I’ve read through the BlueBoat Software Setup guide and I can see that a laptop running QGroundControl can communicate and control a BlueBoat via network connection that gets passed from the laptop to the BaseStation, to the BlueBoat wireless router, and ultimately to the Raspberry Pi in the boat. If I were to add a cell/sat modem as a payload and connected it to the Raspberry Pi directly, then can I bypass the BaseStation and just connect my laptop to the BlueBoat via internet connection? In other words, is the BaseStation absolutely required in order to control the BlueBoat?
Yes, a 4G modem works. I have one plugged to the Raspberry Pi in My BlueBoat.
It works great alongside our BlueOS ZeroTier extension.
That said, I think it is always nice to have additional control links. I have a 4G link, a 900MHz telemetry link, and the BaseStation .
You will probably have to connect an ethernet cable to the raspberry pi for setup, though. As BlueOS in the boat ships with the hotspot functionality disabled, as it interferes the radio in the boat.
Thanks for the response. I like your idea of having redundant links, will definitely incorporate that into our system. For my own understanding, what 4G modem are you using for your boat? And does Blue Robotics have any documentation on how to setup the BlueOS ZeroTier extension?
Hi Gabe -
We’ve got documentation in the works to cover ZeroTier setup - here are the basics so you can try sooner:
Install zerotier extension
Create account and new network with Zerotier. Install client for your computer, and join the network. Approve your new device on the network (Zerotier web interface.)
Use ZeroTier extension (on left-hand menu) to join your network in BlueOS via the 16 digit network ID (paste in and click JOIN.) Approve the device on the network.
Access BlueOS via Zerotier IP address in browser. Configure Mavlink Endpoints to direct at your control computer’s Zerotier IP Address.
Just about any 4G modem will work, assuming it supports the bands / carrier in your area. Configuring the unit to use ipv6 only can help zerotier connect quicker. When switching internet access from WiFi to 4G, or just starting the system up, it can take 2-5 minutes for Zerotier to find the best route and a stable connection to be established.
Hello all, just ordered my BlueBoat and waiting for it to cross the Atlantic.
A 4G connection backup seems to be a sensible addition to the setup. I have no previous experience with Raspberry Pi or Ardupilot hardware, so I would like to ask the more experienced users to shed some more light on the hardware required to make a 4G connection.
Since the “HAT” connection to Raspberry taken by the navigator, what are the connections options left? Would I need a separate antenna sticking out of the hull?
Thank you for your help!
Hi Costas -
An external antenna for your 4G modem is a good idea, if not two! We’ll have a guide eventually, but in the meantime I’ve been testing with these antennas and this router, but depending on where you are in the world you may need different hardware, based on the cellular bands in use. hese anntenas work great with the larger 14mm deck holes. I like using this router style because then you have the additional benefit of an ethernet switch (and ethernet connection to Pi), but all the Pi USB ports are available and so one could be used with a USB 4g modem.
Zero tier is truly amazing, and once setup as an extension it punches through the NATS of cellular networks with ease. It will connect quicker if you configure your cellular device to use ipv6 only.
Best of luck!
Hi Tony, thank you for your very informative answer.
Installing a router would most probably imply replacing the built-in MikroTik RBGroove-52HPn router. Besides the additional Ethernet ports, is there any connection switching (WiFi-Cellular) benefit from it?
I’ve read that setting up the connection with ZeroTier via 4G can take up to 5 minutes. Once the connection with ZeroTier is up, can it be on “standby” for when the BlueBoat loses WiFi connectivity to Basestation? Or one should hand the control to 4G before WiFi disconnections are likely to happen?
Hi Costas -
In my integration, I didn’t extend the WiFi antennas to be external to the vehicle - so I can only connect to it via WiFi at short range. It’s easier for me to just turn on the boat, and turn on Zerotier connection on my phone or laptop, and open QGC.
That said, if you were connected to the boat via WiFi and lost the connection, as long as both you and the boat have internet access, ZeroTier will transition from using the shortest route possible (which had been direct via WiFi) to finding and using the next shortest route possible. This usually takes 60 to 90 seconds! In that way the failover you seek sort of already exists? It’s just not an instant changeover…
ZeroTier Multipath sounds exactly what one should employ to make communications robust. It even offers multiple options to control how/when the switchover occurs! @williangalvani it would be nice to know if BlueOS client extension supports this mode.
Still haven’t got my hands on my BlueBoat, but the 4G modem setup is already planned. ATM I am looking into plugging a 4G USB modem to RPi to keep it as integrated as possible.
I have looked into the 4G antennas you pointed that are also available in the EU as well and I would like your advice finding the antenna type that would be easier to mount on the existing deck holes.
The options are 2: A Bell-shaped antenna and one or two paddle-shaped antennas. The latter seem preferable as they are foldable, removable and can be spaced apart (if that would improve signal reception), but are not designated as “outdoor” or “waterproof”.
It can be hard to find a 4G USB modem with antenna connector - I’m interested in what you’ve got in mind there…
As for the antennas, I’ve been using this bell shaped option, with the better quality co-ax than similar options on Amazon. I have two setup, and the o-ring on the underside seems to make a great seal with the deck. I wouldn’t trust the paddle-shaped ones as much, and they seem harder to integrate on the deck. They might be easier to mount higher up though?
Yes, indeed, there seems to be a shortage for proper 4G usb modules. My solution is based on this miniPCIe card plugged on this adaptor board that can also be ordered as a whole (4G modem-adaptor board-enclosure-antennas). Of course I plan installing better antennas outside the hull.
Did you have to drill new holes or the existing ones are a good fit?
I don’t know if you want to keep a running list of “known to work” modems, but I have the Quectel EG25-G working with the Sixfab carrier board over USB to the Pi 4. It’s the same concept as the module @cyamin mentioned.
I’m running mine in place of the Wi-Fi antenna. In an ideal world I’d have a second antenna for the diversity connection, but it’s fine with just one. I’ve also removed the MikroTik since our core product is a cloud connected command and control platform for UUV (and now USV!) and we don’t use the typical direct connection networking path. I’m working on adding better BlueBoat support to our software stack now.
The Sixfab carrier board you posted is a Pi HAT. Does it work without being sat on the Pi board? I am not keen on getting an adapter (like the one I posted before) from a non-reputable manufacturer, but most of the reputable boards (if in stock) were HATs. Being able to use HAT boards, would expand possibilities.
Now, on the other hand, if I were to replace the mikrotik router, I would probably opt for a teltonika one like RUT901. Flexible power input (9 – 30 VDC), WiFi, 4G/LTE (2 SIMs), 4 Ethernet ports and ZeroTier support.