Brian and I are almost ready to get our autopilot project "off the ground".

We received a free airplane from a friend of mine who now lives in Japan. (A lot cheaper to buy a new one than ship the old one.) The plane came with a glow engine but we converted it to electric. (Sorry for the crummy iPhone pictures!)


I added an access hatch to the front to create an "avionics bay".

We just got our uBlox GPS and Brian got it working last night. Here it is with our Arduino board and Sparkfun IMU.

We have developed a tightly-coupled GPS/INS algorithm to provide highly-accurate position, velocity, and attitude data. We hope to have the aircraft up and flying soon so we can collect flight data. The algorithm has been developed using simulation data, but I would like some real-world data to do the final tuning.

We have several options for the guidance and control aspect of the autopilot once the tightly-coupled algorithm is finished. One option is to develop our own single-board system, with air data sensors, IMU, failsafe/MUX, etc. (I am inspired by the work shown here, especially by Brian Wolfe!) We would have to develop our own software as well.
The other option is to create a sensor-only board with air data sensors and IMU, and modify an Ardupilot to accept the position/velocity/attitude data. That way we don't need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak.

Our ultimate goal is to create an aerobatic-capable autopilot, so we will most likely design our own single-board autopilot eventually. I am hoping to create an adaptive control system that will "learn" how to fly an airplane. I'm just scratching the surface on that endevour, and I'm not sure I'm smart enough to pull it off!

We will update again once we get airborne.

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 29, 2009 at 9:12am
Looks good. Looking forward to your updates!

Comment by Mark Colwell on September 29, 2009 at 3:15pm
I would like get source code examples to interface Sf IMU if you can share it ??
Comment by Tom Yochum on September 29, 2009 at 3:21pm
You would have to direct code requests to Brian. He is the programmer.
Comment by tejeshwi on May 21, 2010 at 7:53am
Hi Tom,

I am Tejeshwi from India. I have just completed my B.Tech in mechanical engineering at IIT Delhi. Currently, i am working on a project at LEC, ETH Zurich. The objective of the project is to simulate a Funjet which works with an electric pusher-prop engine. I am using JSBSim to simulate the flight dynamics. Now, since electric engine engine.xml files do not come as a template when you download JSBSim, i was wondering how to author this file. As i see from your posts, you seem to have been facing a similar problem which by now, i am sure, you must have overecome, couls you kindly share your experience and enlighten me a bit on authoring the engine file for an electric engine.

Comment by Tom Yochum on May 21, 2010 at 7:58am

Congratulations on your degree!
You would think by now I would have figured this out, but I haven't. I actually found it easier to use the Rascal JSBSim model made by Curt Olson. He is one of the creators of FlightGear, so he probably knows who to talk to from JSBSim.

Good luck with your project, and I'm sorry I can't be more help!

Comment by tejeshwi on May 21, 2010 at 8:01am

So does this model have an inbuilt engine file for an electric engine. Can you tell me more about this model?

Comment by Tom Yochum on May 21, 2010 at 8:04am
It uses a gas engine. Right now I'm working on the navigation and control algorithms and the specific aircraft does not matter. I have been experimenting with the Rascal and the Cessna 172.

The lack of documentation by JSBSim and FlightGear on the engine modeling is very dissapointing. You may make some headway by visiting the FlightGear website and poking around the forums there.

Comment by tejeshwi on May 21, 2010 at 8:08am
Ok. Thanks for the information. So, even the rascal model does not involve an electric engine. Anyway, thanks for your prompt replies. Please let me know in case you come across some relevant information.



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