FPGA and Compass, GPS and Tilt Sensors

I have a device which I have designed for holding various types of telescopes/binoculars, for astronomical viewing (Telescope Chair). It is in the form of a frame with an integrated seat and various subframe parts that are adjustable with linear actuators (LAs). It will rotate and tilt using a four-way joystick that controls the LAs. I have a stand-alone compass sensor and readout, a stand-alone inclinometer sensor and readout, and a stand-alone GPS sensor connected to a PC. Can I use (is it feasible to use) an FPGA, linked with various sensors that Digi-Key carries (compass, GPS and tilt), to gather and feed information to the PC, and then have a software program on the PC that displays the information coming from the three sensors, in a graphical format of some type. This would allow me to eliminate the three stand-alone sensor systems and have a more refined setup for the Telescope Chair.

While I believe it would be feasible to do this with an FPGA and a PC, I’m fairly certain it would be much cheaper and easier to do with an SBC.

Reading a few sensors and putting them on a nice screen is fairly easy with even an inexpensive SBC e.g. $35 Raspberry Pi.

If the sensors chosen have standard digital interfaces (I2C, SPI, UART) they may connect directly to the SBC and usually at worst need a few dollars worth of level shifters. For other sensor interfaces there are a large variety of add-on boards for SBC’s that can interface with practically any sensor type currently made.


I suspect most would reach for a microcontroller before an FPGA in this case, due to their generally lower cost and the modest speed requirements of such an application. The Arduino ecosystem is popular and by design quite accessible for those who may not be familiar with such things. (Yes, DK does carry these products also.)

There are a variety of inertial measurement units that integrate 3-axis magnetometer functionality as well, and GPS receivers of various flavors also, from single-purpose board mounted modules to modules that integrate other (e.g. bluetooth) radio functions, to ready-to-use enclosed and cable-connected units to which one simply applies power and reads data. They’re spread across several product families, but searching for GPS on the DK site and looking in the resulting top results should give you a good tour of the possibilities.