Welcome to PhantomPilots.com

Sign up for a weekly email of the latest drone news & information

Choosing a good non-GPS tracker

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MadMitch88, Sep 21, 2014.

  1. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    I've been using the Flytrex Live device on my P2 Vision+ and it has it's pros and cons. I'm using a T-Mobile micro-SIM card and when it gets a solid 2G link to the cell towers, it functions very well and my mission flight path is very accurate (+/- 10 meters). However, the obvious downsides are that the SIM requires a fee of some kind (lowest is $10 for 1 month/1GB data) and 2G coverage in the U.S. is spotty and being phased out by most wireless carriers by 2015-16. A new version of Flytrex Live will likely have a 3G/4G modem but who knows when it will be available.

    Thus, I am looking for a non-GPS tracker to augment the Flytrex Live in locating a lost bird. I've heard about the Marco Polo Pet Tracker but it says maximum range of 2 miles and I have doubts about that. With a top speed of 33 MPH, my Vision+ could go into a flyaway right after takeoff and crash 8 or 9 miles away (once the battery runs out) and that's way beyond the Marco Polo range. You could start driving in the general direction of the flyaway and maybe the Marco Polo will pick up a signal eventually, but that seems like a lot of wishful thinking and dumb luck being involved. If you had half a dozen friends armed with Marco Polo locators you might have a decent chance of finding your bird, but how realistic is that?

    I saw this YouTube video and it really piqued my interest. Dude was using a hand-held Yagi antenna and getting a UHF beacon signal (albeit weak) at 7.5 miles non-LOS !! That sounds like a foolproof way to find any lost bird, even one that goes into a flyaway on a fresh battery and ends up in the next county. ;)


    [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmc3gboiGkI[/youtube]


    I was thinking that the combination of Flytrex Live + UHF beacon would make it virtually impossible to not find a lost Phantom. It would have to be in a very remote area where there are many square miles of no cell coverage and lots of obstructions like hills and heavy forest to block the UHF beacon signal. Luckily, there are very few places like that in Ohio and PA where I fly so I should be covered 99% of the time. For example, if I takeoff and the Flytrex Live locks on to 2G cell towers but then wanders into a dead zone and crashes into a tree, at least I can get a general direction the Phantom was flying by using the Flytrex Live data, and then walk/drive in that general direction and use the UHF beacon to home in on my bird.

    All this makes me wonder why no one has invented an RF beacon that is coupled to a GPS receiver and transmits those coordinates back to a hand-held receiver, and thus eliminating the need to use a SIM-card enabled device? Tracking down a lost bird using a UHF beacon is still time-consuming because you have to stop repeatedly to get a ping and adjust your search path accordingly. It would be nice to have the GPS coordinates pinged back to your receiver so you can quickly use Google Maps to pinpoint it's location.
     
  2. Noël

    Noël Guest

  3. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    Are they still selling the FMkit UHF beacon on that site? There appears to be a small speaker on the device -- is this some kind of audible alarm? That would be a nice feature to locate a bird stuck high in the trees or in heavy underbrush :mrgreen:
     
  4. Noël

    Noël Guest

    Yes. That's an audio transmitter (speaker) and microphone. When ordering it you will need to mention that you want it as it's not a default thing.
    It's still being sold on that website (it's the guy who builds it)
    You will find his email address on the "home" page http://fmtv.us/
     
  5. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks for the info!

    Can you tell me approx. how loud is that speaker? Could I hear the alarm from 200 feet away? How do you activate the alarm sound?
     
  6. Noël

    Noël Guest

    My version does not have the alarm option. (it's an older model), so I can't help you with that.
     
  7. rrmccabe

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Messages:
    1,647
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Ankeny, Iowa
    That's a good point. All you would need to do is locate the signal once and get the transmitted coordinates and then use your smart phone to go after it. No moving around and tracking it. All of the technology is out there. Just doesn't seem to have all of it in the same package !

    That said, after all my research I ended up with the Marco Polo as I was concerned the Live was not a reliable option or any other cellular device for that matter. I would want something that points direction regardless.
     
  8. Noël

    Noël Guest

    I think that his new version does accept GPS data!
     
  9. Monte55

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2014
    Messages:
    2,195
    Likes Received:
    517
    Location:
    Raymore Missouri
    If you want cheap and no monthly fee...Get the Hansel Gretel unit. All it takes to operate is stale bread.
     
  10. rrmccabe

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Messages:
    1,647
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Ankeny, Iowa

    Attached Files:

    • RX.jpg
      RX.jpg
      File size:
      123.2 KB
      Views:
      275
  11. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    Sweet! :D
     
  12. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    How soon before we see drone locator beacons that transmit to communication satellites?

    It has the disadvantage that it'd need a view of the sky to get a lock on minimum # of sats, but the big upside that you could locate your bird ANYWHERE in the world. Fly your Phantom in Antarctica and still find it when it crashes on an iceberg. Cell towers be damned.
     
  13. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    Manually entering GPS coordinates into Google Maps is quick and easy, so no problems there. All I need is a precise location down to +/- 30 meters and I'm a happy dude.

    Some of the people on that thread are claiming up to 200km range with a Yagi antenna? Jesus Christ.
     
  14. GearLoose

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2013
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    1
    I have the FMKit locator -- correct me if I'm wrong but the microphone on the device is used to detect your quad's motor noise. When noise is not detected the beacon emits its signal. This extends battery life. Just pray the quad doesn't crash into a chicken coop.

    A very long and useful thread here: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthre ... kit+beacon
     
  15. Noël

    Noël Guest

    oops... You are correct.. No audio alarm on it. I'm mixing things up here with something else..
     
  16. rrmccabe

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Messages:
    1,647
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Ankeny, Iowa
    For a multitude of reasons :lol:
     
  17. MadMitch88

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2014
    Messages:
    539
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Cleveland, OH
    Sorry but that seems like a crappy design. Lots of situations where a bird might land in a noisy environment (near heavy traffic, seashore, football game, concert, chicken coop, etc).

    Why not have the beacon start emitting a signal when it detects main battery voltage drops below certain threshold?
     
  18. SteveMann

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,977
    Likes Received:
    652
    Location:
    Westford, MA
    I am a ham radio operator, so it's legal for me to put one of these on my A/C: http://www.byonics.com/mf

    If I ever lose my copter, I just call the local ham club and challenge them to a T-Hunt. I haven't tested the capacity, but the battery should keep the transmitter going for a few days.
     
  19. rrmccabe

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Messages:
    1,647
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Ankeny, Iowa
    I am too. Tell us more about it. I see it uses 2 meters but not much other detail.
     
  20. GearLoose

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2013
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    1
    Detecting main battery voltage would require a hard connection with the FMKit beacon. One of the beacon's greatest features is its amazingly small size and insignificant weight. I use Scotch tape to attach it to whatever quad I'm using -- takes about ten seconds to mount or remove. Or, I can attach it to my dog, who generates his own power and does not need a battery.

    It would be wonderful if there were an all-in-one device that could use either gps, satellite phone, 2-4g, or fm. But, until there is, the FMKit is still one of the cheapest, lightest, and most reliable devices I've yet seen.