Tricopter: Electronics

(Disclaimer: the photos are blurry because my cell phone camera can’t focus on anything closer than 3 feet.)

The underside of my Seeeduino Mega protoshield

This is the underside of my Seeeduino Mega protoshield that will hold most of my tricopter’s electronics together.

I wired up my accelerometer (BMA180) and gyro (ITG-3200) a few days ago without too much trouble using their respective datasheets. I also put together a basic integrator for the gyro outputs to calculate angles, although I discovered that since the gyro drifts at a variable rate depending on the chip’s temperature, I can’t use a constant calibration value. I’ll have to look at that later. For now, you can see my code on github.

SMD LEDs soldered to protoboard. Blurry, but they're there!

My little victory today was having successfully soldered surface-mount LEDs (1206) to the protoboard, resistors and all (they’re the four yellow smudges!). The lights will indicate power, RSSI, and data I/O. That was the easy half-hour.

I spent three hours figuring out the schematics of my XBee Explorer board from SparkFun so I could plug the XBee directly into my protoboard. I don’t want to wire the explorer board to the protoboard because 1) that would mean two boards to mount to the tricopter chassis and 2) I get higher current capacity on the protoboard that I will need when I eventually upgrade the 1mW XBees to the 100mW version.

Fail schematics

This is my rough draft of the circuitry before I started soldering. It’s evident I got confused. I also realize now that those schematics are full of errors, but it’s not like you can read the scribbles, anyway. BAH. I’ll post more helpful CADded schematics when I have everything finalized.

The XBee datasheet was of substantial help. The schematics and CAD files on SparkFun’s product page for the explorer board also helped.

At this point, I should make it clear that wireless communication through the protoboard is not yet working. Pretty good progress for three hours, though.

Fortunately, I didn’t fry any components, not even any of the rather delicate LEDs. I scavenged a diode off a scrap motherboard, though I realize I must have wired it in backwards, perhaps causing my data transmission (the lack thereof) woes. The RSSI lights turn on if I try to transmit data (using a USB Explorer board), so I think the XBees are fine. I must have messed something up between the XBee and Seeeduino, like the diode. It’s also possible that the LEDs are drawing too much current, though I don’t see how that could even be true since the data LEDs aren’t lighting up much anyway.

I probably shouldn’t have skipped the breadboarding stage.

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