Howdy yall. Long time lurker just recently became active. I have been testing different designs for UAV's for fire service. And like Edison I have learned at least 10 ways to not make a fire service UAV.
The whole thing got started discussing wide area search and rescue, then it went to wild fires, then water rescue. Long story short we decided to build a UAV to assist us. Since I have the experience flying RC and the electronics background that task got appointed to me as $30k for a Draganfly is pretty unacceptable price wise.
I figured I would just announce what I was working on and if I find anything else out there that can help the traditional heli crowd or even the quad crowd. Ill be sure to chime in.
Currently I have a 450 with the flymentor system on the bench
I am assembling another 450 to put a ardupilot 2 system in
I have a third 450 kit sitting on the bench for parts.
and 250 that is just a trad manual heli for farting around.
The end result will be a 700 class heli, with Color and Thermal FPV. Autonomous return, and an extended run time. The reason for the 700 heli is low disc loading, substantial size for wind and thermal buffeting and a higher payload. Not only that it would be easier for ground spotters to see to direct the operator to the intended search area. Operating as a NFP, I figured that the Open source community was the perfect to bounce Ideas off of as I am not intending to make any profit off this endevor. Heck the minute it starts becoming about money it is not fun anymore, probally why I volunteer as a Fire Fighter EMT.
If this one works well, I am going to continue toward 501(c)3 status to provide them to the volunteer departments that need them. Currently I have formed a LLC for the expressed intent of R&D on this project but before incorporating as a NFP I need to ensure the viability of the platform.
Oh and I have Partnered with FLIR systems for the Thermal Optics.
Welcome Carl. I'll be following your explorations with interest. Besides the unique ways a fire service, first responder, and search and rescue UAVs may be a challenge (operating in dynamic thermal environments, for example) many new builders are sometimes caught unawares with the various things that go wrong when handling sensitive electronics, drawing too much current in the wrong places at the wrong times, the effect of RF and magnetic fields, or noisy electrical sources. All of these things have solutions, most are well known and understood, but not always anticipated by new builders. Then there are the RC aspect, and flight experience/knowledge, which from the sounds of it will not at all be a surprise to you. [I cannot tell you how many people w/o flight experience build too heavy and only after realize the importance of weight and balance]
So welcome, I mention those things above to say I'm glad you're here, and I'm going to bet you'll enjoy navigating these various design and engineering challenges. To be quite frank, about costs, I think a lot more of us than we'd admit to spend more (time & money) on these flying robots than we might on a single commercial offering, when you add it all up, including the "cost" of our time to learn, build, and redesign, never mind the parts. But in the end, I think we are each enriched by the experience. When you spend a small fortune buying a nice system like Draganfly, you have an expense, and some number of flight hours before you need to repair it. When you built it yourself, up front I am not so certain you save money, when you add up the hours .... but all those hours and costs are an investment, rather than an expense, and when your gear breaks (and it will) each rebuild, redesign, and each new improvement and new aircraft has a lower overhead for the return.
Thanks for tolerating my pontifications long enough for me to get to "welcome" and I look forward to all of us learning, along side you and others, more about improving UAV performance in highly dynamic thermal and hazardous environments.
Hey Thanks, I appreciate any insight that those who have walked this path before me can offer. I actually crashed my quad copter that I was controlling manually with a KK board on the outskirts of a controlled burn, I think it may have been some thermals causing the copter to oscillate and flip but with out shooting video of it going down I cant analize what happened. I have since picked up a gopro so I should have plenty of video in the future of each test flight. I am waiting for a deposit to come back from my previous apartment to get a ardupilot 2 board and a FBL head. So I figure I got another 2 - 3 weeks of research before I can get started testing. But I am soaking up as much as possible in the meantime.
one of the many nifty things about APM/APM2 is that they have data logging. If you have it enabled and working, it can answer a lot of questions about what happened without video. Here's hoping you never get to see how excellent that can be...
One note, while we're on the topic. Most people naturally assume the APM2, as the new platform, is superior to the APM. The truth is more complex. APM2 is newer. It has some more advanced features. APM, however, while being the "older" design, also has features the APM2 does not. This is easily observed from the cost. One of the features of APM2 was to reduce the cost. There are things on the APM that are not included on the APM2, like the relay, for example. And the reverse is true, the APM2 manages to add a built in magnetometer and GPS onboard, and for $100 less than the cost of an APM.
If you have the time, and not the money, it can be at least worth the time to compare the features, strengths and optimizations of each of the two boards to decide what is best for your requirements.
This is where the confusion begins for me. I have very limited experience with Arduino, however I can read a circuit diagram and tinker with electronics. I don't know enough about the features of either to make an informed decision, I have been going through the wiki but if anyone has a hey read this I am all ears. I am all for buying once and buying right. Not only that but I have about $400 just for the controller so either or is doable just which one will work best I don't know.