Flight Data Logger

Objective/Customer Requirements:

The objective was to design a type of flight recorder that can record acceleration and altitude readings. The device should be capable of:

  • Recording X, Y and Z-direction acceleration
  • Recording altitude above sea level
  • Software Data Logging
  • SD Card Support
  • USB Compatibility

From the Customer perspective, the device should be compact and USB powered so that it can be easily placed on any type of Aircraft. The altitude and acceleration recordings would be further used to create a 3D map of the traveled path.


Hardware Solution:

The major hardware block of the device is Atmel Atmega8 microcontroller that operates at 12 MHz clock speed. The microcontroller meets the minimum amount of feature requirement of the device.

  • 8kBytes of Flash – sufficient size for firmware programming
  • 12 MHz Clock – appropriate for SPI and I2C
  • 512 Bytes of EEPROM – Storing useful calibration data
  • Sleep Modes – Decreasing power consumption

To store real-time captured recordings and information, SD Card and external EEPROM were used.

To provide altitude readings, the Altimeter module was interfaced with a controller.

An analog accelerometer was interfaced via hardware analog input pins of the controller.

To provide an accurate Real Time Clock to the controller, the external RTC Integrated Chip was used.

Hardware buttons and notification LEDs were used to provide a simple User Interface for the device.


Major Technologies Used:

  • Serial Peripheral Interface(SPI) for SD Card Support
  • Inter-Integrated Circuit(I2C) Protocol for RTC, EEPROM and Altimeter interface
  • Two Layer PCB design to make device compact
  • USB Protocol for Software Data Logging


The firmware source code was designed using High-Level Language, Embedded C, and Atmel Studio as a development tool. The firmware handles the functions:

  • Data exchange via SPI and I2C communication
  • Log the recordings in SD Card and EEPROM
  • Data Communication with Application Software
  • Controlling Buttons and LEDs for UI
  • Measuring Gravitation Acceleration

An Application Software was also developed to log the captured data on Excel/XML Sheet. The software was capable of plotting graphs for acceleration and altitude with respect to time.

  • Programming language – C#, Dot Net
  • Database – Microsoft Excel, XML
  • Development Tool – Visual Studio
  • Operating System – Windows