Wifi Video + Wifi Signal Strength Rocket Location

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BigMacDaddy

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Has anyone used wifi streaming video in a rocket (i.e., wifi transceiver in rocket that you connect to with phone / tablet so you can watch / record video live on your phone / tablet)?

I have been really impressed with the range on the wifi transmitters in modern drones - 1 kilometer seems pretty easy to accomplish. I was looking at some inexpensive wifi cameras and wondering if I could put one in a nose cone and have it work for live viewing. I am still firmly in the low-powered rocket zone but have been avoiding higher-flying rockets (e.g., dual-stage, E-engines, etc...) since I have a relatively small field to launch in. If I had a live camera feed this would go a long way to finding a rocket that drifts further than expected. Also it looks like you can use the wifi signal strength to locate lost drones so thinking I could do that to find rocket as well (particularly in combination with video). I am trying to avoid anything with a monthly subscription (i.e., most GPS tracking systems) and don't want to spend a bunch so wondering if this might be a decent enough option at a low cost.

Wondering about something like this:

If I just wanted to use wifi signal strength to locate rocket I could maybe use these:

Sorry if this has been discussed / dismissed. I tried to search the forums but so much comes up with wifi relays and other stuff it is difficult to find anything if it is out there already. I did see an Open.HD thread but that seemed quite specific with a limited number of wifi transmitters supported (although I did learn some from the wiki / discussions).
 

OverTheTop

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I have built a system that is yet to be flown, but it is not WiFi. It uses a 1.3GHz video telemetry link that the RC people have available.
Here is a screen capture. It has HD video with a data overlay.
Vid.jpg


It is part of my Vertical Trajectory System project. Since the fight computer had facilities for data overlay it was a no-brainer for inclusion.

Really looking forward to getting this thing flying early this year, if launch conditions permit.

More info here:
 

waltr

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Interesting.
I'm playing with ESP32 WiFi modules with the idea of using RSSI (signal strength) to local rockets.

This is basically RDF (Radio Direction Finding) and requires measuring the direction of the line to the TX. With 2.4GHz, the human body and the small antenna work well to find the direction of signal Null (weakest) to establish a heading (it will be directly behind you).

So this will work and it is the method I use to find my quadcopter down in tall weeds and rockets down in the corn field (2m, 144MHz beacon).
 

BigMacDaddy

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Interesting.
I'm playing with ESP32 WiFi modules with the idea of using RSSI (signal strength) to local rockets.

This is basically RDF (Radio Direction Finding) and requires measuring the direction of the line to the TX. With 2.4GHz, the human body and the small antenna work well to find the direction of signal Null (weakest) to establish a heading (it will be directly behind you).

So this will work and it is the method I use to find my quadcopter down in tall weeds and rockets down in the corn field (2m, 144MHz beacon).
That is great -- thanks for sharing your knowledge in this space.

Do you think the camera + wifi setup would work as well?
Would those wifi transceivers I shared work or is there something else I should look for?
Do I need something besides a phone / tablet to receive the signal?
 

BigMacDaddy

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I have built a system that is yet to be flown, but it is not WiFi. It uses a 1.3GHz video telemetry link that the RC people have available.
Here is a screen capture. It has HD video with a data overlay.
View attachment 498141

It is part of my Vertical Trajectory System project. Since the fight computer had facilities for data overlay it was a no-brainer for inclusion.

Really looking forward to getting this thing flying early this year, if launch conditions permit.

More info here:
This is very cool, love the data overlay -- I was contemplating a more robust Arduino setup but was initially targeting something that does not need a special receiver and also hoping to keep weight down so I can make this work in a BT60 low-powered rocket (basically instead of 1oz of nose weight).
 

waltr

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That is great -- thanks for sharing your knowledge in this space.

Do you think the camera + wifi setup would work as well?
Would those wifi transceivers I shared work or is there something else I should look for?
Do I need something besides a phone / tablet to receive the signal?
The camera system you linked to is not WiFi but a NTSC analog video transmitter.
Unknown which Cell phones might work, read the Q&A. This is what I use for FPV flying my racing Quadcopters. Video RX in Fatshark googles. NO signal strength so no good for RDF. Maybe other RXs do have RSSI.

The NRF24L01 is also not WiFi. You need to pair two of these and write code for (Arduino IDE) to read RSSI and display it. They will not 'talk' to your cell phone.

If you are good at electronics and microprocessor hacking and coding then go for it.

The ESP32 modules (WiFi & BLE) are the only easy to program devices I've found to talk to a Cell phone. One still needs to wire and write code. I'm still in prelimiary stage of do a set for RDF tracking. If I come up with something I will post it.

One last thing: You may get 1km while rocket is in the air but once on the ground expect range to drop significantly. The 2m RF beacons I have been using have a range of less than 100 feet. But have always been able to get within range to obtain a heading.
 

BigMacDaddy

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The camera system you linked to is not WiFi but a NTSC analog video transmitter.
Unknown which Cell phones might work, read the Q&A. This is what I use for FPV flying my racing Quadcopters. Video RX in Fatshark googles. NO signal strength so no good for RDF. Maybe other RXs do have RSSI.

The NRF24L01 is also not WiFi. You need to pair two of these and write code for (Arduino IDE) to read RSSI and display it. They will not 'talk' to your cell phone.

If you are good at electronics and microprocessor hacking and coding then go for it.

The ESP32 modules (WiFi & BLE) are the only easy to program devices I've found to talk to a Cell phone. One still needs to wire and write code. I'm still in prelimiary stage of do a set for RDF tracking. If I come up with something I will post it.

One last thing: You may get 1km while rocket is in the air but once on the ground expect range to drop significantly. The 2m RF beacons I have been using have a range of less than 100 feet. But have always been able to get within range to obtain a heading.
Thanks so much. I thought those other boards had wifi chipsets but very naïve about this stuff. Bought a couple of ESP32 development boards w/ cameras and external antennas. Let's see what I can do -- just learning Arduino programming with my kid so anything I can learn is worth the price.
 

waltr

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Thanks so much. I thought those other boards had wifi chipsets but very naïve about this stuff. Bought a couple of ESP32 development boards w/ cameras and external antennas. Let's see what I can do -- just learning Arduino programming with my kid so anything I can learn is worth the price.
Ok, ESP32 & Arduino is easiest to start with. The best tutorials and examples for the ESP32 are here: https://randomnerdtutorials.com/getting-started-with-esp32/
 

mikec

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There are many GPS systems that don't require a monthly subscription. I would personally much rather use one of those, or a robust RDF solution.
 

BigMacDaddy

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There are many GPS systems that don't require a monthly subscription. I would personally much rather use one of those, or a robust RDF solution.
My impression is that all these options are much more expensive than the $20 or so that this should cost. I am looking for low cost alternative for low-power, low cost rockets - several hundred meters max altitude and similar max area on the ground (likely less than that for both). Not looking to move into mid or high-powered yet (and not willing to move to those budgets either).

If there are cheap alternatives that do not require monthly fees I would love to know about them.
 

BigMacDaddy

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Got a pair of ESP32-CAM in the mail today (well responsible delivery people left the package sitting out for the porch pirates but thankfully I got home in time to get them).

Tested these at short range with the default software/firmware and was able to get both to work (i.e., connect from a tablet to the Wifi being broadcast by the ESP32-CAM and view the video). Now I need to test the range -- with and w/o an external antenna. Also need to test if I can use the wifi signal and a signal strength app to locate the device.

Honestly might do all this with just the default software/firmware - not sure if I can record video or only stream it but I can watch it live. If it works I will try to get in there and write a new program to let me record the video, etc...

1641696275154.png


Also got the external antenna's I ordered -- I need to learn to read the details more carefully, they are HUGE. Need to look for some smaller ones.
 
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BigMacDaddy

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Ok, ESP32 & Arduino is easiest to start with. The best tutorials and examples for the ESP32 are here: https://randomnerdtutorials.com/getting-started-with-esp32/
Thank you again for the advice.

Now to find a more appropriately sized external antenna and rig up a better power supply setup so I can take it to the field (literally) for testing -- for today's test I just used an Arduino I had w/ 3.3v output.
 

waltr

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Great you got them quickly and it works.

Could the tablet record the Video?
I think it could be handy to re-view and Stop the video to see where the rocket is landing.
 

BigMacDaddy

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Great you got them quickly and it works.

Could the tablet record the Video?
I think it could be handy to re-view and Stop the video to see where the rocket is landing.
I did not see a record function on the default interface. I would guess I could run a screen capture or something (I could screen capture a frame) but have not messed with them too much (just wanted to be sure they worked). I have some micro SD card somewhere so will load one in and see if maybe that will let me record also -- less for rocket finding but more for actual flight videos.

I found these instructions in a comment on the Amazon link (This is basically what I did -- one of the two boards I got seems to get some interference -- a vertical bar moving across the video periodically -- other one did not do this, need to test more to see if that is really something with that board or just some extra interference in my house or something):

"The package contained two ESP32-CAM controllers with cameras, and both worked - unlike some reviewers who got duds. Here is a quick way to see if your unit works:

First you must attach the camera's ribbon cable to the controller board. To do this, lift the black plastic locking bar (see photo) and lay the cable in as far as possible - so that when you push the locking bar down to lock the cable in place, the bar covers the white line on the cable connector.

Following some other reviewers, I used a powered USB hub to deliver power to a USB-to-TTL converter.
I connected the 3.3 v pin on the converter to the 3.3 v pin on the ESP32-CAM, and GND to GND. Did not bother (yet) with RCV DATA or TX DATA pins; for this quick test you just need power.
The ESP32-CAM comes pre-flashed with a demo firmware that runs a web server and creates a WiFi access point named CAM-aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff (with some other hex digits, probably a MAC address, filled in).

Use your smart phone or computer to connect to this access point (no password) then type 192.168.4.1 into your browser. This will bring up the demo firmware, which lets you set all sorts of camera parameters, and stream video and take snapshots. Now you know if your device is alive or DOA. Mine worked with 3.3 v or 5 v (supplied to the appropriate board pin, of course).

Of course your true goal is to write new firmware, or hack a published one, and flash that onto the device. Don’t worry that the product doesn’t come with instructions - just search “ESP32-CAM” and you’ll see many web pages and videos that cover It. Now you’ll need to hook the USB-serial converter’s TX data to the chip’s RX data, and vice versa. I successfully used the Arduino dev software running on a Raspberry Pi."
 

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