Speed and Heading in real time from my RC sailing boat


Looking for help on this little project.
I sail rc boats like IOM and Marblehead. They are purely powered by the wind.
We use 2 channels, one for the sailwinch and one for the rudder servo.
For now I use my Dx6 in DSMX Tx with a AR620 Rx.

I’m looking to get on a screen or ideally via some app on my phone some simple telemetry data. In particular the boat speed and heading to start with (wind speed and heeling angle later)
I’m also looking to record my sailing session to review them later at home.
From my research I think I will need:

  1. some GPS & compass like the Matek Systems - GPS & Compass M8Q-5883
  2. a FC though I’m not flying but to connect this GPS to like Matek Systems - Flight Controller F405-STD
  3. some RF telemetry (here in Ireland I can use 433Mhz according to comreg)
  4. a ground software like ardupilot / iNav connected to the other RF telemetry on my laptop
  5. maybe an app like easygui to show these speed and heading on my phone?
  6. for the power I may have to use a dedicated life or lipo battery in the boat just to power this, separate from the boat battery.

Don’t know what I’m missing here.
Weight being key to boat performance I am aiming to contain all this in a compact, light and cheap system in side the boat to keep the COG as low as possible. if not then I’ll probably velcro it on the deck.

I’m probably gonna add FPV camera and VTX later but one step at a time.
I have no experience in any of this. How each of these elements are connected to each other, how to set them up.
So I’m looking for your guidance on what I need and how to connect each component together so it works.
I am only looking to to get these telemetry data to my phone and ground system not to control the boat. I will continue to helm the boat myself so it’s really to get data from the boat to me… one way.

I found some telemetry module that can send air speed, motor RPM, battery voltage, altitude etc… but nothing on speed and heading so far hence why I’m looking for a solution.

I hope to have provided as much info as needed and look forward to your suggestions/recommendations to help me make this a reality.

Best regards

You are correct on all of your assumptions.

Select one of the smallest flight controllers from the huge list of supported hardware:

Read the documentation on how to connect stuff here:

ArduRover firmware fully supports saliboats, And you will get a ton of telemetry on an app like QGroundcontrol on your phone.

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Thank you @amilcarlucas for your response.
As I said I’m a novice in this area but I’d love to make this work.
I’ll check your links to see - cheers

Interesting reading but so I understand.

On the boat I will need:
A GPS & compass unit plugged into the FC which will capture these data (speed and heading) then pass it on to the RF telemetry unit also connected to the FC which will transmit it to the paired RF telemetry module ashore via this MAVlink protocol?

And I will need a battery to power all this up. I suspect a small enough battery like a Life 2S so 6.6V should be sufficient and will start with a capacity of around 800mah.

My radio equipment in the boat will be completely separate from this telemetry setup I suspect right?
But do I need another Rx to connect to the FC? I don’t think so if I understand but if you could confirm.

I will have the second RF telemetry unit connected to my Android phone via the adapter cable which will receive the data from the boat and show the data on the Qgroundcontrol app on my phone where I’ll see my heading and boat speed in real time?


It can be, but you will have a lot of advantages if you connect the RC receiver to the flight controller, and the flifght controller to the servos.

No you do not.


Thank you so much for your time and response @amilcarlucas.
Very much appreciated.

Now I know more and feel more confident so I’ll order these elements and will post updates and progress here then…

Re the 433MHz RF Telemetry system any recommendation? I see there are SiK and Holybro - don’t want to go down the route of clones as I need a good connection there.

Another option is to use an OpenTx transmitter, FrSky compatible receiver, and the Yaapu telemetry scripts. This replaces the telemetry modem and phone app. The telemetry from the flight controller is handled by your RC link, and the display goes to the Transmitter screen. I have this set up on my sailboat with a radiomaster Tx16 and a jumper R8 receiver and it works well.

Also painless 360 on youtube has many videos that are helpful

@meholden thank you for your response. Curious to see your setup. Any pics?
I’m trying to keep my budget down on this so I’m trying to find a solution with my existing Tx. A Dx6 and a flysky i6… this kind of telemetry is not available for neither unfortunately

Frsky Telemetry on the Transmitter is very nice but the standard Sik telemetry radios will do the job for a couple/few km.

At the end of this youtube video you can see my setup.

For your application the best thing about this approach is you don’t have to add another radio antenna onto your boat. The range is the same as your RC range, if you aren’t going to sail autonomously there is no reason for the extra range of a telemetry radio.

There are 3 screens and I have not spent any time customizing them so there is some useless data for a sailboat (like altitude).

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Wow nice… .yeah lots of useless data on std screen but that’s ok for now.
Thx for sharing… This is interesting as I’ve been looking at these radiomaster and Jumper Tx for a while but decided to hold off changing for now as I already have a few Tx. But I may change over time and now I know what I’ll go for. :wink:

Correct I’m not planning for this setup to control the boat… all I’m looking for in this project is getting data to my in real time when I sail the boat but then recorded so I can review the data later back home.

From what I’ve seen RF Telemetry radio system can go far but only need few hundred meters at most so a bit overkill for this application but will be ok. It seems the Bluetooth telemetry only works within a radius of 50m so too short for my application.

Good thing is there are not obstacles on the water so we should be in direct LOS at all time, expecting a good reception of the signal on my telemetry rx then.

Have ordered the FC and GPS will order the telemetry soon too.

The light bulb went on recently ! lol Should I also get the heeling angle from the FC card?
I see that when setup on a drone it shows a horizon line like on @meholden pic of his radiomaster TX.
So I presume this heeling come from the FC right?

I went with the Matek F405WSE FC for this project.

Yes, it’s Roll angle.

grand thx
Have ordered the parts now… waiting for delivery

As @meholden shows you may want to consider getting into a Frsky RC system. I sold my Spectrum stuff years ago for decent prices as its very popular with “don’t have a flight controller” users.

And others of course!

@dkemxr true, though I’m in no rush quite yet as I can see some kind of ‘war’ of Tx btw Jumper, RadioMaster, Frsky, Flysky.

Jumper made the first serious move to take on Frsky with their T16, then RadioMaster responded with theirs and Frsky is trying ot lock in users with their new ACCST protocol
Meanwhile Flysky seem to keep going with their budget system which in all fairness works great but lack some of the functionalities of the others…

Was about to by the QX7 when Jumper launched their T16 and been holding off since.

I’m in no rush at all on this and have more urgent need as I’m looking for the best single gun style Tx/Rx system to replace my 3 Tx for my RC cars and for my Speedboat. so looking for one Tx with memory function so I can use it on a few models.

You mean the new ACCESS protocol. Actually Ethos is the new protocol.Yea I had a Frsky X9D for years and now have a Radiomaster TX16S. Awesome radio.

Yes that protocol too but pretty sure they had a ACCST protocol too
What a new protocol again???

Well yea, but nothing new about ACCST.

so I now got my Matek F405 WSE FC
I can see how to connect the Mateck GPS to it.
But anyone can help how to connect the holybro telemetry RF unit to the FC?
Matek told me to connect it to UART1 ok but how?
here are the wires I have from the telemetry RF:

GND, RTS, CTS, TX, RX and 5V
so GND and 5V ok that’s obvious but the rest?
here is the link to the Matek FC Matek F405 WSE
Matek told me I wouldn’t be able to connect the RTS and CTS to that FC but don’t know what these do?
Any help welcome here as I’m quite new to this. Cheers