Sky Drone FPV HD Video Solution For Drones Uses 3G or 4G/LTE Networks and the BeagleBone Black

Earlier this week, I wrote about SparqEE CELLv1.0 a low cost cellular module to allow applications such as RC helicopter with extended range thanks to cellular networks. It turns out there’s currently a crowdfunding campaign that aims to bring such solution to market, but using 3G/4G USB dongles instead. Sky Drone FPV (First Person View) is an HD video system that can be controlled using 3G or 4G/LTE networks, and features the BeagleBone Black as the controller board. It would usually be attached to a quadcopter, by there’s not reason why you could not also use it with RC ground vehicles.

Sky Drone FPV Prototype

Let’s start with the technical specifications:

  • Controller Board – BeagleBone Black
  • 3G/4G LTE Modem:
    • Option 1 – Huawei E397Bu-501 for US / Americas (4G LTE FDD 1700/2100MHz and 700MHz)
    • Option 2 –  Huawei E398u-1 for Europe / Asia (4G LTE FDD  900/2600 MHz)
  • Camera:
    • Option 1 – Full HD 1080p 5Mpix Camera, Field of View: 120° (default)
    • Option 2 – Full HD 1080p 5Mpix Camera, Field of View: 62°
  • MAVLink support for compatible autopilot boards for HUD and telemetry data. It has been tested on APM 2.5 (ArduPilot-Mega)
  • Typical End to End Latency – <150ms
  • Data Usage – Customizable; bandwidth cap can be configured
  • Power Input – 6-23v
  • Total Weight – 129 g including all components and all cables: USB, APM, and uBEC (Universal battery Elimination Circuit).

This hardware will allows you to stream full HD digital video (up to 1080p @ 30 fps), and take 5 MP still images simultaneously, with a range only limited by your power source, and 3G or 4G/LTE network coverage. The company will also provide an FPV Groundstation app for iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry PlayBook to control the system and receive the AES-256 encrypted video stream.

FPV Groundstation app

If they reach soon-to-announced stretch goals, they’ll also implement on-groundstation video recording,on-device video recording, augmented reality overlays, and possibly Oculus Rift virtual reality headset support.

If you are interested in this project, you can currently pledge $349 (Early Birds), plus $20 shipping if you don’t live in Hong Kong to get a full Skydrone FPV System, the Sky Drone FPV App, and a Sky Drone Sticker with the camera and modem of choice delivered in December 2013 or later. If you miss the “Early Birds” pledge, you’ll have to fork $399. Retail price will be $449.

You can watch the Indiegogo video below for an overview, and a demo of the prototype system, as well as some info about the campaign.

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12 Replies to “Sky Drone FPV HD Video Solution For Drones Uses 3G or 4G/LTE Networks and the BeagleBone Black”

  1. I liked the video. Explained to the point, no big fanfare and dashes of geeky humor here and there. They seem like a sweet good-natured bunch who love what they do, and I wish them great success.

  2. If you google on this beagle bone black, you found out that this hardware doesn’t support h264 encoding. So is this done in software (and able to do 1080p?) or is this done in the camera itself?

  3. @Mr Fly.
    I don’t know about this particular design, but I’ve seen other where the camera handles the encoding, so the BBB just “forwards” the video data. BBB can decode H.264 720p by software, but not 1080p, and AFAIK encoding is a more complex operation, so it’s unlikely they’d manage to do that on the BBB, even if they are using a different codec.

  4. @cnxsoft
    We actually do it on the BBB. But we do not use H.264 as it not suitable for real time transmission on unreliable links. Our proprietary codec is less computing intensive bus requires a higher bandwidth.

  5. I would like your product
    I’m doing project UAV control by 3G
    how can buy it(Full option for ready use)

    I hope you tell me back


  6. @Promjak M.
    I’m not selling it, I just blogged about it. But I understand Sky Drone only sells the video part, and you have to buy your own drone. You should contact them on their website directly to find out which drones are compatible.

    If you buy the drone in Thailand, you’ll also avoid potentially nasty surprises with custom fees.

  7. Hi, i´m having problems connecting an raspberry pi or an other singleboard computer with an lte Modem. Can anyone help?

  8. You connect the BeagleBone Black to LTE, using an LTE-Stick.
    Do you need to install spetial drivers?

    Are you also able to use this LTE-Stick with an raspberry pi?

  9. @UAV-Noob
    3G/LTE USB stick are often accessed as serial devices. There’s plenty of documentation of the web explaining how to do that in Linux. Pick a popular LTE stick model, and Google the solution.

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