Without a flight record, do you really know what your aircraft is doing up there in the sky? Many decent drones these days have some sort of recording capability, but they aren’t always easy to add to RC (Radio-Controlled) airplanes or model rockets. That’s particularly true if performance is a concern and you’re trying to keep your total weight as low as possible. If that’s the case, you may want to consider building this pint-sized Mini Flight Recorder that was designed with model rockets in mind.
There are small altimeters on the market, but their capability is often limited and they don’t offer the best performance. By building your own Mini Flight Recorder, you get plenty of features, great performance, and all the customizability you could want. At this time, the Mini Flight Recorder has the following functionality: a barometric altimeter, a temperature sensor, a 3-axis high-g accelerometer, a small OLED display for data readouts, 2MB of built-in memory, the ability to record more than 13 minutes of flight data from all sensors—with 25 milliseconds between data points, onboard LiPo battery charging, and a USB port for downloading or viewing data.
The overall size of the Mini Flight Recorder is just 38 x 12 x 12 mm, and it weighs a mere 5.6 grams (about 0.2 ounces). That means it’s suitable for even small amateur rockets, and shouldn’t affect your maximum altitude much. The Mini Flight Recorder control board is built around a Microchip PIC18F26J50 microcontroller. The creator, Pinko of exrockets.com, programmed a custom USB bootloader and firmware for that microcontroller that gives you the ability to access the data or update the firmware over USB. Once turned on, the Mini Flight Recorder will enter “preparation” mode that gives you a preset amount of time to set up your rocket before it begins recording. That ensures that the sensors will be monitored from the very beginning of your launch.
Pinko hasn’t designed a 3D-printable enclosure for the Mini Flight Recorder yet, and there are still some software bugs to workout. But he does plan on giving away a handful of assembled units for testing and further development. You can also use the provided design files and code to build your own.