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May 08 2012

Arducopter Back in Flight

After a steep learning curve for Arducopter, we have it flying.  Garret left us the Arducopter after graduating, I had never so much as worked with Arducopter before.  Of course I had never worked with Mikrokopters either, but Jonathan was here to teach me everything I need to know about them.  I didn't have that luxury for Arducopter, so progress was a bit slower.

The first thing I did when Istarted working with the ardu was to load new firmware and update to the new mission planner.  Since this was all new software, the Arducopter had to be calibrated from scratch.  After crashes during motor tuning, we had multiple delays while waiting for new parts to come in.

But the Arducopter is flying now, and not a moment too soon.  With summer rapidly approaching and all the orders in, I'm going to start building the Octocopter very soon.  It gives me some assurance that I was able to get the quad Arducopter flying, since the Octocopter also uses Ardupilot.

May 01 2012

New 3DR Radio Telemetry System

http://api.ning.com/files/NC4Rs-RhY6b4ikH5XnjJn9bh*76ndPaxz5IYUQccm2kH9KynI2rt3PDhou4Rt7a56oSW-jaq32tx8avBNPOvuQ__/3DRradiokitdip.jpg

The 3DR radio telemetry system looks very promising!  It is intended to be an improved replacement for xBee radios.  We ordered a set as soon as we heard about them.  With improved performance specs and compatibility with Ardupilot, these radios look like they'll be flying on the next generation of Ecosynth aircraft.

In addition to these radios being specced better than the xBees, we'll be using them with directional antennas (the one on the ground station will point towards the sky; the one on the aircraft will be pointed down towards the earth).  We've always had trouble with xBee communication; even during standard flights the xBees are spotty at best once the kopter is up in the air.  These radios should be a welcome improvement. 

Update: 3DR Radios have come in, and they have been successful in connecting the arducopter to the ground station in the lab.  A flight test will follow soon.

Apr 26 2012

Arducopter Progresses, Octocopter Components Still Arriving

It’s been slow going with the Arducopter, working with it this semester has often seemed like two steps forward and one step back.  However after several stumbling blocks like the Ardupilot board being of the older model now, and  ailing Electronic Speed Controllers:  things are starting to look up!

I was able to update the Arducopter to four brand new ESCs, since one of our big orders just came in (will get to that in a bit).   Earlier we’d had trouble calibrating the Arducopter for flight, it kept wobbling and flipping over.  I feel rather foolish now; the problem was that the ESCs were mismatched!  One had been replaced because it was suspected to be burned out.  I only yesterday realized that of course it would need four identical speed controllers to fly stabile.  Since our Octokopter order of ESCs came in, there were enough spares to outfit the Arducopter for testing.

So a new order did come in!  Our large order from DIYDrones is now in the lab: it included ESCs, propellers, power distribution boards, and Ardupilot boards.  Combined with our previous order from Aeroquad (Mikrokopter OctoXL Frame), we now have most of the components to build an Octokopter, and enough spare parts to build a second one (minus what we’re still waiting on.)  The jDrones order went out yesterday; it was mostly parts that have been out of stock until now.  This order includes the last set of components we’ll need to make a working Octo, the motors.

Things are looking good for the next gen of Ecosynth aircraft; at this point I think that Octokopter work will start as soon as summer research starts, when aircraft moves into the bigger lab.

Nov 02 2011

Baby-Steps: Taking 'Personal' Multicopter to a Whole New Level

My friend just sent me a link to a Gizmodo article about a truly personal multirotor aircraft: a 16 motor electric (li-po?) behemoth equipped with its own passenger/driver seat and designed by the e-volo team in Germany.  Check out the video on their website, I want one!

Not only could this provide an interesting platform for the personal remote sensing we are interested in with Ecosynth - but I can only imagine the thrill of skimming above the tree tops, getting a truly birds-eye view of the canopy.

The future is so cool.

So Garrett and Nisarg...next lab project?

Image credit: http://www.e-volo.com/Prototype_files/e-volo_IMGP2420.jpg

Nov 01 2011

Personal remote sensing goes live: Mapping with Ardupilot

Folks all over are waking up to the fact that remote sensing is now something you really should try at home!  Today DIYDrones published a fine example of homebrew 3D mapping using an RC plane, a regular camera, and a computer vision software: hypr3d (one I’ve never heard of).  Hello Jonathan!

 

PS: I’d be glad to pay for a 3D print of our best Ecosynth- hypr3D can do it, so can landprint.com

Oct 29 2011

GoPro HD Hero

Because the Ecosynth team has been looking at purchasing the GoPro Hero2 as our next platform camera I figured I'd share some of the videos I've taken with the GoPro Hero. These videos were recorded over the past summer in Cockeysville Maryland. The body of water that's visible when flying at higher altitudes is loch raven reservoir. The GoPro hero is one of the lightest and least expensive HD Cameras on the market and I'm very pleased with its performance so far. The videos were uploaded in HD remember to turn HD on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz9Sl9JgQRg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3gTYgJlDuw&feature=related

Aug 18 2011

Cheapest RC Helicopter Video Ever! (with crash)

Nothing like an RC helicopter ($42) and lightweight video camera ($50) to make some fun on vacation!

Yes, this video lasts only a few seconds and ends with a crash- but… we are still good to go- maybe we’ll even make a great video after a few more tries.

Here’s the first:

Cheapest RC video ever?
May 07 2011

Links of the Moment

  • Krzysztof Bosak, who created the Pteryx UAV, is suggesting a photogrammetric aerial robotics contest.  Pteryx, Smartplanes, Cropcam, and several others are now hovering outside the market space associated with our fixed-wing work, waiting for the US and others to legalize their industry.
  • ArduCopter Mega, the unification of the Ardupilot navigation toolset with the quad/hexa/octocopter flight control code, is being released very soon
  • At the UW GRAIL lab: The maker of SiftGPU, Changchang Wu, has put together a multi-core bundle adjustment algorithm with available open software
  • At EPFL CV lab:
Apr 22 2011

MAV (Micro Air Vehicle) enters Fukushima

Yet another use for a small drone!  The main thing I Iiked about this article is the use of a new term (new to me at least): “MAV” = Micro Air Vehicle or Micro Aerial Vehicle, to describe small drones similar to those we are using for Ecosynth.  

Should we start using this term?  Does it apply to the Mikrokopter Hexakopter and/or Ardupilot drones?

Link: http://www.engadget.com/2011/04/21/t-hawk-uav-enters-fukushima-danger-zone-returns-with-video/

Apr 07 2011

Drone photos: Fukushima Dai-ichi Aerials

Pictures speak for themselves: “On March 24, 2011, a small unmanned drone flew over and photographed the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, giving a bird's eye view of the damage.”   http://photos.oregonlive.com/photo-essay/2011/03/fukushima_dai-ichi_aerials.html