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SmartLink - Digital video, telemetry and control for 20 km

Sky-Drones has launched a new product. It’s called SMARTLINK, this is broadband digital datalink with integrated onboard computer. Two HD video channels, telemetry and control with ultra low latency and range up to 20 km. Fully supported by SmartAP GCS app on all platforms and compatible with PX4, Ardupilot, QGroundControl and Mission Planner. More information here.

AIR Module

SmartLink Air is based on powerful quad-core ARM Cortex A53 SoC (system-on-chip) computer running Linux.
The system is capable of handling two real time HD video streams from cameras, autopilot telemetry and control.
It also has plenty of resources for user applications. Various interfaces e.g. USB, UART, I2C, SPI allow to connect payload and tightly integrate it with flight controller and / or ground control station

GROUND Module

Ground module is very compact and lightweight, it has micro USB connector to interact with any kind of device - laptops, smartphones, tablets, desktop computers supported. All you need to do is connect it and open SmartAP GCS App.
Ground module features active cooling system which allows the module to withstand high ambient temperatures making it reliable even in harsh environments.
2x2 MIMO technology provides higher bandwidth, lower latency and longer range.

SOFTWARE

SmartLink was specifically designed to be used with SmartAP GCS, but also fully support QGC and Mission Planner.

SmartLink setup in QGC

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$4,000? Does it come already installed on $3,000 UAV?

Great project! Would be cool to see some videos of it in action!!! 4K isn’t bad for a system that will perform well.

@Pedals2Paddles do you have much experience with these types of radios or the supposed ability to broadcast that far? if this system works well and does what it says sure beats buying one of these which I have experience using and testing they are about 10-100k depending on configuration, without the UAV!!!

The HereLink costs less than 1/4 of this and is pretty much the same thing. This does not have $4,000 worth of features listed.

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20ms latency is a significant achievement, assuming that number is glass-to-glass. Well done @kirill.shilov it’s great to see the ecosystem growing with more options.

Here is the raw unedited video recorded on the ground station screen:

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Herelink is also useless unless you fly quads.

Can you elaborate on that logic, using actual facts backed up by evidence?

Yes, self centering throttle.

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Valid point. Which actually makes my original question on the cost even more valid. This new device does not have any integrated controller or display. You need a USB joystick, presumably using RC override through telemetry. And you need a tablet or PC for video and GCS functionality (or two if not using a combined app solution. Which further begs the question… what about this costs $4,000??.

I’m not saying this is a bad device. It appears to be a great thing actually. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around where $4,000 worth of features are hidden in this.

Well, don’t buy it, then. If they can offer a a product that is not limited with regards to it’s implementation into an existing eco system like the herelink, then it might have value for some.
Further, it’s not neceesarily using RC override through telemetry. You can quite easily send control signal alongside video and telemetry…and you’re standard Taranis works quite well as a USB joystick, should it have to.

Thanks but I’d rather listen to the manufacturer’s response to my question. You have perfectly good points about it usefulness, but “then don’t buy it” is not a productive or useful answer to a perfectly legitimate question.

It is not. Herelink is a nice drone controller good for about a 2-3 Kilometers in real-world urban 2.4Ghz environments according to some tests I have seen.

Digital video gets very expensive if it is truly long range, robust, and low latency. Not that I am defending its price, mind you. But you will spend about 2-3K for a 15KM system from Foxtech that does the same but with 200ms latency. If this truly does 20ms then it is using some very expensive components…

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Nice video. But you really should find a way to do a longer range test if you really want to impress. Strap it on a plane and see how far it will go…

Maybe part of the reason I’m questioning the price is because I’m not giving much credence to the range and latency advertisement.

  • Lots of companies like to throw amazing numbers in advertisements, but often there is nothing backing it up. Right now, there’s nothing backing it up.
  • The latency for control is advertised as “less than 20ms”. But then in the specs, it says latency is “<100ms”. Now we’re contradicting specs in one advertisement. Which is it, 20 or 100?
  • The specs say power up to 1 watt, but that 's not necessarily legal. They conveniently do not list what the range and latency is at any specific power outputs.
  • They do not correlate distance and latency. Is it 20ms at 20km at 1 watt? Or is 20ms only under some conditions with some settings in some places that made for a good advertisement spec?
  • They don’t actually say what method of transmission they’re using. Just saying they use MIMO doesn’t answer the question. I presume it’s some kind of WiFi, but I don’t like assuming.
  • The video posted in this threads shows decent quality video. But it’s only at 1.3km over flat terrain, which is really nothing super special.

So this advertisement has a lot of open ended “non-specific specifications” and contradictions. At $4,000, I shouldn’t have to ask these questions. This could be an amazing piece of equipment that defies everything else, providing 20ms video at 20km range. And it seems like that’s what they’re hoping people assume. But it is actually completely unknown what this can do, when, and how.

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Well yes. At that price it would need to perform at those specs at stated range, or something close. No argument there.

Skydrones do make decent kit so maybe Kirill will elaborate. It is not an unreasonable question to explain the value proposition.

Something that has been glossed over that I noticed in the video.
Latency.
Yes they give good numbers but check out the latency that is evident in the video.

Something doesn’t match.

could you please elaborate as to what you were looking at for the rest of us peons that may not see the latency you do?

@kirill.shilov,
I truely appericate you bringing this new option to us, don’t worry folks will always hate tis the nature of the beast! Keep up the good work!

@Pedals2Paddles yes the herelink may be whatever price (800usd), as @Implicit pointed out it really isn’t suited for fixed wing, it is also pretty much in constant development, supposedly will support only solex (once final release), cool if you have a 3dr solo as not a lot of people use solex. The herelink currently does not support MP or RTK gps, its missing so many supposed features that I have not seen in the past 4 months since its second beta release, and there are a few posts of major distance issues! The herelink is not even in the same category as this, would be like comparing the DJI lightbridge to the herelink! hahaha not even close, apples to oranges!

Thanks a lot for the comments, feedback is appreciated. I’ll cover most interesting questions:

Unfortunately not, this leaves $1000 for datalink which is below system manufacturing costs.

Yes, you can easily use joystick connected to USB port of only one gadget (laptop, tablet) for manual control. Video is in the same app (SmartAP GCS, QGC, Mission Planner). Worth noticing - SmartLink supports 2x HDMI inputs and simultaneous streaming.
Having controller / display integrated or not - it really depends on the application. And there are a lot of them where datalink is needed as datalink only.

This is scheduled, more video coming soon.

True, more video to prove will follow soon. The product is quite new and it’s just not that easy to fly legally 20 km, but we and our customers / partners work on that.

Difference between control latency and video latency should be considered here. Control latency is 20 ms which allows comfortable manual control (you don’t see the difference compared to conventional RC). Video latency is 100 ms average, it depends on resolution, bitrate, fps, range. It varies from 50 ms to 200 ms.

FCC = 30 dbm / 1W, CE = 20 dbm / 100mW
Range / latency depend not only on output power but also antennas, noise level in the area and again the video quality (optimise for quality vs latency).
In average you should expect 20 km FCC, 6-8 km CE.
Output power is configured in the settings, so users can stay within their local regulations.

It’s 20 ms for control at 1 W at 20 km. For video it will be towards 150 ms if you want have decent quality / fps.

We use BPSK, QPSK, QAM modulation with dynamic switching to adapt for RSSI / SNR / throughput.

I’m totally agree with @Matt_C, Herelink is nice but it’s different and a bit limited - only Android, only specific QGC version, fixed screen / gimbals. There is a lot more hardware / software people want to run and we provide this option. It’s more about B2B / OEM rather than hobby though.

Is this running a microhard chip in it?

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