Vibration Isolation and Dampening of APM / PX4 for version 2.9

Now that we have version 2.9 and inertial primary control for the Z axis and soon to have it for X and Y axes as well it is necessary to take vibration dampening and isolation of the flight control board much more seriously.

Primary improvements can certainly be made by balancing the props and motors.

So far it seems that the more rigid the frame the better because frame flex introduces undesirable mechanical delay (hysteresis) in translating motor induced actions to the centrally located flight control board. (Do NOT shock mount the motor Arms).

It may be reasonable to somewhat vibration damp the motor mounts themselves because they are on one end of the mechanism.

However, primary damping gains will be made by vibration isolating and or dampening the flight control board itself.

So far we have undertaken this process simply by trial and error sticking on of Foam or Gel pads or using O-ring suspension of the board to outboard standoffs.

This has achieved (barely) acceptable results, but is certainly by no means optimum.

The crucial fact that we have not properly addressed is that the amount and type of dampening medium needs to be matched to the weight (mass) of the item we are trying to isolate.

In fact we are trying to isolate a flight control board that weighs under an ounce or less than 2 ounces in its case which is a very small mass.

Our current "solutions" are actually designed for much larger masses and are not nearly as effective for the light mass of our flight control board as they ought to be.

I have done some on line research which did fully verify this inadequacy.

Virtually all off the shelf solutions (either pad or stud type) basically require a suspended mass that would weigh at a minimum 5 to 10 times what an APM or PX4 / IO board(s) weigh or more for optimal effectiveness.

This includes all pre-made Sorbothane, Alpha gel, memory foam or other silicone or urethane gel or foam mounts including Lord Micro mounts.

However, Alpha Gel or 30 durometer Sorbothane or Kyosho Zeal Gel double sided tape do appear to be the best possible solutions at this time so long as you use small enough pieces of them.

Simply putting a double sided pad under the entire board as we normally do now is entirely inappropriate for maximum vibration isolation and it is amazing it works at all.

Optimally you would use pads of them smaller than 1/2" square (possibly even 1/4" square) on each corner of the board or APM enclosure box. (smaller for the bare board than the board in the box obviously).

You could also improve isolation somewhat by sandwiching the board / enclosure between pads on both sides in slight compression.

So far we have done a dismal job of approaching this like engineers, but the reality is that with the massive excess quantities of vibration absorbing materials that we are using versus the mass of the APM (or PX4) has produced better results than not using them, but no where near what could be achieved by using the proper weight and size of dampening / isolation material.

The basic solution is to reduce the actual isolation medium to the 4 smallest pads you can get by with on each corner and using the softest commercially available dampening materials you can find.

A further gain can be made by placing the item to be damped in 10 to 20 percent compression between 2 pieces of the dampening material.

Thickness of the dampening material does improve dampening and isolation but is not nearly as important as selecting the right material and the right size of the supports made from it.

I believe that Kyosho Zeal tape is 2/10 of an inch thick and that is probably plenty for our use and the frequency range we are trying to damp.

I would very much like to see 3D Robotics produce a APM (and PX4 / IO board for that matter) case with proper internal shock mounting of the board(s) with dampening data for it.

I actually suspected this result from the start of my investigation and a little thoughtful research has completely confirmed it.

Another significant gain in vibration isolation can be had by using a high flex wire and strain relief approach to all wires connected to the Flight control board (and using the minimum number of wires necessary as well.)

I have used the concept of vibration isolation and dampening somewhat interchangeably in this discussion.

Isolation is simple undamped (spring or rubber band support) which allows the movement of the isolated object largely separate from the containing object.

Dampening is the conversion of vibration into heat energy by a shock absorbing medium (car shock absorber for instance.)

Our ultimate goal here is to provide the most high and medium frequency reduction while still allowing low frequency actual board movement to take place with a minimum of delay.

So realistically our methods embody both Dampening and Isolation.

I have covered a lot of ground here, but this is at least a good start for designing some real world vibration solutions that are bound to work better for us than what we have done so far.

Please try your own experiments and kick in your own thoughts here, that's how we get better and this is just a launching point.

Here is an excellent link to some definitive research and testing that will help:

http://fpvlab.com/forums/showthread.php?4251-Vibration-Dampening-am...

Tags: 2.9, APM, Controller, Dampening, Isolation, Mounting, PX4, Vibration

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Yes, you can get rid of $$$ much faster with UAVs than just tearing them up and chucking them in the air!

Thanks for the offer, my existing logs are a bit on the large side so I'll log a shorter flight and post that. My X8 hovers in Alt Hold rock steady but in fast forward descends at about 15 degrees down until slowed and then rises back up.

Regards

Philip

In fast forward, if it sinks in Alt Hold, then look at two possibilities.

1) air pressure around the APM bottom side might be decreasing during fast forward flight. The copter thinks it is getting higher (lower air pressure) when it's not. This can happen when the ship is tilted into the wind and a flat surface acting like a wing causes high and low pressure volumes around the sensor chip. On the APM, the ship is on top near the front.  On the Pixhawk it is on the bottom on the leading edge.  This is fixable by using foam to spread out the source of air or change what is causing the wing effect (causing high and low pressure volumes).

2) the copter is tilting too steep to stay in the air.  you can limit the pitch angle in the extended parameters.

If you said that the ship becomes unstable during fast flight, then vibration or PID tuning might be a cause.

Thanks for those pointers. I checked out the air pressure issue by temporarily padding around the central Pixhawk area to create a different aerofoil section. The vibration increased marginally but the sink remained (see first log which includes a hover plus PosHold runs). Removing the alterations reduced the vibration slightly (see second log of a hover for comparison).

The sink is only a real problem in auto missions so I will look at the pitch angle and horizontal speeds to find how fast I can let it go with minimal sink. As far as I can see the ship is not visibly unstable unless you can spot otherwise in the logs.

Having run the logs through your spreadsheet (via Excel in VBox) any insights you can draw from the results would be greatly appreciated.

Regards

Philip

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@ Philip

I had the same issue and it really bothered me because it tended to raise my pulse considerably!! When going forward quickly [ 10 mps or more ] it first lost 20 meters then when I stopped it shot up 25 then virtually stopped all motors while it fell back to base height! 
However… as of just the other day I found a really easy solution that works perfectly for my set up.The pixhawk was right on top exposed so it was easy to do. I used some 1/2” wood cut to the right size for stand offs that I screwed to a piece of plexi glass. Then I just held it down with a strap for easy removal. It must be close to the top pf the pixhawk… say about as close as you can get without fear of negating any anti vibration gel etc. I started with 1/2” above and it helped but didn’t cure the problem completely. I cut down the stand offs to have about 1/4” above the pixhawk and that seems to be the sweet spot. I can now go really fast and just let go of the stick and it glides to a stop at exactly the same height it was. Nice! I'm pretty sure going really fast produces a high pressure all over the controller so all connectors are a source for air which is why it seems to work best to cover the entire thing. Just a guess.... good luck
Thanks Richard, I'll try that on mine. Your plexiglass "deflector/wing/aerofoil" is not rectangular but I assume that happened to be what you had to hand rather than a calculated shape?

Nahh it just looked sort of too big and not pretty rectangular so I just cut some 45 degree angles on it for appearance. I think it helps it's past the controller a bit to though. Perhaps it creates a bit of vacuum in the back countering the high pressure in the front. Whatever it is I was thrilled it worked. The pixhawk is on that green gel pad as well. 

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