Friday, 27 November 2015

BlueFlyVario_Bluetooth_v11 released

I love releasing new models of the BlueFly. Every new model is a little milestone where I have tried to make the vario better and be more suited to a wider range of pilots. Almost a year ago to the day I released the BlueFlyVario_Bluetooth_v10. With the v11 you will get iOS support and the ability to add an air speed sensor and GPS with a separately available shield. Despite the Australian dollar exchange rate falling I have managed to keep the price the same by optimising production and selection of components. This blog post talks in detail about the new stuff following the announcement a few weeks ago. It will still take me a few weeks to catch up on orders.

What is in the bag

Back in May a new method of shipping and assembly was described. The v11 keeps this same procedure and you should watch the video before assembling the vario. The little things like trimming the screws and getting the battery lead properly placed with make the vario much neater. In the bag you will find:
  • The vario covered in heatshrink with neoprene protecting the pressure sensor. This has been bench tested. 
  • A 600 mAh battery with connector. 
  • The two sides of the prototype case, covered in protective paper you will need to remove. 
  • A pack of plastic screws and standoffs. 
  • [Edit: From 26 Apr the BlueFlyVario_Bluetooth_v11 now ships with the Sky Blue Enclosed Case]
See the image below:


Hardware Changes

Below is a close up picture of the new circuit board. 

Some of the important changes include:
  • The RN4677 bluetooth module replaces the RN42. This module is a dual mode module that supports Bluetooth Low Energy connections to iOS and also supports Bluetooth SPP connections on Android devices and on Windows. This is a new module and I had a little trouble with it initially but have managed to get it working reliably with over two months of testing. The benefits of the new module are:
    • iOS support, however it will still be a little while until some iOS apps support the vario. We are working on FlySkyHy integration. There are a few BLE testing apps which enable you to see the data stream and even send commands to the vario which have given me confidence that integration with other iOS apps will be easy. 
    • It is smaller. This means I have been able to fit more stuff on the PCB while keeping the size the same. 
    • The range is better. Earlier today a mate put the vario in his RC plane (with the air speed sensor still in development) and flew it around. The BlueFly was paired with xcsoar running on my OnePlus One and we were able to see the data streaming in from about 100m away. 
    • It is a little cheaper. 
  • I have changed to the microprocessor to the PIC24F32KA302 and am now using the QFN package instead of SSOP. Even though it is smaller it is actually easier to solder without jumping leads, and most importantly, I have a bunch of extra IO lines to add new features. 
  • The TC1015 regulator has been upgraded to the TC2185. This provides a higher max current to allow for the add-ons and has slightly better power supply noise performance. 
  • Some of the IO lines are exposed in a new way (see the image below of the bottom of the PCB):
    • U1 is used for connecting the GPS to V+, Tx, Rx and Gnd. The shield uses these for connecting a PA6H GPS. 
    • The serial Tx and Rx between the microprocessor and the RN4677 are adjacent to U1. 
    • The I2C lines V+, SCL, SDA and Gnd are used by the shield for connecting the MS4525DO pressure sensor. 
    • RA7, RB10 and RB11 are used by the shield for extra buttons and LED. 
If you are a super keen hacker and want the circuit diagram or PCB layout please contact me. 

Firmware Changes

New features of the v11 firmware include:
  • Boot up shorts for entering the bootloader and resetting all of the hardware settings:
    • Previously to enter bootloader mode you shorted programming pads 2 and 5. Now you short SDA to ground (see the picture above). 
    • Previously to reset all the default hardware settings you shorted programming pads 2 and 4. Now you short SCL to ground. 
  • An updated ds30bootloader. This was required for the new microprocessor and to support the new boot up short mechanisms. 
  • A new hardware setting for supporting the airspeed sensor. I will post more about that in a later blog. 
  • The default baud rate setting for U2 has changed. The microprocessor now communicates with the bluetooth module at 115.2k instead of 57.6k. 
The GPS/Airspeed shield

A GPS/Airspeed sensor shield will be available separately, I think from around mid December. I am still testing and want to be confident all of the features are reliable. The shield will be available as a kit with the PA6H GPS only, with the MS4525DO airspeed sensor only, or with both. The image below shows the shield next to the new vario. I will post comprehensive information when it is released.








16 comments:

  1. Well Done A. D. as I am an iPhone tragic - I am looking forward to trying it out with my big iPhone.

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  2. Well done also! You might want to consider making the 600mAh batt optional (or offer larger) for those that want to go for V11 + Shield (GPS/AIS)? Probably too early, but any testing done on battery life with various configurations?

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    Replies
    1. I have done some testing on total power consumption. With bluetooth and GPS, but with the audio settings adjusted so there is no sink alarm, I think that the average power consumption will be about 80mA. There is not much price advantage in making the battery optional; it only is worth a few dollars. I am thinking about what other size of battery (physical, not mAh) might be appropriate.

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    2. I have 1000mAh in my standalone BT, GPS, Vario, AIS unit. With up/down audio, all sensors active with data being BT pushed to Kobo - I've had a 3.5 hour flight with say 60% charge left. Hope that helps a little.

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  3. Amazing Alistair.
    Congratulation, what you're doing is really great!

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  4. Hi - Im nothing about this stuff.. can you please tell me if it gives you an instant altitude reading ? and whats the best way to view/connect to its data

    Clayton

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    Replies
    1. The air pressure is measured 50 times per second, and is accurate to about 10 cm. It will provide altitude via a range of Android applications (the BlueFlyVario app, XCSoar, XCTrack, others...)

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  5. Also - what is the Height length width ?
    If I put it in an iphone dry pouch - could it be used to measure a Kiteboarding jump ?
    Sorry if I sound retarded :)

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    Replies
    1. The size is about 53mm x 32mm x 16mm. You can put it in a waterproof pouch, but any movement in the pouch will alter the pressure inside the pouch and record as an altitude change. I am sure that there is some configuration which can measure a Kiteboard jump, but you will have to spend some time testing.

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  6. Hi Alistair,
    I'm using blueflyvario for about 1 year and it is excellent.
    Is it possible to upgrade firmware to latest version? I read the changes and wonder if the upgrade worth.

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    Replies
    1. It is possible to update the firmware from version 10 onward. However, unless you are really wanting a new feature, or you want to fix a bug, I do not think it is worth it.

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  7. Hi Alistair,
    I have a Kobo Touch with Bluefly v10 for LK8000, I am building a second unit with a Glo and wonder if I should be using V10 or V11, I am using WiFi for a new project so will be hard wiring to UART.

    Thanks,

    Mike.

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  8. Hi Alistair,
    I have a Kobo Touch with Bluefly v10 for LK8000, I am building a second unit with a Glo and wonder if I should be using V10 or V11, I am using WiFi for a new project so will be hard wiring to UART.

    Thanks,

    Mike.

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    Replies
    1. At this stage I have not made a v11 with a TTL interface. You should use the TTL_GPS_v10.

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  9. Hi Al,

    Have received the BFV V11 and GPS IAS Shield - thank you! Intent was to use this on a Hang Glider. I'm mounting the vario/gps/IAS all together as one unit further up on one of the hang glider downtubes so it has better protection from landings, and I'm bluetoothing the data across to a kobo mini running XC Soar, hacked with an HC05 bluetooth unit. I'm struggling to get the HC05 to pair and talk with the BFV bluetooth unit. Any tips here?

    Cheers
    Aaron

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    Replies
    1. I do not have an HC05 to test, but I do know you will have to configure it before you connect it to the Kobo. I think you need to set it to Master mode, then make sure the mac address of your BlueFly is stored in it, then make sure it is configured to auto-connect. Not all HC05 are the same so make sure you get the datasheet from whoever you purchased it from.

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