Tracksoar is the smallest lightest open source APRS tracker available. It makes tracking weather balloons, model rockets, RC aircraft, and anything else that flies as easy as possible. It is able to report location, altitude, temperature pressure and humidity to the internet once a minute for twelve hours with 2xAA batteries. Because Tracksoar is open source you can also add your own modules to accommodate custom sensors to meet your specific requirements. Tracksoar can also use a range of drop in transmitters to allow for easy world wide operation. By flying Tracksoar on a weather balloon you can reduce the required helium and balloon costs per launch and it can pay for itself with just 2 launches. No other APRS solution offers this level of integration, compact size, and customization. Additionally all profits from Tracksoar sales go to supporting the Santa Barbara Hackerspace and improving the resources we offer to the community, so back today and help us make this project a success!
What can Tracksoar do for you?
The Tracksoar can provide near real time location, altitude, and atmospheric data from your airborne craft to the internet in a single compact and lightweight package. It is small and light enough to fly in your model rocket, airplane, helicopter, quad rotor, or weather balloon. Since it's open source, the Tracksoar is customizable for your specific project, and with a daughter board you can add most any extra device to expand its sensors, input, or output capabilities.
The single largest cost in launching a weather balloon is the expendables. In the case of weather balloons that means helium and the balloon itself. Most balloon launches opt for an 1800-gram balloon and a k cylinder of helium, which, between the two will cost around $400. Lifting the bulky trackers that are currently available requires a large balloon and large amounts of helium. The Tracksoar allows you to use a much smaller balloon and less helium significantly reducing the cost of each launch. By reducing the amount of helium required we can help preserve this precious resource while still furthering citizen science and atmospheric data gathering.
The Tracksoar boasts a 300mw transmitter, barometric pressure, relative humidity, and temperature sensors. Built on existing and proven open source hardware and software, the Tracksoar is powerful and flexible. Powering the Tracksoar is trivial, it can run from anything between 1.5 and 4.5 volts. In laboratory tests it has been able to run at least 12 hours off 2 AA batteries. In keeping with our goal to make the Tracksoar as customizable as possible, the Tracksoar includes SPI / I2C headers for adding new capabilities. FTDI and ICSP programming interfaces are also available for modifying and updating the Tracksoar firmware. Tracksoar will ship with a wire antenna, but also has the option for an N connector so you can add any antenna you prefer.
- Atmega 328P microcontroller
- Arduino Compatible
- BMP180 Pressure Sensor
- SHT21 Humidity and Temperature Sensor
- Radiometrix HX1 transmitter
- Ublox MAX-8M GPS receiver
- I2C, SPI / 2 Analog and 4 Digital IO pins
The Tracksoar uses APRS to relay the data to the internet for easy retrieval. APRS uses 2 meter (144.390 mhz in the US) radio and transmits the data at regular intervals to a network of amateur radio repeaters. The repeaters (called digipeaters or igates) send the data to the internet where it is available on sites like aprs.fi
For more information on APRS visit: http://www.aprs.org/
The Tracksoar uses licensed radio frequencies so an amateur radio license is required. Rules and regulations will vary, be sure to check the laws in your country to make sure you are compliant. The Tracksoar will need an amateur radio callsign (assigned when you receive your amateur radio license) to identify your device and meet legal requirements.
In the US getting your amateur license is very easy. The best way to get your HAM license is to contact your local amateur radio club and ask about licensing classes and test sessions. For more information the ARRL has a great wealth of resources available here: http://www.arrl.org/getting-licensed
Whats in the box?
Tracksoar PCB - Contains only the Tracksoar Printed Circuit Board, no electronics, definitely for those handy with a soldering iron.
Tracksoar Shields - Contains one or more of the Tracksoar Daughter Boards, a Tracksoar is required to communicate with the shields and transmit the data.
Tracksoar Some Assembly Required - For international Tracksoar users, includes an assembled Tracksoar minus the transmitter. There are a number of available pin compatible transmitters that are very easy to solder.
Tracksoar Fully Assembled and Tested - Available for the US and Canada, this is a Tracksoar which is almost ready to use out of the box, just program your callsign and you're ready to fly.
Risks and challenges
The parts used on the board are all current generation and available from reputable sources but sourcing them in quantity may be a challenge.
We have successfully built and tested many prototypes and are using a pick and place service for assembling 90% of the Kickstarter boards. However, large-scale assembly may be a challenge, as our team of volunteers will need to through-hole solder some components as well as test each Tracksoar.
International shipping is always a challenge, but we have the help of some excellent Santa Barbara Hackerspace members who have run successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past giving us guidance.
- (30 days)