AIRduino and AIRdongle

Overview

AIRduino and AIRdongle are designed to work together. AIRduino is basically an Arduino Uno with 2.4G RF connectivity. This 2.4G connectivity can be used to upload firmware (sketch, in Arduino term) to AIRduino. Everything works in the same ways as with the official Arduino Uno, except that the USB cable connecting the PC to Arduino is replaced by a 2.4G RF link. This is extremely useful in case AIRduino has to be placed far away from the PC. It is also very useful when working with multiple AIRduinos.

AIR-000017.typical_app

AIRduino and AIRdongle each has a sophisticated designed block on board, which provides the transparent serial port connection over 2.4G RF. The block contanins an STM32 MCU, a NRF24L01+ RF transceiver, and an RF frontend IC (power amplifier and LNA). With future firmware upgrade to the STM32 MCU, more features are going to be added. For example, it will be possible to send and receive 2.4G RF packets from the AIRduino sketch via I2C.

AIRdongle works on the PC side. When AIRdongle is connected to the PC via USB, it will emulate into two serial ports. One is for the Arduino IDE, which is the same as the serial port that appears when connecting the official Arduino UNO port. This port can be used to upload sketches, or used with the Serial Monitor in Arduino IDE. The other serial port is an command line console, which could be used by experienced users to configure AIRdongle and AIRduino, customize RF parameters, or upgrade the firmware of the STM32 MCUs on the AIRongle and AIRduino.

Features

  • Transparent serial port over 2.4G RF
  • Fully compatible with Arduino IDE
  • Ongoing development of oncoming features
  • 2.4GHz ISM band operation 2.400 – 2.4835GHz
  • 250kbps, 1Mbps, 2Mbps on air RF data rates
  • Up to 100mW transmission
  • Up to 1000m line of sight connectivity
  • Loaded with latest bootloader for Arduino UNO
  • Pinout is identical with Arduino UNO R3
  • Machine Assembled

The drivers

After AIRdongle is connected to the host computer, it works as a USB compound device which contains two virtual COM ports. On Windows 7, OS should automatically install drivers for these two ports. After the drivers are loaded successfully, the two COM ports will show up in Device Manager as below.

AIR-000017.device_manager

  • The COM port namedSTMicroelectronics Virtual COM Port should be used with the Arduino IDE for uploading sketches, or with the “Serial Monitor”. In other words, this COM port can be used in exactly the same way as with the official Arduino UNO.
  • The COM port named USB Serial Port”, is designed to use with a terminal software (i.e. PuTTY, TeraTerm). This port SHOULD NOT be used in any way with Arduino IDE. Experienced user could use this COM port to configure AIRdongle and AIRduino, customize RF parameters, or upgrade the firmware of the STM32 MCUs on the AIRongle and AIRduino. The detailed instruction is to be added in the future.

In Linux, Ubuntu in the following example, the drivers are automatically installed too. To check whether the drivers are loaded correctly. Use the following command:

If the drivers are installed successfully, the output should look like this:

AIR-000017.dmesg

  • The tty namedttyACM0 – USB ACM device should be used with the Arduino IDE for uploading sketches, or with the “Serial Monitor”.
  • The tty named ttyUSB0 – FTDI USB Serial Device converter should be used with a terminal software (i.e. PuTTY, TeraTerm) to configure AIRdongle and AIRduino, customize RF parameters, or upgrade the firmware of the STM32 MCUs on the AIRongle and AIRduino.

The RF link indicator

After the drivers are installed successfully, it’s time to power on the AIRduino. The blue LEDs on AIRduino and AIRdongle should be both solid ON, which indicates that the serial connection over the 2.4G RF has been successfully established.

Uploading a sketch

Uploading sketches is the same as with the official Arduino UNO. In the following example, we will upload the Standard Firmata sketch.

  1. Start the Arduino IDE.
  2. In Tools -> Boards, select “Arduino UNO”.
  3. In Tools->Serial Port, select the correct port (COM7 in our case).
  4. In File->Examples->Firmata, select “StandardFirmata”.
  5. Click the Upload icon.
  6. The sketch will be uploaded to AIRduino if everything OK.

AIR-000017.uploading

Try the Firmata Test Program

With AIRduino running StandardFirmata sketch, it would be a good idea to run the Firmata Test Program to read or control the things connected to AIRduino, WIRELESSLY.

  • Download the Test Program from http://firmata.org/wiki/Main_Page
  • Select the same port as used for uploading the sketch. (COM7 in our case)
  • The values in the analog channels (A0-A5) should already start to update frequently.
  • On AIRduino, there is an LED connected to Pin 13. From the Test Program, change the mode of Pin 13 to Output.
  • The LED can be toggled by clicking the Low/High button in the Test Program.

AIR-000017.firmata

 

What is Firmata?

Firmata is a generic protocol for communicating with microcontrollers from software on a host computer. It is intended to work with any host computer software package. Right now there is a matching object in a number of languages. It is easy to add objects for other software to use this protocol. Basically, this firmware establishes a protocol for talking to the Arduino from the host software. The aim is to allow people to completely control the Arduino from software on the host computer. For more information, please visit http://firmata.org/wiki/Main_Page

Use AIRduino together with Firmata, it is possible to monitor and control many things wirelessly. Sounds cool?

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