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.

Saturday 7 November 2015

BlueFly_Bluetooth_v11 announced

Despite the paucity of posts, I have been feverishly working on the next version of the Bluetooth version of the BlueFly in every second of my diminishing spare time. It is almost a year since the v10 was released and it is time for an update. In this post I will preview some new features prior to the release, which I expect will occur in late November.

I am currently out-of-stock of the BlueFlyVario_Bluetooth_v10. Any orders between now and the release of the v11 will be filled with the new model. Please be patient as I get everything together.

What stays the same?
  • Pretty much every firmware feature of the v10 is available in the v11. All of the hardware settings and commands will be available in the v11. 
  • The PCB size, speaker, button location and LED colors are all the same. 
  • The prototype case and battery will not change. 
  • The price, at least for now. Some component prices have reduced, but the Australian dollar has also fallen. 
What is new?
  • The first big news is a new bluetooth module which will work with iOS. I have replaced the RN42 with Microchip's new RN4677. This is a dual mode module with both Bluetooth SPP and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Most devices will continue to use Bluetooth SPP, but BLE means that iOS devices can be supported. This should mean that FlySkyHy will support the new BlueFly if I can get a prototype to Rene and he can find time to alter his code. 
  • The new PCB layout also supports an add on shield for more features. The shield, which will be available separately, can be configured with either or both of a PA6H GPS or a MS5425DO differential pressure sensor. Much of my experimentation over the last few months has been to finally get reliable airspeed measurement with easy calibration and stable performance. I will post a lot more about that when I release the shield (which will be some weeks after the new v11 is released). 
  • I have updated the micro-controller and some other components. There will be more information about these on release of the v11. 
  • Also, there will be some new firmware features. Again, more on release. 
See the image below of the prototype being tested on the workbench; the headers help with development but they are not part of the final version. 

What needs to be done before release of the BlueFlyVario_Bluetooth_v11?
  • Manufacture the first production batch of hardware - I am waiting on some components. 
  • Finalise the updated boot-loader. The new bluetooth module and micro-controller meant I have had to make many updates to to. Now I need to finish testing. 
  • Finalise the updated firmware. Again, more testing. 
  • Update the BFVDesktop pc application with new hardware settings. 
  • Update the BlueFlyVario android application. 
  • Write another blog post. 

What about the TTL_GPS and USB models?

At some stage I think I will update the TTL_GPS model from v10 to v11 so it can support the new micro-controller, but probably not for many months and I am not sure if it will support the airspeed measurement. The update to the USB model will have to wait for the v12...