This guide presumes you are upgrading a FlightBox system assembled from a kit or purchased as an assembled, running system (FB1X). If you are using a generic Stratux system the process may differ.
NOTE: If your FlightBox currently has a USB GPS you may want to disconnect it when you install the AHRS upgrade. The AHRS board includes a WAAS-capable GPS receiver. If you leave the USB GPS connected the system will use it, rather than the onboard GPS.
Part 1: Software Installation
Before installing the hardware upgrade you will need to update the software on your FlightBox with a new version that supports the AHRS / GPS / Baro sensor board. There are three options for updating the software on your FlightBox system:
You can install a beta update file.
You can re-image the data card with a complete beta image.
You can order a pre-imaged card from the web store.
The update file is the quickest option but may have issues depending on your system’s current configuration (remember – this is BETA software). The re-image process is useful if you’ve experienced trouble with the update process, but it does require some computer skill. Installing a new card is likely the simplest but it does require you to disassemble the FlightBox to swap the cards.
NOTE: THE ‘FLIGHTBOX UTILITY’ iOS APP IS NOT CURRENTLY COMPATIBLE WITH THE BETA. DO NOT USE THE UTILITY WITH A SYSTEM THAT HAS BEEN UPGRADED WITH THE BETA CODE.
PLEASE NOTE: There are two slightly different versions of the update file depending on what version of the FlightBox firmware you’re starting out with. Check the version and build values on the Status page of the web interface – it looks like “Version 1.0r1 (d1607e0729)”. If your version string reads 1.0r1, you need the first option below. If it reads 0.8x (x = anything after the 8) then you need the second option.
Download the BETA firmware update file for v1.0r1 or newer [ here ].*
Download the BETA firmware update file for older v0.8x versions [ here ].*
Follow the manual update process using the web user interface detailed [ here ]. (The current FlightBox Utility app is not able to install beta firmware at this time.)
After the system has rebooted and your laptop / desktop has re-established a Wifi connection, return to the web user interface and verify that that software version string now reads something like ‘Version: v1.3b2’.
Proceed to Step 2 below to install the AHRS hardware.
* The only difference between the two versions is the capitalization of “FlightBox” in the filename. The older systems require it be lower case. The newer systems require it be upper case.
Option 2 – Re-Image The Card
Download the BETA image file from our web server [ here ].
Carefully disassemble your FlightBox (see Step 2.1 below for details) and remove the data card.
Follow the re-image process using the procedure outlined [ here ]. (Use the file downloaded in step 1 rather than the file linked in the re-image tutorial.)
Proceed to Step 2 below, skipping some of the disassembly items as your system is already disassembled.
Select the “AHRS Beta” option from the list of card images.
Carefully disassemble your FlightBox and replace the current data card with the replacement. (See step 2.1 below for details.)
Proceed to Step 2 below, skipping some of the disassembly items as your system is already disassembled.
Part 2: Hardware Installation
Please watch the installation / upgrade video before starting on the installation process.
Step 2: Remove The Top / Screws
Start by removing the three 1/4″ screws that hold the top to the case. Keep these screws – they will be re-used in a later step.
Disconnect the fan power cable from the 40-pin header on the Raspberry Pi.
Remove the four 5/8″ screws and nuts that hold the fan to the old top. Keep the screws and the nuts. Discard the fan and the top.
Step 2.1: IF YOU ARE INSTALLING A NEW DATA CARD OR RE-IMAGING YOUR CARD:
If you purchased a new data card or are going to re-image the card you will need to disassemble the system further to remove the old card and replace it. To do so:
Remove the nuts from the bulkhead connectors and pull the bulkhead connectors out of case wall.
Remove the four screws holding the Raspberry Pi computer assembly to the case.
Carefully lift the assembly out by lifting up on the side of the Raspberry Pi with the 40-pin header.
Remove the data card from the slot on the bottom of the Raspberry Pi.
Install the new card (or re-image the existing card and re-install it).
Step 3: Prepare The New Top
If you have a FlightBox built from a kit or an early FB1X assembled system that used a USB extension cord rather than a modular extender, you will need to remove the small rectangular tab that extends from the lip of the top. This can easily be done using an Exacto knife similar. If you have an FB1X that has a flush USB port, please skip to the next instruction.
Attach the new fan that came with the kit to the new top, making sure the sticker is facing down (into the case). Secure the fan with the four 5/8″ screws and nuts removed in step #3 above. Use a small amount of LokTite or superglue to prevent the nuts from backing off the screws. USE VERY LITTLE AND MAKE SURE IT IS 100% DRY BEFORE YOU CONTINUE – LIQUID SUPERGLUE IS CAUSTIC AND CAN DAMAGE YOUR SYSTEM!
Step 3.1: IF YOU WILL BE USING THE REMOTE POWERED GPS ANTENNA:
Note that if you do not plan on using an external GPS antenna you should skip this step as the pigtail cable can interfere with the onboard GPS antenna’s reception.
Remove the pigtail cable from the bag containing the remote powered GPS antenna.
Remove the dust cap, nut, and washers from the SMA to MCX pigtail cable. Discard the dust cap and the lock washer. Keep the star washer and the nut.
Insert the SMA female bulkhead connector of the pigtail from the inside of the top, such that the female SMA jack is on the outside of the case and the coax cable and MCX jack are on the inside. Do your best to make sure that the MCX connector at the far end of the cable is oriented such that the MCX male plug will extend down into the case when the top is on it.
Secure the SMA female bulkhead connector using the star washer and the nut. DO NOT USE THE LOCK WASHER AS IT TAKES UP TOO MUCH THREAD.
Step 4: Mount The AHRS Board
Remove three of the four black 1/4″ screws holding the Raspberry Pi to the case. Leave the screw nearest the audio jack (the small circular connector that sticks through the case). Keep the three screws – they will be re-used.
IF YOUR SYSTEM HAD A USB GPS INSTALLED – unplug the USB GPS. The AHRS board has a built-in GPS.
Screw the three white nylon standoffs through the holes in the Raspberry Pi and into the case. You may find it easiest to do this by temporarily screwing the black 1/4″ screws removed in the previous step into the top of the standoff, then screwing the assembly (the standoff + screw) into the hole. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN – THE NYLON THREADS STRIP EASILY. (If you use the screw trick, grip the standoff with small pliers to loosen and remove the screw.)
Mount the AHRS board on the 40-pin header making sure that it lines up correctly. The matching 40 pin socket on the AHRS board should cover all pins. Gently push the board onto the pins until it seats against the three standoffs.
Use the three 1/4″ black screws removed previously to secure the AHRS board to the standoffs.
If not already done, insert the CR1/3N backup battery into the battery holder on top of the AHRS board, making sure to match the + symbol on the battery with the + symbol on the holder. (Some boards come with the battery pre-installed.)
Step 5: Assemble The System
Place the new top beside the bottom portion of the case.
Carefully connect the MCX male plug on the pigtail to the MCX female jack on top of the AHRS board.
Carefully connect the small white two pin JST connector on the end of the fan cable to the matching two pin JST connector on the board.
Place the top on the case and align the three screw holes in the case bottom with the nuts embedded in the three mount points in the new top. If necessary, trim the light pipes to allow the top to seat properly.
Use the three 1/4″ screws removed in the first step above to secure the top to the case.
Remove the white circular knockout from the sticker (if not already removed).
Remove the backing from the sticker and align it such that the hole where the knockout was removed surrounds the fan vent in the top, and that the three labels match up with the three indicator LEDs.
Step 6: Enable The Sensors / Verify The Upgrade
Please see the following video for assistance enabling the AHRS features:
YOU MAY HAVE TO DO A HARD REFRESH ON YOUR BROWSER TO GET THE NEW PAGES TO LOAD. Use Ctrl + F5 on Windows or Command + Shift + R on Mac. You may need to do this on each of the pages in the web admin.
After the update is complete you may need to go to the settings page and turn on the “Attitude Sensor” and “Altitude Sensor” buttons. This will enable the drivers that read the AHRS and altimeter. Once you have the sensor buttons enabled you can check the Status and GPS / AHRS pages on the web interface to make sure the system recognizes the board.
The GPS will immediately begin searching for satellites to track and you should see a fix / lock within 2 – 3 minutes (presuming the system can receive signals in your location – metal hangar roofs are notoriously impervious to GPS signals).
To test the attitude sensors, go to the AHRS / GPS page and observe the AHRS test indicator (attitude indicator). When you move the FlightBox you should see the indicator display the attitude corresponding to the box’s orientation in space. To adjust the orientation of the system for your preferred mounting, please see below.
Status LEDs and Fan Controller
Two minor features of the AHRS board are status annunciation and control of the cooling fan. The board has three LEDs, one for power, one for GPS status, and one for ADS-B status.
Power – indicates green when the board is receiving power and the core software is running. The LED typically takes 20 – 30 seconds after power is applied to turn on.
GPS – blinks orange while the system is attempting to acquire a fix; solid orange once a fix has been established. This LED will remain off (dark) until the GPS gets an initial lock.
ADS-B – off indicates no reception on either band; blinking blue indicates reception on one band within the past 60 seconds; solid blue indicates receiving on both bands within the past 60 seconds.
Fan – automatically comes on when the CPU temperature reaches 40° C. The fan will turn on periodically after several minutes operating in a room-temperature environment.
Mounting / Orientation
The current version of the beta firmware allows you to select your own preferred orientation (i.e. the “forward” and “up” for the system). Please see the video linked here to set the orientation. Below is the default orientation for the system:
The system should be mounted as securely as is practical / legal. Vibration and motion relative to the airframe decrease the accuracy of the attitude solution provided by the system. With regard to pitch, the unit should be mounted at or very near the aircraft’s level pitch attitude in level flight. (Note that this can be significantly different from the aircraft’s pitch while parked on the ground.)
Please note that the final release of the firmware will include a utility that allows you to calibrate the orientation as you wish.
The FlightBox ADS-B + GPS system sells for $225. FlightBox Plus with AHRS is $350. Use the button below to order now.