch. Ideally it would be wired so that if the breakout board were to become separated from the beacon, the beacon would remain on.
Jul 19, 2015, 05:16 PM
Stuart
srnet's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by iskess
I would like to see the ability to charge the battery from the onboard 5v.
This would allow for a permanent installation inside the plane with the assurance that the beacon battery will be fully charged at the time of impact. This would require an external remote switch to turn the unit off
Agreed.

Whilst a tracker that uses is single battery can work, if the unit is to survive 'even after a crash' dual supplies are good.
Jul 19, 2015, 05:24 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by srnet
Does the software have an option to limit the maximum power to 10mW ?
In the UK, and no doubt other areas of Europe, the power limit for an ISM band license exempt device is 10mW.
Currently this option is not available in the software yet, but we will implement that for sure in our next software release. That way custom power levels can be set.
This setting will reduce range however, because currently the beacon most powerful tone is at 100mW, so max 10mW will reduce the range. This can be compensated by using a high gain yagi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by iskess
I would like to see the ability to charge the battery from the onboard 5v.
This would allow for a permanent installation inside the plane with the assurance that the beacon battery will be fully charged at the time of impact. This would require an external remote switch to turn the unit off.
How about selling an additional breakout board that can be mounted outside the aircraft. This external unit would have a super bright LED, a beeper, and a switch. Ideally it would be wired so that if the breakout board were to become separated from the beacon, the beacon would remain on.
I have made some small sketches of three options that might be possible (attached images). The first option would be quite difficult to ensure that the beacon can still operate reliably. As shown in my drawing, something like a relay (n.c.) would be needed to switch off the beacon. This would be quite unreliable, especially in a crash.

The second option is more reliable, because the beacon won't depend on an external switch (relay), only the internal one, to disconnect the beacon or pull the plug.

The problem with a charging circuit however is that they can be quite inefficient, especially if you're charging the beacon from the flight battery. It would increase the cost of the beacon, because more components are needed. Maybe something like this might be useful:
https://www.sparkfun.com/products/674
The problem is, that the first the flight battery voltage is converted to 5V (by the ubec), and then used to charge the beacon lipo. It will work, but it might not be efficient, and the BEC needs to be able to handle the charge current.

It may be better to place the carge circuit on the external board, since not everyone needs the charging option (drawing 3).
Jul 20, 2015, 12:47 AM
FPV in Hawaii
iskess's Avatar
#3 is the best.
I also like that the beeper and LED could be made to operate off an RC channel even if there were no beacon. It could operate like a stand alone unit like this one but with the benefit of the led http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...ry_Buzzer.html
Makes sense since it is already attached to the Rx for charging. Now if the Rx battery is disconnected, you still have the beacon, or if the beacon fails you still can activate the beeper/led.

The only thing I am missing is someway to turn off the beacon externally. I do see the issue of the relay reliability.
Does your beacon already have a switch on it?
Jul 20, 2015, 12:58 AM
FPV in Hawaii
iskess's Avatar
Make the buzzer/led board so it can be daisy chained with another one which can be placed on the other side of the aircraft since both the buzzer and led can be easily shielded by the ground or foliage. You can then sell more boards.
Jul 21, 2015, 11:34 AM
Registered User
Good idea, that would indeed be a nice feature to let the beacon be activated by the RC channel. You would be able do daisy-chain two boards together by using a Y-cable servo lead. Then the remote boards would both be controlled by the same channel.

The seperate board would need another MCU to archieve this (reading servo pwm), because otherwise it won't be able to operate standalone. That may increase the price somewhat.

The only issue is that if you use more than one ext. board, the extra charging circuits wouldn't be used, because only one can be connected to the beacon. That's why it may be more useful to put the charging circuit on the beacon itself, and only relay the 5V power from the ext. board to the beacon.

But if that's the case, it might be more economic to use the layout like I drew in sketch 2 in my last post. Any thoughts on that?

Also, the beacon has no switch on it. We chose to not include a switch, because it might make users forget to switch it on, and it also introduces another point of failure. if you wish, you can solder a switch in yourself in the power leads. If you lengthen the wires somewhat, then you could switch the beacon from the outside of the plane. Make sure to use a small switch, otherwise the beacon could be switched off in a crash.
Jul 21, 2015, 02:53 PM
FPV in Hawaii
iskess's Avatar

Lost model locator || Distance-RC Beacon V2


You can make an additional cheap (slave ) version of the add-on board with no charge circuit and no MCU. This could be daisy chained and follow the instructions of the master Add-on board (no y-cable). For people who don't want a charging circuit or RC control, they can just buy the cheaper add-on and plug it into their beacon.
The two boards would be the same PCB but the slave would be missing some components.

The add-on board led/buzzer should alert you to battery level too.
Last edited by iskess; Jul 21, 2015 at 03:04 PM.
Jul 21, 2015, 03:03 PM
FPV in Hawaii
iskess's Avatar
Adding RC input add more possibilities since you can now communicate with the beacon remotely.
Jul 22, 2015, 04:23 AM
Stuart
srnet's Avatar
There is no clear cut answer to whether a switch is a good idea or not.

Yes you can forget to switch the tracker on, but you can also forget to switch it off and have a flat battery.

Given the environment, its easy to see how the tracker PCB could get damp, and unless you have a hermetically sealed switch, its likely to fail at some point.

Personally I would leave the switch off the PCB, if people want to fit one its not difficult to add a decent sealed switch into the battery leads.
Jul 22, 2015, 08:00 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by iskess
The two boards would be the same PCB but the slave would be missing some components.
The add-on board led/buzzer should alert you to battery level too.
Good idea's! That would make production much easier, as we wouldn't have to design two seperate PCB's. Also that battery level indication is a good safeguard, we will look into if that's possible to implement in hardware/software.

Quote:
Originally Posted by srnet
Personally I would leave the switch off the PCB, if people want to fit one its not difficult to add a decent sealed switch into the battery leads.
In my opinion, that's the best option too, not everyone needs a switch, and it's not hard to solder it into the battery leads either.
Jul 24, 2015, 09:45 PM
FPV in Hawaii
iskess's Avatar

Lost model locator || Distance-RC Beacon V2


I'll concede the switch idea. To much risk for a little convenience. I think I will use a plug type switch mounted in the side of the fuselage. Just a male JST as a key to arm the beacon. That shouldn't fail easily.
Aug 10, 2015, 06:18 AM
Registered User
New beacons in stock. We will keep this V2 version in stock until we have the V3.
Sep 22, 2015, 06:29 PM
Registered User
I would like to have 5 tones (or the choice of the number ) : so 5 transmitting power values 100/10/1/0.1/0.01 mw.
That would greatly simplify the finding of the final location...
Could it be possible to have this enhancement on the V2 I own ?


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