Wednesday, August 31, 2022


Long/slow rain over four hours this afternoon.  
Three tanks overflowing:
house tank, barn tank, and one greenhouse tank.
71,77,67, .92",B

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Dual GPS

Figured as long as I have two GPS units I might as well use both of them on the Pixhawk controller.  Positioning was a little better with the controller "blending" signals from both units - but still not super precise.  I will settle for now on what I have until I am ready to invest around $500 for a GPS-RTK system.  RTK (Real Time Kinematic Positioning) involves 2 GPS units - one on the rover and one connected to the base station that work together to provide centimeter level positioning!  83,86,67,0,B

Monday, August 29, 2022

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Saturday, August 27, 2022

now what...?

The Redcat Racing Everest 10 and Pixhawk came through for me. After 2 months of R&D, the rover finally made it to the mailboxes! Had one stop on this trip with a brief switch to manual mode due to an oncoming vehicle but made it without any crashes. The only change that I made to the rover was re-positioning the GPS lower so it wouldn't wag around so much like it was when it was mounted up on its post. Still hugged to the right a bit late into the trip - but I compensated just enough for that eventuality in the mission planning to avoid a run in or roll over. The 2000 mAh NiMH battery started at 8.4 volts and was running a bit below 7.2 volts near the end which didn't adversely affect the speed. Mission in real time was 1:12:44. Total distance was 4,304 meters. 92,96,68,0,B

Friday, August 26, 2022

made it a little further...

Programmed a new mailbox mission while the rover was powered up and connected to the ground station. Mission was going so well until about the 2800-meter mark. From then on, the rover started tracking right of the waypoint path along with the indicated heading position of the vehicle. I think the compass variance was caused by excessive vibration. It's a pretty bumpy ride and even with shocks on the rover and vibration dampening on the microcontroller there is not much I can do about that (due to the small scale) other than try again another day and see if the variance happens at roughly the same distance. 85,91,70,0,B

Thursday, August 25, 2022

First try for the prize...

Tried a pre-planned mailbox mission and knew from the start it was in trouble by "roving" to the right of the waypoint path. Figured I would go ahead and see how far I could get. Made it 2.4 kilometers before having a couple a run-ins with the right bank and ultimately rolling over. Continued on running partly in auto mode and partly in manual mode to see how far I could get before I ran out of power. Almost made it the highway before the rover pooped out at 4 kilometers. Total mission time was 80 minutes. The NiMH battery that came with the rover is 2000 mAh. I have a couple of 5200 mAh 2S lipos coming Friday. - so if I run the rover with both of the new batteries in parallel, I should have about 5 times the run time. 85,89,70,0,B

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Just running the battery down...

Warm up for the next mission (# 20 - a 4.3 kilometer run to the mailboxes). Let the rover roam around for a while today to run the battery down so I can charge it back up to full power for the power mission. 82,88,71,0,B

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

downhill from here...

Had a little solar maintenance to do at a friend's place up the hill from TFL. Good opportunity for another 2000+ meter rover mission on twisty roads. Had one false start then made the whole trip (184 waypoints) with only a couple of close calls along the edge of the road. The trip in real time was 32:45. 81,86,70,0,B

Monday, August 22, 2022

away from home...

A local neighbor bought some feed for me while he was in Ft. Stockton last week and just got back to the Big Bend. I went to go pick it up from him a couple of days ago. Decided it would be a good chance to try out quickly setting up and running a mission without internet access for my ground station. Mission planner found the rover on the map via its GPS as soon as I connected to it through the telemetry radio. Note: If you plan on starting from a very distant location, you have to "pre-fetch" the area in advance while connected to the internet and save it to a file in order to have good map detail at the new mission location. Mission planner only has the capacity for good zoomed in resolution for selected areas - not all of Google Earth map info. 73,88,73, .07",B

Sunday, August 21, 2022

the ungodly are not so...

Psalms1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.  

Saturday, August 20, 2022

changing direction...

You would be surprised how tricky it is to perform something as easy as a 3-point turn...autonomously. Setting one up for the rover in mission planner involves some very convoluted waypoint plotting. I think I have finally figured it out well enough to do it consistently - if the need for one ever comes up. 89,93,70,0,B

Friday, August 19, 2022

Pizza Delivery!

Thanks, remmij...
85,95,72, .11",B

Thursday, August 18, 2022

longer range

Successful there and back mission heading east. This mission was primarily to see how the rover would handle waypoints through the curvy parts of my road. Working my way up to a 2.5-mile one way run all the way to the mailboxes at the highway. 84,88,74,0,B

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


Put the rover through its paces to see how accurately it can run the same mission over and over. Also made a point to see how much distance I can get out of a fully charged battery. 85,92,67, .02",B

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

No traffic this trip...

Trying longer distance missions now. Ran this "long mission" for a second time the morning after the traffic incident with border patrol. The rover made it the full distance with no major issues. I walked along with it again to make sure it didn't come across any other vehicles. Started through my back driveway, then did a segment along an old ATV trail before going back onto ranch roads. Did a loop through my old airfield to add a little more distance and finished coming up my front driveway. I also changed the mounting of the GPS and repositioned the Osmo Action camera to the rear of the vehicle. No onboard FPV since the rover was out of range for a good portion of the trip. Eventually I will have to upgrade the telemetry and FPV systems so I can always be in contact with the rover no matter how far away it is. 80,88,70, .12",0

Monday, August 15, 2022

14 years

Today marks 14 years of blog posts.  Glad I made the switch all those years ago from keeping a written diary to blogging.  My time here in the desert would all be a blur if I hadn't posted daily (with just a few days missed).  Instead of searching through handwritten notebooks, I can quickly see what I was up to on any given day by searching my blog.   A quick scan and here are some of the benchmarks for each year: 2008-Building TFL/Shipping Containers. 2009-Greenhouse/Pepino Swamp Cooler.  2010-Benita/Solar Ovens. 2011-Guns/Mr. Floppy. 2012- Christ/Ben. 2013-Sterling Silver Casting/Carl. 2014-Paramotor/Chupa. 2015-Broken Leg/Silver Ingots. 2016-Solar Oven/Javier. 2017-Goats/Drone. 2018-Solar Oven Baking/Silver AA Chips. 2019-Casita/Tomato Plants. 2020-Pandemic/Pocket Watches. 2021-Bronze Casting/Sober & Tobacco Free. 2022-Wyze Cams/Rover.  

I've done a lot of different things in this life because I have a bit of attention deficit disorder and in constant need of new things to keep me amused.  My parents used to refer to it as "losing interest as soon as the novelty wears off".  I can't imagine going through life with one job or career.  When I was in college, I used to freak out occasionally (usually during my morning shower) and think to myself..."what if I invest 4 years of education into a future I'm no longer interested in?"  Needless to say, I was not a very good student.  Five years of college and no degree, changing majors 4 times and flunking out twice. Oddly enough, I did make dean's list one semester.   But somehow I've been able to earn a living while staying amused in spite of myself. 

First person to comment with the correct number of blog posts that I have done since moving here wins some bronze...or something else if I lose interest in casting bronze which could happen at any moment...  79,91,72,?,B

Sunday, August 14, 2022

in the midst...

Philippians 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Border Patrol

Running a new/longer mission and at the last minute, I decided to walk along with the rover as it would be out of contact with the ground station for a good portion of the trip. Almost to the home stretch without incident and I came up on a border patrol vehicle on a blind hill. They were very cooperative and were quite interested in what was going on. I jokingly told them I was working on a robot that could track illegals in the desert. Time to install the lidar for obstacle avoidance. 94,98,73,0,B

Friday, August 12, 2022

backing up...

Three tests in one today (actually 4 because I increased the rover speed to max for the crawler - .7mps to 1.0 mps). Tried out 3 features in the waypoints menu today - pause, reverse, and return to launch. Reverse was pretty tricky to figure out as setting it up was not intuitive at all. Made a mistake in the planning of one test and the rover continued the rest of a mission in reverse (it goes backward just as accurately as it does going forward). Return to launch from the last waypoint got it back to within 18 inches of the starting point. BTW - at "full speed", the rover still makes it around the block no problem. 90,95,75,0,B

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Moonlight sonata

Once the sun goes down, I'm pretty much in for the night. But I really wanted to try a mission around the block after dark and I figured since the rover was going to do all the work, I should go ahead and just put it outside, set up the waypoints, and switch to "auto mode". I watched the mission from the comfort of my bed until the rover returned 20 minutes later. The Wyze Cam V3 does quite well with light from a nearly full moon. The rover just made it past a couple of plants that reached out to grab it. Probably time for some cable management before wires start getting yanked out of their sockets. 91,98,72,0,B

One of my father's favorite limericks:

There once was a young man from Sparta
Who was quite an elegant farta
He could fart anything
From God Save the King
To Beethoven's Moonlight Sonarta

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Spot on...

I had noticed that the stock GPS that came with the Pixhawk kit I ordered from Ebay seemed to be off quite a bit. This made setting waypoint missions rather tricky as I had to try to compensate for the position inaccuracy depending on which direction the rover was set up to travel. Tried out a RadioLink GPS SE100 and out of the box it worked like a charm. Nice to see the rover know where it actually is. The old gps was accurate to within 2 meters and only picked up 11 satellites. The new gps is supposedly accurate to within .2 meters and picks up 20 satellites. As far as I could tell - it was pretty much spot on. 92,98,71,0,B

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Monday, August 8, 2022

Improved turning authority..

Checking my new turning authority parameters. The rover's tracking during turns is pretty accurate now. (FF gain increased from the default setting of 0.2 to the max of 3.0) Once I get everything dialed in, I will be doing a detailed video of all my settings. Just got a new GPS and a lidar sensor for obstacle avoidance for more testing. 94,97,75,0,B

Sunday, August 7, 2022


1 Peter 2:15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

no crash this time...

Finally tweaked the rover's controller parameters enough to make it all the way around the block (after about 10 tries). In the basic tuning section of mission planner, I adjusted the FF gain in the steering rate from .2 to .8 to give the rover more turning authority. Still having "drifting issues" that I need to figure out. The trip in real time was 22 minutes and 10 seconds. Total distance was 740.2 meters. 93,98,72,0,B

Friday, August 5, 2022

down and back...

Decided to try a round trip to the road and back. Tweaked the steering parameters and the rover seems to be tracking a little better but still meanders a bit. I'm also noticing that when it does an out and back mission, on the way back it tends to hug to the left of the waypoint path. Not sure what that is all about. There are newer GPS units available now, so I ordered one to try out. If the new one doesn't do much different, I can try both of them. The Pixhawk can use two up to 2 GPS units simultaneously and "blend" the readings for more precise positioning. The rover cut it a little close on the way home but managed to plow over and through a couple of obstacles. 97,101,74,0,B

Thursday, August 4, 2022


This test mission to show failsafes working and telemetry data readout in mission planner. Parameters set up to continue in auto mode when RC and/or GSC (ground station control) signal is lost. I was having latency issues with the Wi-Fi FPV camera (Wyze Cam V3) but solved them by changing the live view from HD to 360P. I use Google Drive to get the portions of video that I need off of the Wyze cameras and into my laptop for editing. Made good progress today dialing in the steering trim. Ran numerous short missions out to and around the end of my driveway and successfully got it back home without once having to walk out to it for a rescue and reset. As you can see from the "Dist Traveled" (lower left), the rover had already gone just over 1900 meters before running this mission. 98,103,76,0,B

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

around the block...

Made it around the block...almost. So close! Still having steering trim issues. Was pretty happy to see it make all the turns it was programed to do - especially through my back driveway entrance. Unfortunately, it was hugging the left side of the route a little too close and a stupid desert plant jumped out in front of the rover near the end of the trip. Total distance travelled was 744 meters at an average rate of .65 meters per second. Total mission time was 19 minutes. Wi-Fi and telemetry signals held firm but lost RC connection for a while around the far turn. All failsafes worked as programmed. 100,108,74,0,B

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

trip to mailbox rd...

Trying another driveway mission. Aside from making it to the road and circling around my entrance posts - another part of this mission was to test some failsafe parameters. Finally figured out how to get the rover to continue the mission in case of loss of RC and/or telemetry signal. This will come in handy for long range missions. I still need to adjust the steering trim as the rover doesn't track straight enough to suit me. 98,103,78,0,B

Monday, August 1, 2022

Circle test...

Testing some features in mission planner: auto wp circle and the "DO_JUMP" function to repeat the waypoint mission. The rover was programmed to run the route 5 times and seemed to stay on course fairly well. Ran into a little snag though on the way home (I'm going to need to add some obstacle avoidance eventually...). Wyze Cam V3 onboard running off a 5V power bank. 94,100,73,0,B