Onboard Flashlight

So, I’ve seen a lot of teams talk about and use flashlights on their robot; I’m curious how teams typically attach, power and activate said flashlights, and what type of flashlights are commonly used.

The most apparent problem I see is how to power the light:

  • There are very few small/compact flashlights designed for 12V inputs
  • Per R31 you cannot simply power a light via AA batteries
  • Per R50 “The only power regulating devices for actuators permitted on the ROBOT include: …” this would seemingly disallow the use of a 12V-5V power supply; R51 goes on to show that Custom Circuits are included in R50.
  • Powering directly from some 5V source on the Digital Sidecar seems like it could consume more power than would be desirable.

Are there specific flashlights that lend themselves to FRC applications (i.e. 12VDC and mechanical switching)?
Otherwise, am I reading too much into the rules, or ignoring an obvious solution?

A flashlight is not an actuator.

^ What Mark said. R50 only applies to Motors/Actuators defined in R29

I would probably find a flashlight that runs on 12v, preferably a LED one, and wire it up to a spike for control. Quite simple…

If you want to control when your flashlight turns on and off, this is the simplest way to do it. Attach the flashlight to a Spike relay, and control the spike using the relay pins on the digital sidecar. Alternatively, if you want the light to be on at all times, you can attach the light to the PDB for 12 volts, or one of the 5 volt GPIO ports on the digital sidecar (red is +5v, black is ground).

Per Q&A #350, you are allowed to use additional 12V > 5V Converters on the robot for powering custom circuits:

The 5V Converter should allow you to use a bunch of different COTS flashlights without too much trouble, although the light output may vary a bit depending on what the flashlight is intended to be run on, and you could have issues with shortened life span if 5V is significantly higher or lower than what is ideal.

That being said, if you’re just looking for a reasonably bright light that will work with the robot without too much hassle, you can very easily find a ‘Driving Light’ or ‘Work Light’ made to be used with Automotive 12V Systems. Power this through a Spike Relay and you’ve got an easy light with on/off control.

The only posts by 180 about their light say that it is an LED mag light. Does anyone have any specifics on the model number or have better suggestions?

Last year we bought a bright outdoor flashlight from BassPro. It had the capability to remove just the head.

We encased it in a tube to contain the side light as much as possible. We used a 12v-5v converter and ran the 6volt light on 5 volts. We used a spike so we could turn it on only while aiming.

It worked well.

(Sorry I don’t have the model number)

Technically, you could power an actuator with a light source. Of course, that’s not the intent of the rules.

After doing some additional searching, I found these:

They are automotive brake/turn lights, and a socket for easy mounting, and have a narrow beam angle.

Searching for 12v flashlight, worklight, etc yields primarily rechargeable lights, which wouldn’t necessarily operate at their charging voltage.
Thanks for the correction on R50.

I’m still curious what other solutions other teams use, if they are willing to share. Knowing what you need is typically much easier than finding what you need.

We used this:

These are great for this application because they are current controlled and thus will run on almost any voltage. They are very bright, very light, tightly focused, and are only about 2" deep.

We just hooked it up to the PDB through a few 7801 voltage regulators. We ended up not using it for competition because the light that we had selected was perfect for our vision code people (it was even the right shade of green!), but was not focused enough for manual targeting. (Sorry, I don’t have a product number, but it was originally intended to be mounted on a gun or something.)
We should have ran it through a spike relay, but did not have the time. I will also say that even running our light through two 1-amp 7805s run in parallel with a heatsink was not enough to power the light for more than a minute or so without getting scary hot.

Thanks for the example! I’m debating using this for aiming ourselves.