Sensors/GPS

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U-blox color warm 60.gif

The recommended GPS' for Paparazzi autopilots from the popular u-blox brand of receivers.

Features:

  • Low cost (starting at 10€ NEO6-M)
  • Small size
  • Excellent performance
  • up to 10Hz update rate
  • large amount of different modules
  • 5V tolerant UART

The Tiny series features an onboard LEA series GPS receiver and patch antenna, while most other boards boards require an external receiver+antenna such as the Paparazzi GPS or SAM-LS. Please note that the receivers must be configured (prior to use with the autopilot) as indicated below.

u-blox LEA GPS Receiver
u-Blox SAM-LS GPS receiver (w/built-in Smart Antenna)
u-Blox LEA-6H GPS receiver with Sarantel Helix Antenna

Note: The proprietary UBX protocol is used as it offers more information and efficiency than the universal NMEA protocol. The protocol is parsed in sw/airborne/subsystems/gps/gps_ubx.c.

GPS Receivers

u-Blox LEA Series Receivers

LEA-5H installed on the Tiny

The Lisa series, TWOG, Classix and AVR-based boards require an external GPS module and antenna. The Tiny features an integrated receiver and antenna. Either type is designed for u-blox 4, 5 and 6 series GPS receivers and the proprietary UBX binary protocol. An external battery or capacitor is typically used to enable the GPS to retain data while powered off for significantly faster signal re-aquisition. Any of the LEA-4, LEA-5 and LEA-6 series receivers can be used including the less expensive LEA-4A, 4S, 5A and 5S and similar low cost 6-series models as the special boot configuration code required for these models is already written as a module.

  <!-- autobaud - runtime configuration of - ROM-only modules: use ucenter-module to configure your UBlox with no cable nor windows u-center -->
  <load name="gps_ubx_ucenter.xml" />
  • 4Hz Position update rate
  • Supports active or passive antennas
  • Supports DGPS, WAAS, EGNOS, and MSAS
  • Low position noise figure


Paparazzi Stand-alone GPS Receivers

Paparazzi source provides a design for an external GPS board. An external GPS board is required for Lisa, TWOG and Classix Autopilot board. Programming it is similar to the Tiny2.11 GPS configuration. If you build your own you will want to upload the latest u-blox firmware before you configure. See Get Hardware for sources of assembled boards.

The Paparazzi design in https://github.com/paparazzi/paparazzi-hardware/tree/master/sensors/gps/gps_13. The board is very small and light as it has only the components required. It is powered from the 5v line on the "downloads" connector of a TWOG. Also note it is a 4-layer PCB that means better noise resistance. The board has pins for USB connection but requires a different cable and a solder jumper to be move from the ground (default) to 3.3v input to enable the USB port on the module.

V1 BOM.xls
Eagle Parts List Output.txt
See Get Hardware page for suppliers.

Wiring Diagram

TWOG to Standalone GPS Cable Schematic
GPS13 v0.9 Ucenter cable (ftdi)
BoozGPS (quadrotor gps V1.1 2009/5) Ucenter cable (ftdi)

3rd Party u-blox Reference Design Boards

LEA-5H Full Board Pinout

The only other GPS board in use seems to be u-blox reference designs or similar to it. They have LEA-4H, LEA-5H and LEA-6H (typically) and several interfaces. Often a larger antenna as well.

The board in the photo is a RF DESIGN LEA-5H-SMART.

The jumpers adjacent to the TTL interface connectors need to be closed with low value resistors for paparazzi uart port use. Also a battery has to be added with an appropriate charging resistor to enable RTC functionality.


NAVILOCK NL-507ETTL

NAVILOCK NL-507TTL

The NAVILOCK NL-507TTL u-blox TTL Modul 60416 features an LEA-4 series receiver and 25mm patch antenna on a 30mm x 30mm board.


SPK GS406 (Discontinued)

SPK GS406 with LEA-5

Sparkfun sells a nice small module featuring the newer 5-series receiver (6-series in the GS407) and the highly rated Sarantel antenna for about $90. The design is based around the active version of the Sarantel instead of the more appropriate passive model and there's some potentially tricky soldering involved to get around the ribbon cable but the price is great for this hardware.

DIYDrones has build a adapter board for this GPS module. It looks like a great solution to use this GPS module with Paparazzi.

SPK GS407

SPK GS407

This is the model Sparkfun recommends as a replacement for the old GS406. It's essentially the same, but uses the newer 6-series receiver, and is not using a ribbon cable as an interface. Unfortunately, it still uses Sarantels SL1206 active antenna. It's recommended to buy This extension cable to use with it. The price is the same at $90USD.

u-blox NEO-6M

Hobbyking NEO 6M back

This is the cheapest GPS module with antenna for 13.85€ at Hobbyking. (under 10€ on Ebay)

They come with different (sized) patch antenna, mounted on a seperate PCB. The main PCB and antenna PCB are fixed with hot glue together and can be seperated by hand.

Navilock NL-652ETTL

Nice module with u-blox 6 chip and without the annoying cable that the HK NEO-6m has. Navilock NL-652ETTL

u-Blox C04-6H Reference Design

u-blox C04-5H

u-Blox sells a complete module with antenna for around $200 and will also provide complete schematics, BOM, and PCB files for free if you wish to make your own. Two versions are offered, one with an 18mm patch antenna and the other with the Sarantel P2 helical antenna. See http://www.ublox.com/en/evaluation-tools-a-software/reference-designs/for-gps-chips/c04-6h.html for more info.

LS20031 GPS Receiver

LS20031

Sparkfun sells the LS20031 GPS module which uses NMEA (Paparazzi support for NMEA is BETA right now.) This Locosys GPS module supports WAAS (U.S. DGPS), EGNOS (EU DGPS), and MSAS (Japanese DGPS).

More information on configuring the GPS via PMTK can be found here

Globalsat BU 353

BU-353 GPS receiver

USB US Globalsat GPS-Mouse compatile with the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0.
Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.
More information at the GPS/BU_353 site.

GPS configuration using U-Center

u-center configuration software

U-Center is a very comprehensive freeware program intended for the configuration and evaluation of u-blox receivers.

  • Note 2: You will need a driver for your FTDI cable if you run u-center on Windows, which can be found here.
  • Note 3: You can run u-center on Linux by installing "Wine" (Installation of Wine) and set up COM1 as /dev/ttyUSB0. You need to create a symbolic link from the COM device to TTY like this:
mkdir -p ~/.wine/dosdevices
ln -s /dev/ttyUSB0 ~/.wine/dosdevices/COM1

or what worked in Ubuntu 9.10

ln -s /dev/ttyUSB0 ~/.wine/dosdevices/com1

This command will create the symbolic link from ttyUSB0 to COM1. See Info on Wine for "dosdevices" setup. Just download the u-setup.exe and run it with Wine, follow prompts. This has been tested with Ubuntu7.10 and Ubuntu 8.04 so far.

The u-blox and Tiny UARTs both operate at 3.3V TTL levels and are 5V TTL tolerant. You must use a level shifter such as the common MAX232 to connect these devices to a standard PC serial port. The easiest and most recommended method is to connect to a USB port instead of serial with the $20 FTDI USB-TTL converter cable available from Digikey, Mouser, or direct from FTDI. Other similar converters are available from pololu / sparkfun. A stand-alone GPS such as the SAM-LS will require clean 3.3V/50mA power and a common ground with the TTL converter.

  • U-blox occasionally releases firmware updates. Log on to the u-blox website using paparazzi for username & password to view or download the latest firmware images. There have 'never' been any updates released for the Antaris-4 series used in the Tiny.

Start U-center and choose your com port from the pull down list under the connect button near the top left corner of the window. Choose your baudrate from the pull down box to the right of the connect button or select the auto-baud button to the right of that. U-blox default is 9600 baud. This must be changed to 19200 or higher to accomodate the 4Hz update rate.
connect, baud, and autobaud buttons

Uploading the Configuration File

Download the appropriate configuration file below and use u-center to load in onto your receiver. Under the Tools menu, choose GPS configuration. Be sure the box 'Store configuration into BBR/Flash' is checked and hit the button File>>GPS. A few errors and retries are normal, but a significant number of errors may indicate a poor connection and the software will notify you if it is unable to send all the data successfully.

Automatic Configuration at Startup

You can also use the u-blox UCenter module which will take over the task of initializing the GPS for you when you power your autopilot.

Manual Configuration

If you prefer to setup your receiver manually or have a model not listed above, here are instructions to configure your receiver in u-center. Open the message window (menu View->messages view) to start the configuration process by changing the following settings:

LEA-4P

  1. Right Click on the NMEA Icon and choose disable child
  2. Choose UBX->CFG->NAV2(Navigation 2) - set it to use Airborne 4G (tells the Kalman filter to expect significant changes in direction)
  3. UBX->CFG->PRT - set USART1 to 38400bps (must match the value in your Airframe file)
  4. Change the baudrate of U-Center to 38400bps if the connection is lost at this point
  5. UBX->CFG->RXM(Receiver Manager) - change GPS Mode to 3 - Auto (Enabling faster bootup only if signal levels are very good)
  6. UBX->CFG->RATE(Rates) - change the Measurement Period to 250ms (4 Hz position updates)
  7. UBX->CFG->SBAS : Disable (SBAS appears to cause occasional severe altitude calcuation errors)
  8. UBX->NAV (not UBX->CFG->NAV): double click on POSUTM, SOL, STATUS, SVINFO, VELNED. They should change from grey to black
  9. UBX->CFG->CFG : save current config, click "send" in the lower left corner to permanently save these settings to the receiver


LEA-5H

  1. Right Click on the NMEA Text on top of the tree and choose disable child messages
  2. Choose UBX->CFG->NAV5(Navigation 5) - set it to use Airborne 8 <4G. This tells the Kalman filter to expect significant changes in direction.

    Note that this setting is only good for faster moving airplanes. For a fixed position hovering heli, 'pedestrian' setting is better

  3. UBX->CFG->PRT - set USART1 to 38400bps (must match the value in your Airframe file)
  4. Change the baudrate of U-Center to 38400bps if the connection is lost at this point
  5. UBX->CFG->RATE(Rates) - change the Measurement Period to 250ms This gives a 4 Hz position update since 4 x 250ms is one second.
  6. UBX->CFG->SBAS : Disable (SBAS appears to cause occasional severe altitude calcuation errors)
  7. UBX->NAV (not UBX->CFG->NAV): double click on POSLLH, SOL, STATUS, SVINFO, VELNED. They should change from grey to black
  8. UBX->CFG->CFG : save current config, click "send" in the lower left corner to permanently save these settings to the receiver


  • Cycle the power and verify that the new configuration was saved
  • To reset the receiver to the factory defaults go to UBX->CFG->CFG, select 'Revert to default configuration', and click Send at the bottom left corner. To permanently save these values choose 'Save current configuration' and click Send.
  • To backup the configuration to a file on your PC: under the tools menu, choose GPS configuration, then click GPS>>file. This file can be re-loaded in a similar manner to configure additional identical receivers. Be sure the box 'Store configuration into BBR/Flash' is checked when reloading a configuration file to make the changes permanent.
  • To update the firmware on a LEA-5H get u-center >= 5.03, revert the GPS receiver to the default configuration, get an appropriate image from u-Blox (fitting your receivers serial number), find the flash identification flash.txt file in the u-center install directory and be prepared to wait a long time.
  1. NOTE: If you have a Tiny with LEA-5H module you must use u-center and manually setup the parameters as shown above (at least switch to 38400 baud manually before transferring the configuration file).
  2. NOTE: POSUTM is not available on LEA-5H. Instead, use POSLLH.

LEA-6H

We use the same configuration as for version 5

  1. Right Click on the NMEA Text on top of the tree and choose disable child messages
  2. Choose UBX->CFG->NAV5(Navigation 5) - set it to use Airborne 8 <4G. This tells the Kalman filter to expect significant changes in direction.

    Note that this setting is only good for faster moving airplanes. For a fixed position hovering heli, 'pedestrian' setting is better

  3. UBX->CFG->PRT - set USART1 to 38400bps (must match the value in your Airframe file)
  4. Change the baudrate of U-Center to 38400bps if the connection is lost at this point
  5. UBX->CFG->RATE(Rates) - change the Measurement Period to 250ms This gives a 4 Hz position update since 4 x 250ms is one second.
  6. UBX->CFG->SBAS : Disable (SBAS appears to cause occasional severe altitude calcuation errors)
  7. UBX->NAV (not UBX->CFG->NAV): double click on POSLLH, SOL, STATUS, SVINFO, VELNED. They should change from grey to black
  8. UBX->CFG->CFG : save current config, click "send" in the lower left corner to permanently save these settings to the receiver.

    Make sure you activate "2 - I2C-EEPROM" if using a ROM-based NEO chipset with external EEPROM (like HK 31135)


  • Cycle the power and verify that the new configuration was saved
  • To reset the receiver to the factory defaults go to UBX->CFG->CFG, select 'Revert to default configuration', and click Send at the bottom left corner. To permanently save these values choose 'Save current configuration' and click Send.
  • To backup the configuration to a file on your PC: under the tools menu, choose GPS configuration, then click GPS>>file. This file can be re-loaded in a similar manner to configure additional identical receivers. Be sure the box 'Store configuration into BBR/Flash' is checked when reloading a configuration file to make the changes permanent.
  • To update the firmware on a LEA-6H get u-center >= 6.21, revert the GPS receiver to the default configuration, get an appropriate firmaware file from u-Blox, find the flash identification flash.txt file in the u-center install directory and be prepared to wait a long time.(seriously)

Reset to Default Settings

The GPS module can be reset to its original default settings by pulling BOOT_INT high(3.3V) during a power cycle (Antaris Manual, p. 122). It may be required after a wrong firmware upgrade or a bad configuration change.

DGPS (Differential GPS)

Differential GPS is any method of improving GPS accuracy by comparing the GPS-indicated position of a nearby location to the known value and transmitting any error to the mobile unit. DGPS was originally created as a means of bypassing the deliberately introduced inaccuracies in civilian GPS signals. The original method used low frequency ground radios to relay correction data to the mobile unit and is still used today at airports, shipping ports, and even individual farms. Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) is a modern form of DGPS where the ground stations relay correction data to a GEO-Stationary satellite, which then relays it to the mobile unit on standard GPS frequencies eliminating the need for a separate radio reciever. SBAS is currently available in 3 regions, WAAS, EGNOS, and MSAS regions though only WAAS and EGNOS are officially operational. U-blox receivers support all common varieties of DGPS read the u-blox SBAS application note.

  • It is important to note that DGPS methods only improve the accuracy of the position calculation, not the precision. Since Paparazzi navigation is typically performed relative to the power-on location, any static error that could be corrected with DGPS is irrelevant.

WAAS issues

WAAS has been officially operational and "suitable for safety-of-life applications" since 2003. The default setting of all u-blox receivers ignores WAAS correction data and only uses the WAAS satellites for regular navigation like any other satellite. U-blox recommends further limiting this setting to exclude any stray EGNOS/MSAS satellites in North America, and completely disabling all SBAS functions for use outside North America. In 2006 one formerly reliable Paparazzi aircraft began having great GPS problems and displaying very erratic altitude calculations, disabling WAAS immediately resolved the issue and this phenomenon was recreated several times for verification. Turns out a new WAAS satellite was being added to the system and the others were being moved that week for better distribution. Our advice is to completely disable WAAS.

EGNOS

EGNOS augments the GPS satellite navigation system and makes it suitable for safety critical UAS applications. EGNOS became operational on 1 October 2009. ESA claims that it can determine position to within 2 meters compared with about 20 meters for GPS alone. Note that the service is currently provided only in western Europe. For further information take a look on the ESA EGNOS website.

For the latest update about functionality of EGNOS please check the website: European GNSS Supervisory Authority"

Troubleshooting

Problem: I keep getting this error with my nice shiny Tiny v2.1 with a LEA-5H: Invalid_argument ("Latlong.of_utm")

Solution: Select the correct GPS subsystem.

Antenna options for the Tiny and Paparazzi GPS units

See GPS/Antenna.