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Building your own instrumentation


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I've been doing a little work project lately using products from Yoctopuce (http://www.yoctopuce.com/)

I've been using their Yoctoknob (for a non PPG related application) which essentially measures resistance in real time across 5 circuits.

I can only vouch for the Yoctoknob, which does what it says on the tin. I can also vouch for the API which is top notch and a doddle to use. The guy I have been dealing with there (Marcus) has been really helpful with any little questions I might have.

They have a range of other sensors, relays, actuators, as well as some little screens, that, along with a Raspberry Pi a little battery and a little box to stick it all in, would lend itself well to building (and coding) your own custom instruments to do whatever you want them to.

The Yocto-Meteo sensor is of interest (temperature, air pressure and humidity) (http://www.yoctopuce.com/EN/products/us ... octo-meteo) as is the thermocoupling sensor http://www.yoctopuce.com/EN/products/us ... ermocouple (CHT, EGT?).

I also wonder if the servo controller could have some interesting applications in conjunction with the other sensors.

Finally, the screens look pretty snazzy.

http://www.yoctopuce.com/EN/products/ca ... b-displays

Anyway, if you are interested in coding up some solutions or whatever, I'd recommend checking them out.

Unfortunately my nerd credentials are much better than my (non existent) spanner credentials, so, doing tricky things with engine management would be beyond my skill range, however, if someone has something they want to do, I'd be quite happy to help with the code.

I don't think this would be much good for pure instruments that already exist, because it just isn't cheap enough (1 CHF = 70p). For example, a Vario would be easy to make, but would cost more (and depending on your packaging skills, less robust) than an off the shelf one. If you wanted a vario that did something different based on, EGT for example, then, this would be a great way to do it fairly cheaply.

Seeing this stuff, it makes you realize how cheap off the shelf equipment (sometimes) really is!

I also can't vouch for this stuff's robustness, although, no moving parts, so I can't see why it wouldn't be fine.



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The Raspberry Pi is interesting in that it is a very small (credit card sized), very cheap (< £30) low powered computer (has roughly the same processing grunt as an iPhone 3G if I recall correctly).

What's worth remembering is this is more than enough processing power to run lots of things. One of them would for example, easily power this forum including the webserver, network connectivity, and back end database.

It isn't difficult to see how one could strap one onto one's paramotor and have it doing realtime analysis of the information coming in from various sensors. It could also easily log all the information for later collection, and of course present it via one of the displays above, or on any display that take HDMI input (like your HD TV or computer monitor - the latter maybe with an adapter). If you had a 'proper' display the power requirements would likely escalate a fair bit, but the rest of the system would run on the sniff of an empty battery.

I forgot to mention in my first post that if anyone is thinking of buying this stuff, be warned.. I didn't really think of it, but Switzerland is part of Schengen and free movement and whatnot, but not part of the EU. This means that you might get hit by the tax man on incoming post (same as buying from the US for example). When I bought maybe £50 worth of stuff to be delivered to me here in Sweden, the taxman got me for about another 300 SEK (£30) - ouch!

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Another interesting gadget for the electronically inclined is the IOIO http://ioio.media.mit.edu/node/5

This is a simple interface that allows an android device to connect to a variety of inputs and outputs.

Cost of the IOIO is similar to the Raspberry Pi, but an android can be had for considerably less money than an equivalent touch screen display + power source + array of sensors (GPS, accelerometers etc.).

I've not been deep into this, but it's got to be worth a look if it makes the functionality of an android available to play with.

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