Arduino Wireless Options

Hey guys!

I've seen other topics on the same subject but after reading them I thought I'd make one of my own so that we can get a discussion started specific to my case.

So, I'm pretty new to Arduino and electronics in general. I've worked with software (games, graphics) for quite a while though. Me and two of my friends have decided to add some RC functionality and also maybe a little automation to a hovercraft that another friend of ours created. The only thing it's got is a basic drive mechanism, no 'logic', and has physical switches to control the fans. We're gonna replace these with relays or MOSFETs, connect to Arduino and have some fun. :p

Well, I decided we'd use Arduino because it seems very flexible, has a large community and seems well supported.

I was wondering about which wireless technology we should use. We want to be able to control it wirelessly with a laptop. The options I've come up with so far are Xbee, WiFi, and apc220. I looked at Bluetooth too, but I kinda ruled that out due to price and short range.

We're hoping for at least 300 feet, but higher range wouldn't hurt. We want to be able to send simple commands like 'forward', 'reverse', 'stop', 'setSpeed 30' (encoded into a smaller format using as few bits as possible of course). The translation of these into lower level commands like 'fan1off' or such will be done in the Arduino. This would allow the sensor logic to use this interface as well. Also, the Arduino should be able to return data to the laptop like sensor data ('distance' or such), battery remaining (if possible) and so on.

Xbee seems to be a great option but is a bit on the pricey side. WiFi with WiShield+External Antenna looks good and flexible, but to get a good range I think I might have to boost the access point with a USB antenna or something (it's gonna be an ad-hoc connection with the laptop). apc220 seems to have a good range and price, but I've heard bad things about it (unreliability and lack of good documentation).

Since we're relatively new to the field, I don't think we should try HopeRF or such since that might involve us having to write our own systems for handling noise, data loss etc.

We also hope to add an IP camera at some point to get a first-person view from the hovercraft for the 'cool' factor of driving it without direct line of sight.

So, what's your opinion on the wireless options I've stated? Do you know of any other options that might be suitable?

Thanks for your input! :D

Since weight shouldn’t be a prime factor, you might want to look at making somewhat of a “routerbot”. I’m making one myself and it is a fairly simple setup. So far I have pc < wifi > netgear 614 wireless router (unmodified) > cat5 > arduino/ethernet shield > rs232 > ssc-32 servo controller. Made a simple web page for servo control. An IP cam can be plugged into the netgear router if desired.