Rocketry Electronics

Camera contoller

AYUCR Camera Controller

June 24, 2007

AYUCR II Flies Again!

July 7, 2007

Mirror Flight! This time the Canon SD300 boosted with an Aerotech I161 with a mirror. The mirror retracts at apogee and the descent is fully captured. The pink booster chute is visible at times and the howling violence of flight is stunning. Check it out via YooTube...

June 24, 2007

I flew the AYUCR II rocket on Saturday at NERFF 3. This time I used a Canon SD300 camera and tripped the shutter using a servo. I got excellent pictures and this video. If you look closely you will see another rocket at the very beginning of the video that was launched at the same time. Also the pink parachute on the booster is visible at times. Despite the seemingly hard landing the payload and camera suffered no damage. Look for an article on using a servo for camera rockets soon.

June 14, 2007

I wrote a new article on using the AYUCR Camera Controller in a non-pyro eject rocket based on Tom Beach's Eject-O-Match.

June 2, 2007

The "Big Bertha NP" with non-pyro eject controlled via the AYUCR Camera Controller flew successfully at the June METRA Luanch. An article on it as well as on a servo-based digital camera rocket is in the works.

May 3, 2007

I've started writing the articles on the BLoad Development Platform and BLoad Interface Adapter. This is the basis for developing the electronics here. These free and open tools are designed to allow others to develop and extend the designs here. It's not specific to rocketry either but it is important groundwork for being able to develop your own stuff.

April 27, 2007

There is some new content on the site. There are new articles about the bootloader and directions for reflashing a PIC 16F819 using an external programmer. I am working on an article on the AYUCR Bootloader Development Platform which will describe how to rapidly develop and test firmware changes on the bench. There is a new downloads section that will eventually collect all of the downloadable content in one place. There is an update to the Palm interface software to support electronics running at both 2400 and 9600 baud.

April 13, 2007

I've reworked the website to be easier to maintain so I can add more content. in the coming months. One thing to look forward to is a rework of the 2.0 ACC firmware. The latest firmware has some kinks that need to be fixed and I am going to take this opportunity to move to a new bootloader platform. There are some pros and cons associated with this:

Pros: Cons:

What does all of this mean? I am trying to improve the platform to make it easier and faster for everyone to develop their own firmware or enhance the existing design following an open-source model. The hope is the rocketry community can end up with a set of designs and a platform for do-it-yourself electronics. This isn't limited to camera timers but will eventually cover deployment timers, stagers, altimeters and full-blown flight computers.

To get there the existing design needs to evolve and the most recent changes realize that. The old firmware communicated at 2400 baud. This is fine for sending small, 16 byte packets back and forth to set flight parameters but it too slow for flashing firmware. Switching to 9600 baud speeds things up 4 times. This speedup doesn't come without sacrificing compatibility with old tools but I feel it is necessary. There will be an upgrade path and the old tools will be upgraded or replaced so my hope is this won't be painful as it might sound.

Other enhancements include changes to the bootloader itself. This is a portion of the firmware that allows the firmware to be reflashed by the user. The existing bootloader has some limitations that, while acceptable for the time being, stand in the way of future progress. For example the first page of the firmware can't be overwritten. This puts limitations on how and to what extent firmware can be changed from version to version. The new firmware removes these limitations. It also adds the ability to write to the data EEPROM (256 bytes of non-volatile data storage) This means just about any new firmware can be reflashed over any existing firmware provided the bootloader portions are identical. Therein lies the rub. The new firmware cannot be reflashed over the old. It must be reflashed externally. In order to do that requires and external PIC programmer. Luckily these are cheap and easy to use (provided you have a real RS232 serial port) but I will also be offering an upgrade service. More on that later.

Lastly there is a new external reset option for the bootloader. This is designed to developers during bench testing. It allows the processor to be reset externally using a modified serial cable and a reflash initiated. This means you can reset, reflash and retest firmware changes entirely under the control of your PC. This is much like development using a Basic Stamp and makes developing and testing changes faster by an order or two of magnitude. Again, more on all of that later.

May 25, 2006

I've updated the Palm configuration software. It now works better with the V2 camera controller.

May 23, 2006

The original AYUCR camera controller has undergone a major revision and is now available. The new controller has many new features while being even easier to build than the original. Highlights include:

Since this is a complete overhaul of the original design no upgrade is available. The original will continue to be supported and V2 is still the same, low $30 price as the original version.

October 15, 2004

Two bugs fixed. One was in the Firmware Updater. It seems that only the Release version was acting strangely. It would always say index out of range when trying to write the firmware. This wasn't happening in the debuggable version so it was a little hard to find. V1.2 fixes this and I have tested the release version, not just the debuggable version to test this. Please use this version. Also V2.02 of the firmware is now available. This fixes an intermitent problem when the controllers flight parameters wouldn't get read properly on powerup.

October 10, 2004

I found that the Windows Timer programming software has problems with firmware revisions that contain a letter, such as 2.0d. So I have updated the firware revision for the Pencam Controller firmware to 2.01. I have also released version 1.1 of the firmware updater. Please use version 1.1 to reflash your firmware.

July 13, 2004

The new AYUCR Firmware Updater software is now available. This allows you to update the firmware on your Pencam Controller to support new pencam models using the serial port on the controller. More information on the software and the firmware updates are available on the Revisions Page Sorce code for the AYUCR Firmware Updater is available on the Source Page

July 6, 2004

Version 2.0d of the Pencam Controller firmware is available for download. I am working on a firmware upgrade driver for Windows and it should be ready soon. I will make it available with full source code for those who like to tinker. There Perl/Linux version is available now but I realize that few people have access to a Linux Box. If someone would like to port this to the Mac I would be glad to help them get started.

I am offering a free chip swap for the Pencam Controller to the new 2.0d firmware. If you send me your old processor (the 18 pin chip) I will reflash it to the latest firmware and return it to you. All you pay is the shipping to me (less than a dollar) After that you can download the firmware updates from this site and using one of the driver programs (Windows coming soon) you can update the firmware on your controller on your own. When shipping the chip to me please use a padded envelop and take precautions to protect the chip in transit. You can use the small tube the chip is packaged in for the kits or stick it into a piece of Styrofoam and tape securely. If you are interested in a chip swap please email me

The price of the kits has been lowered to $30! This reflects lower part costs from buying in bulk and other efficiencies.

An major upgrade to the Camera Controller is in the works. V2.0 will have the following features:

This should be ready in early August

May 24, 2004

V2.0b of the pencam firmware will be available soon. Version 2.0b now includes a bootloader which allows the firmware to be reflashed via the existing serial port. This means you will be able to download future firmware updates from the website and update your controller to the latest firmware. No hardware modifications to the controller are necessary although you do need to start with V2.0 or later in order to make this work. I will soon be offering a free chip swap program whereby you send me your old chip and I will send you a new one programmed with the latest firmware (you only will pay shipping to me.) Stay tuned...

In the meantime you can download the source code for V2.0b on the Source page as well as check out the information on the bootloader protocol that has been added to the Pencam User Manual

Anyone interested in contributing a bootloader driver (Windows Platform) please let me know...

January 4, 2004

Minor update to the Pencam firmware is available.

November 18, 2003

The Pencam User Manual has been updated for version 1.3 firmware

November 14, 2003

Fred Taverni kindly updated the PC interface application to work properly with the Pencam V1.3 firmware. Check the Software page to download an update.

October 22, 2003

New Pencam Controller firmware is available. It includes 3 new flight parameters, poweron_time, cycle_count and cycle_pacing. This should help expand compatability with various cameras.

October 20, 2003

New additions to the site:

July 15, 2003

The V1.20 firmware for the Pencam Controller is complete. This uses a newer arming method to work with a wider range of Pancam units. You may purchase upgraded firmware for your existing controller for a reduced price of $5.00.

July 13, 2003

Due to the recent article in Sport Rocketry there has been high demand for the Pencam Controller. This increased warrants an update to the kit be made. I am currently working on the update which will include:

The new kits should be ready by August 1. You can still order the older kits while I have them in stock and you will qualify for a free firmware upgrade when released. Owners of the original controller will be able to update their firmware by ordering a new CPU for a new upgrade price of $5. Recent purchasers of kits will receive an upgrade at no cost. (I even pay the shipping)

The really big news, however, is I intend to open source this design. Once the new kits are ready I will begin making available all source code, schematics and layouts for the controller. Why? I feel this is a better way to support the kit and design. Others will be able to make their own modifications and improvements as long as they agree to contribute their work back to the community. Schools and clubs would be able to order and make their own kits and realize a savings over the normal kit price. Hobbyists will be able to use the design as a basis for their own projects or just to learn something about rocketry electronics. Will I still sell kits? Yes. It may not be feasible for everyone to source and build their own controllers from scratch. Some parts are expensive in small quantities. Circuit boards, for example, cost $62 for a minumum quantity of 9. Will I lose money? No. I will still make a small profit on the kits I sell. The benefit to the user is a pooling of talent and ideas from all users having access to the design. I hope this advances the design and will improve support for the controller over what I can currently provide. Stay tuned...

June 15, 2002

A new version of the Windows interface for programming the controllers is available. It fixes problems storing flight parameters to the Pencam Controller. There is also a version available for the Pocket PC! See the Software section for downloads. Many thanks go out to Fred Taverni for contributing this software.

April 29, 2002

Bill Spadafora points out that it is possible for the 12V batteries to short out against the battery clips. Since the sides of the clips are "live" if the paint on the battery case is scratched the battery will short out through its own case. It is suggested to wrap the batteries with tape to prevent this. Thanks Bill.

April 27, 2002

I fixed some errors in the Pencam assembly instructions (Thanks Bob!) Nothing major just typos.

April 25, 2002

There is now a FAQ section for the Pencam controller. If you have any other questions please let me know.

April 24, 2002

I have added two sample videos taken using an Aiptek Pencam and the new AYUCR Pencam controller.

1.jpg 2.jpg
PenCam Video 37 seconds 4.6MB PenCam Video 6 seconds 1.3MB

April 22, 2002

There may be a manufacturing error with some of the early Pencam interface cables. I may have wired some of them backwards. With the connector facing upwards and the two orientation ribs facing you the wire colors from left to right should be yellow, green, red, black. If you have an incorrect cable please contact me.

April 20, 2002

The AYUCR Pencam Controller is finally shipping. Thank you for your patience. I ran into a couple of snags in the home stretch but I am happy to report that the controller is flight tested and kits are available. This controller is upgradable and I am looking into adapting it to other digital cameras such as the Intel Play camcorder. Anything that can be controlled with two buttons ought to be doable. If there is a camera that you are interested in seeing supported please contact me.

April 14, 2002

I will soon be accepting orders for the new AYUCR Pencam Controller. This controller interfaces with the Aiptek Pencam series or digital cameras and allows them to be used for rocket photography. Both single shot and contiuous (movie) modes are supported. I expect the kits will cost around $40. Check back soon for more information on ordering.

March 14, 2002

I added a new article on modifying a Pencam for external control. This is in preparation for the AYUCR Pencam Controller which should be available by the end of March 2002. If you are interested please let me know as it will help me with ordering parts.

February 15, 2002

Winter project time! An upgrade to the AYUCR Camera Controller will be available soon that adds servo control capability. Instead of wiring the shutter relay directly to a camera a servo can be used to press the shutter button on just about ANY camera. This opens up a number of possibilities:

This upgrade is available as a chip upgrade to existing kits. Just pull out the old processor and pop in a new one. No hardware modification is necessary. The upgrade chips are $10.

I am looking for beta testers for the new firmware. You should already have a completed controller kit and be willing to provide me with real feedback. You will pay for the beta firmware upgrade but I will provide you with a free upgrade to the finalized firmware. I need 2 or 3 diehard testers so please do not apply unless you have the time to really test the design. If you are interested please let me know.

September 8, 2001

The backup capacitor is now included in all kits.

September 1, 2001

The online ordering system usingeMartCart and PayPalis working very well so far. I understand that some people prefer a more traditional means of ordering. I have added instructions for ordering by mail to the ordering page. Sorry for any inconvenience.

August 27, 2001

The AYUCR Camera Controller kits are now shipping and available to order online. See the ordering page for more details.

August 22, 2001

In preparation for releasing the new kits I am ceasing production of the two old kits. Both the 8 pin and 18 pin kits are no longer available. I am also ending the free upgrades for the older designs (except in the case of the bug in the 8 pin chips) No one took me up on the offer anyway. In the future upgrades will be handled via a nominal upgrade price basically to cover the cost of the replacement chip. You can keep the old kit, give it to a friend, build a new timer around it etc. Prices for upgrade chips haven't been set yet but should be around $10. The new timer kits are $35 and while this is more expensive than the old kits the new kits are complete and much nicer.

I expect to be able to ship kits by the end of August. Over the next several days you will notice changes to the information available on these pages as I transition to the new kits. Things may be a little flakey for a while but I want to get the information up quickly so people can look it over. I am always looking for feedback so please drop me a line if you have any questions or comments.

August 2, 2001

The new AYUCR Camera Controller kits are coming along nicely. A picture of the prototype appears on the introduction page. They will, for the first time, be complete kits and will cost $35. I realize this is almost twice what the old kits cost but the new kits include a double sided printed circuit bord, battery holder with option for external power, military style hermetically sealed G-switch and voltage regulator so the unit can be powered with 6V-12V. I expect the new kits to be available by the end of August.