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NavSpark – GPS microcontroller development board

SkyTraq is raising funds for an Arduino compatible GPS development board that they can sell for $20 or less. This one is at indiegogo, a crowd funding website. The NavSpark funding is at $7,686 of a $27,000 goal with 24 days left to go as of 1/14/2014. SkyTraq, a “a fabless semiconductor company which develops GPS chipset for consumer navigation and tracking applications,” has been in the GPS business for a since 2005. If they get sufficient interest in this fundraiser, they’ll take that as an a go for production.

“This little NavSpark board packs big features: 100MHz 32bit RISC/FPU, 1024KByte Flash, 212KByte RAM, high-performance GPS, many peripherals and I/O pins. With 32bit processing power, number crunching capability, and very large memory, NavSpark takes your projects to a whole new level.”

This means it is a faster processor than the Arduino boards with significantly more memory in addition to an FPU and GPS. The GPS is based on the SkyTraq Venus 8 chip (gpsworld PSA) and can process signals from 34 GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo satellites in parallel simultaneously. Power needs are ~80uA/MHz @ 3.3V – 100 MHz means 8 mA. Here’s the “1st hand made prototype:”

1st hand made prototype

Compared to the ChipKit, another 32 bit MCU, The NavSpark has twice the flash, twice the SRAM, about the same speed, and a focus more on GPS needs than general purpose microcontrolling. Both are seeking to provide Arduino compatible development environments. From pictures on the indiegogo page, it appears that the effort to get the Sparc-V8 compiler and Venus 822 hardware met its January deadline. The ChipKit project has put together good integration with the Raspberry Pi. It seems the NavSpark would also be a good match for this sort of matchup. CNXSoft reports

“NavSpark runs a version of Wiring, an open-source programming framework for microcontrollers, ported to SkyTraq receiver, and programming is done using sketches programmed with the Arduino IDE, in Windows only”

Windows only? I hope that changes. CNXSoft has several good background links for the LEON cpu cores and SPARC-V8,

This is one way to get an accurate clock in the hamshack as it promises a +/-10ns synchronization to the GPS system clock. It could provide useful utility for APRS or WSPR nodes. NavSpark represents a new generation of GPS capabilities that is getting into cost and performance levels suitable for ‘playing around with’ in microcontroller projects.

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