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Introduction to GCS03


1.   When putting together a system based on a UAV Navigation (UAVN) autopilot (AP), one of the following Ground Control Station (GCS) units must be included:

  • GCS03
  • GCS03-NR
  • GHU-100

NOTE: For further details about the GCS03 & GCS03-NR hardware, please refer to the KB section 'GCS Hardware - GCS03'.

NOTE: For further details about the GHU hardware, please refer to the KB section 'GCS Hardware - GHU-100'.    

Figure 1. GCS03 Case

2.   The GCS is the hardware interface used to handle communications with the AP (via either an internal or external datalink) and to communicate with the PC running Visionair. It is always recommended as far as possible to use Ethernet instead of serial port to interface GCS and PC. The GCS also serves as the connection point in the system for the Joystick (if MANUAL mode is required at any point during operation).

3.   GCS03 can be only used in basic setups. For advanced operations, the GHU-100 hardware is needed.

4.   System Overview.  For an overview of a typical system incorporating a UAVN AP and a GCS, see KB article 'Flight Control System Description'.

5.   GCS03 Versions.  The GCS03 is available in two versions depending on Customer requirements:

  • GCS03: built-in 900MHz radio.
  • GCS03-NR: no radio (to be integrated with an external datalink).

Figure 2. GCS03/NR Block Diagram (see below the colour legend)

Colour Legend:

  • Red: GCS03 only.
  • Blue: GCS03-NR only.
  • Grey / Black: Common to both versions.

6.   Functions.   The GCS03/GCS03-NR provides the following functions:

  • Bi-directional communications between Visionair (on the ground) and the onboard AP (in the air).
  • Connection point in the system for the Joystick to allow manual override by an External Pilot if necessary.
  • GNSS (to locate the GCS; the position is shown in the top right corner of the GCS Config Tool window). GPS information is also integrated to steer a pan and tilt antenna if it is used.
  • Built-in standby battery in case of external power failure (old version only, no longer available).
  • PTU (Tracking antenna) functionality for some specific models. 
  • Joystick Calibration, Mechanical 'Button' assignment, communication configuration and other tools via the 'Visionair/GCS Config Tool'.

Figure 3. GCS03 connectors.

7.   Battery / Power Supply.   Older versions of the GCS03 (up to approx end 2012) contain an internal battery which can power the unit for up to 2 hours in case of external power supply failure. The circuitry in this version includes a charger which will charge this internal battery when connected to the external power supply (9-36V DC barrel jack with positive polarity); charging time is 2 hours. The battery in older versions is to be used as a backup only (not for extended periods of normal operation).

Figure 4. GCS03 internal battery connector polarity.

8.   Newer versions do not feature the internal battery. It is easy to tell the versions apart, because only the old version has the 'Battery Power' On-Off switch as shown below:

Figure 5. GCS03 with internal battery.

NOTE: Old version of GCS03 (up to approx end 2013)

9.   IMPORTANT! It is user responsibility to ensure a reliable, uninterrupted supply of DC power to the unit. An interruption in the supply will cause the unit to reset and send a command to the AP to enter MANUAL mode (only if the Joystick switch is in DOWN position - see this article for clarification). Operators must be aware of this safety feature and take the appropriate action. 

10.   The functionality of the old and new versions is exactly the same.



11.   The GCS configuration is carried out through the 'GCS Config Tool' available in Visionair.

GCS03 connection & configuration

12.   Please refer to the following scheme for the connection wirings 'GCS03 Wiring Diagram'.

13.   GCS03 Datalink Configuration. Although the GCS03 is supplied by UAV Navigation preconfigured to work as a 'plug and play' equipment with its other products, the datalink configuration can actually be modified by advanced users. See separate KB article 'GCS03 Datalink Configuration'.

14.   Please read our notes on Local Radio Frequency Regulation before using the GCS03.

GCS03-NR connection & configuration

15.   Please refer to the 'GCS03 Wiring Diagram' for details regarding DB9 & Joystick connectors and to the scheme shown in the article 'GCS03-NR External Datalink Wiring Diagram' for further details regarding the radio connector.