New tracker from Apogee?

Discussion in 'Rocketry Electronics and Software' started by Nytrunner, Nov 26, 2018.

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  1. Dec 4, 2018 #61

    gwh

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    I can get that if you look at this one item as the entire picture, with the frame of reference of "how its always been done" this seems easier.
    Except for its not just that one "extra" device to pair. Many electronics still need a computer to program and download data. So you already need that stuff...
    Some smart developers (cough... Eggtimer) have moved in the right direction by using WiFi to activate, program and download data. Others (BPS.space) are using bluetooth paring so you can do it all from your phone. Phones also happen to make great devices for recording launches...

    Product decisions like this really bug me. It's a step backwards and just leads to more scattered devices rather than moving ahead with a nice unified package. Its archaic. Want to track the rocket with GPS? Use a separate controller. Want to program your deployment system? Plug it in to a computer and use some old school program like TeraTerm. Want on board video? Strap a camera to it that needs to be armed separately, and then downloaded via memory card.
    All I want is one single product line, where I can do everything from a single app on phone, with its high resolution touch screen input, web connectivity and the fact that I am already carrying it. One interface to interact with my rocket, program deployment, arm the camera, track it, review telemetry and download integrated camera videos. Things shouldn't be so hard...
     
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  2. Dec 4, 2018 #62

    jqavins

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    One phone to rule them all. One phone to bind them. ;) (Yes, butchered, I know.)

    OK, fair enough, I see the appeal. And if that one device can also tell me the temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and wind variability - on the ground and at altitude, I'd like it even better. And give live tracking video alongside the onboard video. And really, we're not so far away, technologically, from a lot of that. And it'd be great. And we're able to do the parts you named right now, or should be with repackaged off the shelf tech. ("Repackaged" in this context may include spinning new boards to combine well established capabilities.)

    If someone can give us what you've described, requiring some work to set it all up and paying - Idunno, $600? $700? - I might be buying it. If someone can give us what you've described in a dumbed down package at under $400 I might be the first in line.

    So which wins the day? The capability of a tricorder, or low price plug-and-play? Once again, to each his own. And it's this I'm replying to:
    If one wants the low cost plug-and-play then there are distinct advantages to 1) leaving your phone in your pocket and 2) using an inexpensive screen that does the job. Not stupid at all.
     
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  3. Dec 4, 2018 #63

    Buckeye

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    https://www.statista.com/statistics...by-smartphone-platforms-in-the-united-states/

    Android has a 55% market share in the US and something like 80% worldwide. So, what gives, Featherweight? If they supported Android, I would have been all over it by now. That's why my latest GPS purchase was T3. However, the available Android apps to use with it are rather crummy.
     
  4. Dec 4, 2018 #64

    JoeTekcor

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    I recently bought an altimeter 3 from Jolly Logic. Tested just fine the day before. On launch day I couldn't get it to connect to my phone at all, no matter what I tried. Ended up launching without it because I could never activate it from my phone. That night at home it connected perfectly.
    A self contained solution has it's advantages.
     
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  5. Dec 5, 2018 #65

    Adrian A

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    Nobody else was serving the iOS market with rocketry trackers, so it was the natural place to start. Android is coming, but we're finishing up the major functionality on iOS first.
     
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  6. Dec 5, 2018 #66

    Rocket86

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    +1. No reliance on phones is a big advantage to me. I'm not interested in the Apogee system but do rely on other self contained systems. It really isn't hard to carry a small receiver.
     
  7. Dec 5, 2018 #67

    afadeev

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    There were many times this year when I left home without my wallet (even while driving, unintentionally).
    I can't recall the last time I went anywhere in town without a phone. Even when walking the dogs.
    Time are a-changin...


    The major knocks against off-the-shelf animal/spouce-trackers type devices are the weight, the form-factor (many are kinda bulky due to weather proofing), and the requirement for cell coverage.
    The last one is not a constraint for 95+% of the rocketry fields (unless you have Sprint, then it's more like 50/50), but still, there are exceptions. The first two can be a problem for smaller rockets.

    Complaints about monthly subscription costs are more emotional than substantive. +$1.50/month is a rounding error compared to a typical cell phone bill, or the cost of a dedicated GPS hardware set.
    $1.50 quote comes from 1 Meg/month AT&T IoT plan: https://marketplace.att.com/products/att-iot-dataplans-lte-m-us
    Other plans may cost a bit more, but still in single digit $/month. Some off-the-shelf trackers may try to charge you more, but you can always swap out the SIMs to your heart's content.

    Totally agree.

    The only additional observation would be - please don't trash the other vendors.
    We need as many as we can get!

    a
     
  8. Dec 5, 2018 #68

    Phil Hodges

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    Since I do get cellular signal where I usually fly, I have to say that I like the convenience of seeing the GPS location on a map in a phone app. But cellular GPS has drawbacks even when I get signal. Even though the Trackimo3G is supposed to update its position every minute, I've launched it twice in a Giant Leap Firestorm 54 and both times lost signal for over 20 minutes of terror before it finally updated it's position. Not sure if it's the G-load at Mach 1.17, or the fiberglass airframe masking the signal (compared to BlueTube or cardboard rockets, which don't seem to have the same issues). But in both cases its position finally updated and I walked right to my rocket.

    Last summer I built a Madcow DX3-XL for my L3 project, and decided to build a nose cone bay to hold an old iPhone 5s for backup location via the "Find My iPhone" app as a precaution. But once I get it in the air a few times I may try out an RF solution like the Egg Finder, since I finally had to learn how to solder properly for my L3 build. Anyone have issues with those cutting out, or are they pretty solid?
     
  9. Dec 5, 2018 #69

    jqavins

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    For some. My wallet lives in my pants pocket and I never leave without it. My phone may get left behind on my night table connected to the charger because it's just not that important. Forgetting it means a quieter and more productive day at work. This is not to say I don't usually have it, but it'd be another thing that better be on the launch day checklist, as it's several times more likely to be forgotten than my wallet or pocket knife.
    This is what I was asking about in an earlier post. Has anyone tried cracking open the case on one of those to just fly the board and maybe an extra antenna?
     
  10. Dec 6, 2018 #70

    ksaves2

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    The question boils down to how much does one want to pay for simplicity? That's it. Want an arrow to find the rocket and that's all one is interested in? Then you chose the system that meets your needs and will have to budget for same. If one is a tinkerer and doesn't mind a learning curve, there are other options out there that can get the job done and can allow for some live recording of positions to some degree. Just expect enough positions to effect a recovery. Some systems have onboard memory that can access more frequent position updates that can be downloaded later for a better map plot. I do recommend pursuing a Ham radio Technician's license because as a matter of studying, one can learn a lot about radio propagation, RDF, APRS/GPS tracking and techniques for tracking. It opens up some trackers that have some advantages over the 900Mhz stuff for really aggressive flying. That said, the 900Mhz options are fine for sport flying and helping recover in standing vegetation. That is a real big one. One might not punch a rocket up really high but if it lands in standing corn or tall grass, RDF/GPS along with a screamer can really assist with getting the hardware back. Kurt
     
  11. Dec 6, 2018 #71

    ksaves2

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    One thing to keep in mind with the cell trackers is if you have to call it, if the GPS antenna is facing the ground or if it's in a ditch and no cell signal you're SOL.
    For devices that continuously telemeter a position to a receiver, one will likely get a position while the descending rocket is still in the air, pretty close to the ground to get one closer to the recovery lie. If the GPS has lost the signal, (I haven't had that happen yet in 20 flights with conventional APRS/NMEA GPS trackers) one will be in a better position to do the recovery with a good screamer on the harness. If you can't phone home with E.T. and the flight profile is completely sight unseen, you'll be faced with a cold search.

    Outside of loss of battery contact with the cell/GPS "call me" trackers, if one can't get it to phone home, the above scenario likely occurred if it isn't a battery issue.
    Kurt
     
  12. Dec 6, 2018 #72

    BLH

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    Wow, this things works great! I have tried almost all the lower cost trackers and this one has great range and is very easy to use! I like the idea of not using my cell phone as the simple B&W 80's technology screen is much easier to see in bright sun light. Can't beat monochrome screens for contrast outdoors. No more dancing around trying to get a shadow on my fancy RGB indoor rated stuff, having phone tell me about how it can't connect to devices after it downloads new features or no Google maps because no cell service.... I want to fly rockets, not fight with my phone. It is a little plain, maybe they should have used a CMYK label but I guess it matches the screen... Wouldn't be interested in paying more for color. All in all this seems to be a great value and being that it is application specific, it works really well for what it is intended. I guess they are coming out with a new longer range version that should be even more useful for high flyer's!!!
     
  13. Dec 7, 2018 #73

    Banzai88

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    You know this because you HAVE, or HAVE ACCESS to a unit that you've actually worked with and tested? Do tell. What range did you test it at, what sort of launch? What altitudes? What ebay configuration? Anything else you'dd care to share?
     
  14. Dec 7, 2018 #74

    BLH

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    Yes, I guess I got one of the original units from Apogee... I was looking for something else because egg finders sometimes have trouble getting a fix at launch site with cell towers around. Think it has to do with noise floor.... Nonetheless, walked it around my house before trusting it and was getting +2000' range. Houses seemed to block it a bit after around 750' or so. Apogee says it has some kind of special counterpoise for the antenna built into the board to increase range. Not sure about all that.

    I flew it on a little 2 1/4" diameter scratch built dual deploy rocket with 24mm CTI G145. It went fast and high. 4378' at 613MPH (Perfect flight altimeter). Lost site of rocket, however tracker never lost it and it landed around 1865' away in the swamp! Tracked right to landing spot, couldn't even see rocket from 20' away with cat tails and all. Thought, hum, is it really in there? Trudged into swamp and there it was!!! Would have never found it without some kinda tracker. It all worked really well and the compass part is top notch. I think they spent some time on that. Display is supper easy to see even in bright sun... Can't wait to try it again.
     
  15. Dec 7, 2018 #75

    solid_fuel

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    hmmm.....
     
  16. Dec 7, 2018 #76

    BLH

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    Sorry guy's. Rocket is 1.625" in diameter. Not sure about BT tube size? Rocket is Estes tube with 0.5oz glass cloth and polyester resin for strength. Don't think a G would put a 2.5" rocket that high or fast... I did make sure and mount the altimeter (and its CPU) away from the GPS antenna.
     
  17. Dec 7, 2018 #77

    ksaves2

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    Gets addictive doesn't it? It you rocket lands in tall grasses up off the ground a bit, your ground footprint improves quite a bit. If the receiver uses an SMA connector, a 915Mhz patch antenna could be used to increase the range of in flight tracking and a 900Mhz handheld Yagi would increase the ground footprint of a downed rocket. Those are a couple of tips to pull a little more range out of it and any other 900Mhz tracker.
    Kurt
     
  18. Dec 7, 2018 #78

    BLH

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    Thanks allot for the great tips!! I have never had one land sooo far away it lost comms with whatever tracker I was using at the time. Could be a little scary! This tracker does seem to work really well and I like I can see the dang screen outside. My cell phone is just a pain in the A#* to see outside. Maybe I need a new one. I have also used a Garmin I got at a garage sale, and it is easy to see but the compass is not all that tilt compensated. I think they have Kalman filters in the simple tracker one...
     
  19. Dec 7, 2018 #79

    Sabrina

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    What a coincidence - I fly near a swamp too!!! :eek::eek::eek:
    I have been pretty lucky - so far none of my electronics have landed in water...yet:p

    You must have gotten one of the 16 channel version 1 units. - I am guessingo_O - because I took a look on the Apogee website and now they are (as of 12/5/18) shipping version 2.0 with several new features including 3x more range and 256 "spread spectrum" channels. - weird thing is they still show out-of-stock.

    I wonder if yours is software upgradable to v2.0 ?... sometimes there are downloadable upgrades for some of the "Egg stuff" we use.

    -So tell us more about your rocket and the tracker. Got any pictures?

    -Here's one of me at the "swamp" :(

    IMGP1434-ANIMATION.gif
     
  20. Dec 7, 2018 #80

    Bat-mite

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    Love the guy in the background who looks like he's walking on a treadmill. ;)
     
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  21. Dec 7, 2018 #81

    BLH

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    Looks like they have blasted off into a new space time warp thing!! Sorry I do not have any pics of rocket... I guess it's back to the cell phone thing and it's quest to do everything, but nothing well... I would love to have a nice Nikon to get some action rocket shots, but they are a little $$$.

    Yes I did get the V1 unit. They say I should be able to use it to get standard $GPGGA packets from matched transmitters like egg finders and such but I haven't tried that yet. In newer version they must have deleted that feature because manual they have shows something different for V2.

    Happy swamping!!!
     
  22. Dec 7, 2018 #82

    ksaves2

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    Why would cellphone towers have anything to do with EggFinder use? They are totally self contained like the Apogee product. An aftermarket vertical dipole antenna on an EggFinder will give one an additional advantage comparable to the Apogee product. The only question is, are all the the Apogee product features worth $400+ or can one get by, by putting their phone or tablet inside of an opened, flat black painted box to cut down on glare and be happy with that? Not having to assemble the product I duly understand is very important to some.

    Of note, the ability to track on a "sun readable" screen is held by the APRS trackers using the Kenwood D7s and Garmin mapping GPS's as it was doable 12 years or more ago. Beeline and I believe Byonics APRS trackers were available then. Nice but very pricey although have 2 or 3 recoveries of a $1000.00 rocket might consider the device to have paid for itself. Thank heavens there are more economical option to reliably fly in totally "sight unseen" land these days. Kurt
     
  23. Dec 7, 2018 #83

    BLH

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    That is a good one!! I fly at basically four sites and have noticed the egg finder problem as have others.. Two of sites are far out away from life and two are closer and do have cell towers around... It seems the two closer sites are this issue makers and it takes a very long time to get a fix with my egg finder(s), if a fix is possible at all. I have had them never get a fix even after a couple of hours.

    So being the inquisitive type, I wanted to know why and am still looking at this at different times and such so it is a work in progress. Using a cell phone analyzer and looking at the 737MHz, 751MHz, 800MHz, 1900MHz and 2100MHz bands, it is clear that the two issue sites have more 700-800MHz signals. Interestingly the second harmonic of these frequencies is right near the 1500MHz GPS band the trackers use!!!

    Then I lugged a spectrum analyzer out and measured the 1500GHz GPS band and the two sites that cause issues do have a higher noise floor by around 10-13db's.

    Then there is the fact that the egg finder starts transmitting data immediately after it is turned on and blast out allot of useless data just by virtue of how simple it is and how it works...

    Working theory: It seems there is good correlation that with the higher noise floor from the cell towers and the egg finder beginning it's transmissions immediately on power up and every second sending allot of data out, I think the front end of the GPS chip is getting hammered and thus can't lock!! That poor automatic gain control circuit:(

    From measurements made on my new simple tracker, it seems they do not turn on the RF transmitter until the GPS chip has a good lock. I guess they figured no need to transmit useless data. I haven't tested out my missile works unit yet.

    So there you have it. Anyone building their own tracker - Don't turn on the downlink radio until the GPS chip has a good lock!! It seems those chips can keep a lock ok, once they get one! I guess good news about egg finder with SMA connector is one could put a "dummy" load onto it to prevent RF transmission until GPS locks... Bla
     
  24. Dec 8, 2018 #84

    Banzai88

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    That's strange. One of the fields that I fly at has 2 cell towers within view, one of them within a 1000 feet of where we set up our pads, and EGG products are the defacto standard at my field. I've personally recovered with egg products well over a mile away, never any noise problems....for any of us. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, all of us have max bars, 4G, full data, and FAST like a wired connection.

    Doesn't seem to bother my RTX system, either.

    Not saying it's not possible, or a 'thing', but it sure isn't a factor where I fly.
     
  25. Dec 8, 2018 #85

    BLH

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    Yes it is strange and true!! I am not a cell expert, but maybe you guy's have the fancy new G4 towers... Not sure what towers use lower 700-800MHz bands that puts their second harmonic in around the GPS band.?.?. I know there are still allot of G2 and G3 stuff out there. Maybe when everything goes to G5, all will be fine. Maybe it's not even the towers, but the spectrum analyzer shows something and egg finders don't like it.

    It seems main difference from simple tracker and egg finder TX PCB's is
    1) Simple tracker has what looks like a CPU on the back
    2) Simple tracker has a odd ground plane configuration. Maybe its the counterpoise range extender thingy...
    3) Simple tracker waits until GPS lock to transmit.
    4) Simple tracker uses a much shorter transmission time and narrower transmission bandwidth it seems.

    When I tested my simple tracker, it was at the field that always has egg finder "fix" issues for everyone with one... Simple tracker seemed to not have problems getting fix.
     
  26. Dec 8, 2018 #86

    afadeev

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    Terminology is: 2G/3G/4G(LTE)/5G.
    G3 is an HK rifle
    G4 and G5 are private jets
    ;)

    700-800Mhz (698–806) is very desirable spectrum that is actively utilized by all major carriers for LTE coverage.
    700 in particular, was previously used for analog television broadcasting, and got re-auctioned for LTE less than a decade ago. Since auctions are regional in nature, you should assume that every carrier (other than cash strapped Sprint) could be actively using it in your area.

    Technically, any frequency band can be redeployed for new and more spectrum efficient ((bit/s)/Hz) technologies.
    Spectrum band allocation to 2 vs. 3 vs. 4G is largely a function of when a given band was put up for auction be FCC, and how much 2/3G spectrum a given carrier has already shut-down and redeployed for LTE.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellular_frequencies_in_the_US

    Another nice frequency reference table:
    https://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/2003-allochrt.pdf


    a
     
  27. Dec 8, 2018 #87

    BLH

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    Ah Ha! That makes it clear or less. Maybe it's sun spots or something.?.?.? Do you have sun where you are? All I know is my and other peoples egg finder(s) have a hard time at two fields getting GPS fix while simple tracker seems to lock in under a minute. It even lockup fast here at my house where they both work. The receiver part does take a little longer than the TX unit.?.? Since I'm on a noise thing I was thinking that delay is caused by electrical noise from the display.
     
  28. Dec 8, 2018 #88

    afadeev

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    I really don't know who you are, where you launch, or what the are circumstances of your observations.

    I do know that the larger of the two eggfinder TX units, with a larger circuit board / ground plane, gets GPS fix faster than the Mini. I also know, based on first hand experience, that the MissleWorks T3 gets the GPS fix roughly as quickly as full-sized Eggfinder.

    All three see 5+ GPS satellites somewhere between 30-90 seconds after power up, in a hilly western NJ farmland area where we launch.
    That is quick enough for my needs.
    Never had a problem with not obtaining a GPS lock. Not once. Not with T3, nor Eggfinders.
    Always with a strong cell signal from multiple carries from a cell tower on top of a nearby hill.

    I am glad you found something that works to your satisfaction.

    a
     
  29. Dec 8, 2018 #89

    BLH

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    Yes, my simple tracker does seem to work well! Maybe when I figure out egg finder issue at the two trouble sites, I'll get a G4 or 5 or maybe 3:) They all sound pricy though..
     
  30. Dec 8, 2018 #90

    BLH

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    It seems we kinda got side tracked there. I do know all GPS chips are very sensitive (-160-180 dbm's) and care must be taken in mounting them and noisy electrical things around them. All in all I would recommend the simple tracker though to anyone looking to add a neat tool to their box!

    Thanks all:)
     

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