$51 no-fee GPS tracking, with video recording, altimeter (imprecise) & flight stats

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billdz

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This worked for me, should work anywhere there is cell service, no monthly fees.


1) buy the Posh MicroX phone for $50 shipped from Amazaon, eBay, etc., weighs 53 grams and is 90mm x 48mm:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/POSH-Micro...Android-GSM-Unlocked-Smartphone-/361853863732
2) buy this FreedomPop sim card for $1 shipped:
https://www.freedompop.com/offer/si...ZO5VFojgAKMunXWUU3LLL73fhPJBItXEaAs1FEALw_wcB
then downgrade immediately to the Basic Free plan (200 minutes, 200 texts, 500mb of data - no monthly fee)
3) If only interested in tracking (finding rocket after landing), you can just log into your Google account on the Posh, then open a web browser on your ground device and go to android.com/find. OR download and configure any of the many "find my phone" apps at the Play Store, for example:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alienmanfc6.wheresmyandroid, and configure the app.
4) If interested in using the Posh as an altimeter and for flight stats, as well as for tracking, download and configure the Insane Rockets app at:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.insanerocketry.insanerockets
[NOTE: This will give you the GPS apogee and other data about the flight. However, the Posh does not have a barometer, so the info will not be precise. For a better altimeter and stats, spend a bit more money and use a phone with a barometer instead of the Posh. However, such phones will be heavier (130 grams or more) and bigger than the Posh. Phones to consider include the Nexus 4 and 5, the Droid Mini, and the Sony Z3.]
5) put the Posh in the rocket, make sure that GPS is on
6) if you are able to mount the Posh with the lens open to the outside, use the Posh's video recorder to record the flight. You can control the camera remotely with the Insane Rockets app. Here is an example of an e-bay mount with a hole for the lens:
https://www.insanerocketry.com/help/helpebay.html
7) after the launch, you can find the rocket's location via the website, the Insane Rockets app, or with any "find my phone" app.


If your launch site happens to have phone and SMS service but no data service, you can still use the Posh to track the phone, but you cannot use FreedomPop, as it does not have "true" SMS. FP's messaging service uses data rather than the SMS protocol. Best alternative I have found is the SpeedTalk $5 monthly plan, see:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HE3V7UW/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20.
I have confirmed that SpeedTalk SMS works with the Posh. If you go this route, download any of the many "SMS locator" apps at the Play Store, for example:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=no.henrikvs.trackloc.free
With these apps, you send an SMS to the Posh with a "locate" command, and the Posh will reply automatically with an SMS giving its GPS location and a link to Google Maps showing the location.

[NOTE: The FreedomPop Basic Free plan is really free, but they do a few things that result in fees if you're not careful. For example, when you register, you will automatically be enrolled in a Premium $13 a month plan, you must manually downgrade to a free plan. And the free plan gives you just 200mb per month of data, and if you drop below 100mb they will automatically charge you a $15 top-up fee. You can't disable automatic top-up unless you put in a $5 deposit. Each of my launches has used about 9mb.]

Any comments or suggestions for improvement would be welcome.
Thanks,
Bill
 
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ksaves2

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If you do not use any of the FP services on the "Free" plan after a month or two, you will be dropped in an unannounced fashion. If you want to "re-up" it will cost you ~ $30.00. I have a data plan for a tablet and I maintain
a totally "free sim" in a dual sim phone. The voip/sip call quality simply sucks on the free plan so drop any ideas of you using this for cellphone calls. For data or messaging, it's perfectly fine.

If you turn off "auto topoff" (which I suggest you do by paying the $5.00) and you go over, the service simply locks out until the next month.

Oh, if you opt for a "premium" plan on a GSM phone the call quality still is suckee with echoing though data and messaging are fine. It will use a combination of Wifi and cell networking to run. You want to shutoff auto updating via the cell network to keep from busting the data limits because they rape you (like everyone else) with auto topoff turned on.

There is no free lunch here with Freedompop and I suggest you look on their own boards and read about the horror stories posted there. If you can play by their rules (which seem to be constantly changing) it can work for data and texting.
Voice is not so good on the free plan. The problem is the party you are calling can sometimes be faced with a nasty echo on their end which can make a conversation frustrating to say the least. Seems to be worse between two cell phones.

Again, data and texting are ok but there may be a short delay with outgoing messages. YMMV.

In the long run if you want worry free tracking it's better to invest in a self contained tracking system you can use whenever you want with no dependency on anyone else to track. Only fly a few months out of the year?
why mess with fees and junk? Kurt
 

billdz

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As long as data is "perfectly fine" that's all we need for rocketry purposes. I did make a couple of test calls and the voice quality was normal but I'll not be using the phone for voice. Definitely turn off auto-top off even though you should use much less than 100mb monthly if you use the phone exclusively for rocket tracking, and definitely use the phone at least once a month to avoid losing the line. There is no free lunch and many have complained about FP but it is working so far for me (knock on wood), YMMV. If FP is inadequate, the SpeedTalk $5 monthly may work better. Either seems like a better alternative to Trackimo or other devices some rocketeers are using that cost a lot more and have substantial monthly service charges.

A self-contained tracking system is definitely better than any GSM-based solution. I love my TeleMetrum and TeleBT combo, it is awesome, although pricier and it can't make on-board rocket videos.
 

ksaves2

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Agreed, data and messaging are fine. I've had no luck with call quality on the free plan and the VOIP/SIP over my Nexus 7 2013 using the Talkatone app is ok with the 2GB Premium data only SIM.
I went to the N7 2013 as I can download maptiles for a variety of tracking programs in advance and then if there is service onsite I can grab any missing tiles off air. I got an N7 2012 3G HSPA service
from AT&T and though it's a bit slower than the N7 2013, it runs a Nougat Android kernel (7.1.2 AOSP). I root my devices so I keep my options open. These tablets are great with the Tele-BT and the
Altus-Droid app. Also APRSDroid works great for Ham APRS stuff. Kurt
 
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