RockBLOCK Satellite Modem


This feature is only available on ArduPilot 4.4 or later and requires a flight controller that supports LUA Scripts


The RockBLOCK satellite modem allows for a global (including polar regions) MAVLink connection to an ArduPilot vehicle. This uses the Iridium SBD data service.

Due to the very low datarate of the RockBLOCK, there are a few key limitations:

  • A single HIGH_LATENCY2 packet will be sent every RCK_PERIOD sec. This will give basic position and status information.

  • No heartbeats, statustexts, parameters and waypoints will be sent from the vehicle to the GCS.

  • The RockBLOCK only sends a subset of command MAVlink messages (see below list) from the GCS to Vehicle. Parameters and waypoints will not be sent.

  • Only 1 command message can be sent per RCK_PERIOD from the GCS to vehicle. Any additional commands will overwrite the previous command

In practice, this means the RockBLOCK can only be used whilst monitoring a vehicle during automated flight modes. Any sort of manual control (outside of low-rate GUIDED mode “fly to” locations) is not possible.

The RockBLOCK has a latency of 20-60 seconds and is only able to send 1 message per 30 second period (or greater). This period is configurable via the RCK_PERIOD parameter.


Any modem using the Iridium 9602 or 9603 chipset should work, though only the RockBLOCK 9603N modem has been tested.


Due to limitations of the RockBLOCK web service, all packets in the Vehicle to GCS direction need to go via a public-facing web service. See here for details. For the purposes of this configuration, the free service is used.

  1. Connect the RockBLOCK modem to a spare UART on the flight controller. Only the +5V, RX, TX and GND lines need to be connected

  2. Ensure the modem is activated in your RockBLOCK account

  3. Create a new feed on Ensure the Feed History is OFF and a webhook is active. Connect this feed to your RockBLOCK account.

  4. Copy the Ardupilot RockBLOCK Lua script to the flight controller’s SD card.

  5. Ensure LUA Scripts are enabled and the RockBLOCK UART is set as a scripting UART.

  6. Run the RockBLOCK gateway on the GCS to send/receive telemetry on Ensure the GCS software is connected to this ip/port.


QGroundControl and Mission Planner have very limited support for RockBLOCK MAVLink telemetry. It is highly recommended to use MAVProxy, which fully supports this telemetry.


  1. Enable High Latency mode on the flight controller to start RockBLOCK mailbox checks.

  2. The RockBLOCK will do a mailbox check every RCK_PERIOD seconds. It will send one HIGH_LATENCY2 message and recieve one message from the GCS at this time.

  3. Disable High Latency mode on the flight controller to stop RockBLOCK mailbox checks.

Data Costs

Compared to terrestrial services (such as 4G Celluar), the RockBLOCK data costs are expensive.

Current data costs are available from the RockBlock website.

1 RockBLOCK credit is used per MAVLink message. So, for example, if the RockBLOCK was configured to send 1 HIGH_LATENCY2 message every 30 seconds that would give a data usage of 60 credits per hour. If any commands are sent from the GCS to the vehicle via the RockBLOCK, they should be added too. For example, if 5 commands are sent in the same hour, 5 credits are used. Combining both sent and recieved messages, a total of 65 credits per hours are used.


The following parameters are available to control the script:




Automatically enables High Latency mode if not already enabled


When in High Latency mode, send RockBLOCK updates every RCK_PERIOD seconds


Sends RockBLOCK debug text to GCS via statustexts


Enables the modem transmission