We had good weather on Sat, so we tested four UAV platforms at the Alameda air field near Berkeley. Another successful trial: useful data and no lost planes!
Our mission for the next two weeks is to complete a trial that: A) takes off from the "highway" used in the Matrix 2 (the set was created at the Alameda and parts still remain); B) flies autonomously over water to the Hornet aircraft carrier, which is moored about a mile away (it's the carrier that recovered Apollo 11 and 12 in the Pacific, and was used in the filming of "Apollo 13"!); C) Return safely and put the video on YouTube. Think that will get some views? ;-)
- Lego Autopilot: Tested FMA co-pilot sensor in new position on top of wing (worked much better), compass sensor in new position behind wing, away from the magnetic interference of the brushless motor. The test ended when autopilot stopped responding. Found two problem: the Lego motor had become dislodged from its mount (it's now screwed in to avoid this) and the software wasn't responding to "autopilot off" commands, for reasons that are neither clear nor repeatable. Given that we're porting all the code to Lua, we won't debug this. Also, the directional patch antenna that we're using on the ground for the video downlink just isn't doing the job, for reasons we don't understand. We'll go back to the stub antenna for now (at least nobody has to point it) while we diagnose the problem.
- PicoPilot UAV: This was just the first flight test of this autopilot, just checking the gyro-based stabalization. It seems to work great. Also tested the cute and light FlyCamOne micro video camera with a 2GB SD card. It worked great until an aborted takeoff, which dislodged it and mis-oriented it from the mirror that lets it look forward. So the black line obscuring the top of the video isn't its fault!
- Cellphone UAV: This was just a stabilization test of the FMA co-pilot with the sensor in the under-body position. It didn't work as well as the Lego UAV's wing-mounted position, so we'll move it above the wing in this UAV, too.
- Predator UAV: First airframe test, under manual R/C command. Flew okay, but needed a lot of down elevator and otherwise felt sluggish. Later diagnosed as a thrust angle problem, due to motor bulkhead being tilted up. Have now reseated bulkhead to fix. Also had a pretty gnarly landing due to a tip-stall at low speed. Will land under power from now on; this plane doesn't like to go too slow.
The video above shows most of the high spots.