ArduPilot is great piece of hardware, no doubt. However it comes to its limits, mainly with limited memory, just one serial port, limited connectivity to other peripherals.
So I have idea in my mind about improved setup, which would still use ArduPilot as hardware interface board for servo signals (5 channels IN from RC receiver,4 channels OUT for controlling plane), and of Infrared stabilization reading.
Then it would connect to bidirectional serial link over Bluetooth module, which would connect ArduPilot with a smart phone located on the plane.
One well-tuned firmware would be uploaded to ArduPilot once, this would provide work with signals and communication over BT module. These are ArduPilot's strong points.
The central brain would be a mobile phone (or PDA) stored in plane. The phone would get servo positions from RC receiver through ArduPilot and over BT serial link, and the phone would also send servo positions back to ArduPilot for controlling plane. The phone would compute stabilization and navigation.
GPS signal may come from external Bluetooth GPS module mounted somewhere on plane, or from phone's built-in GPS module (if the phone can be placed in plane with good signal reception).
These are main benefits:
- easier waypoint configuration (sending to phone over Bluetooth or memory card)
- possibility to have multiple waypoint paths stored on phone, selectable on airfield from phone's menu
- tuning autopilot parameters (e.g. PID loops) in phone's menu - no need for connecting laptop
- using phone's camera for taking photos of video
- logging flight data to memory card
- much more memory for program and data
- using mobile Internet connection or SMS allows for:
> uploading new waypoints in mid-flight
> reading telemetry in large distance
> sending photos or video during flight
The phone would run on Windows Mobile or Symbian OS.
Considering power, many phones and GPS modules allow charging over mini-USB plug, so this equipment could be charged during flight from same 5V source as used for ArduPilot. Or just left to use their own batteries.
I'm waiting for my first Bluetooth serial module to come, then I'll make testing with such possible connection.
And also still waiting for better weather, for trying original ArduPilot in air...