The upcoming 3.5.0 release of APM:Plane includes support for QuadPlane - a hybrid plane/multi-rotor that allows for high speed long distance flight with vertical takeoff and landing.

The above video shows a converted HobbyKing Firstar 2000 doing a fully autonomous mission, with VTOL takeoff, followed by automatic transition to fixed wing flight and then a VTOL landing. The planes builder, Jack Pittar from CanberraUAV, is shown with the plane below.

The plane itself was fairly easy to build, with the simple additional of rectangular section aluminium arms on the Firstar wings and 4 quad motors.

One issue we found is that the battery we are using (a 3S 4Ah 65C) doesn't handle the 65A needed for vertical takeoff well, with the voltage dropping to 10V on takeoff. After takeoff completes and it transitions to fixed wing flight it quickly recovers. We will be changing the battery setup for future flights.

A second issue is that the wings tend to twist a bit in flight, especially when yaw is commanded. That greatly reduces yaw authority when hovering. We are still thinking about the best ways to prevent wing twist.

The new QuadPlane support is documented at http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/quadplane-support and is included in the 3.5.0beta1 release (I will do a separate blog post on that release shortly).

In the near future we expect to add support for other hybrid frame types, including tilt-rotors and fixed wing aircraft with other types of multi-rotor frames attached.

This QuadPlane follows on from our earlier Senior Telemaster QuadPlane which used two Pixhawk flight controllers.

We built the Firstar QuadPlane to test the new code where a single flight controller board running APM:Plane is used, which makes for much simpler operation. We plan on now building a much larger version, with a 50cc petrol motor for fixed wing flight.

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Comment by ECODRONES on January 8, 2016 at 8:30pm


Very useful addition, Andrew!

Thanks for your tireless support.


Cheers!


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on January 8, 2016 at 8:31pm

Hi Tridge,

Congratulations, nice work!

Regards,

Tom C AVD

Comment by Thomas Stone on January 8, 2016 at 8:56pm

Nice!


Developer
Comment by Marco Robustini on January 9, 2016 at 12:25am

Well done Tridge, really nice!


Developer
Comment by Marco Robustini on January 9, 2016 at 12:35am

Andrew, why in the first transition "MC->FW" the plane it goes back a moment before giving the propulsion for forward flight?
Same thing during "FW->MC"...


Developer
Comment by Andrew Tridgell on January 9, 2016 at 12:47am

@Marco, it is because the FW navigation controller demands a small pitch up to climb up to the height of the first waypoint. That pitch up causes the plane to go backwards until the forward motor gets up to speed.

I will be testing a small change to fix this tomorrow.

For the FW->MC transition it is a slightly different problem. In that case the transition happens 50 meters before the target landing point. For the next several seconds the plane is flying in transition mode, and is quite smooth. Then once the transition is complete the full copter navigation controller is solely in control and no longer limited by the transition. The copter navigation controller thinks the plane is still going too fast for the Q_W_SPEED setting, so it pitches up to slow down and center itself over the landing point.

I may get time to develop a fix for that FW->MC transition tomorrow, but if not then I'll do it later in the week.

Comment by Bruce Baxter on January 9, 2016 at 3:29am
Very nice.

Congratulations.
Comment by Ravi on January 9, 2016 at 3:43am

And the grand finale! the convergence of two codes. great show Team 3DR.


Developer
Comment by Andrew Tridgell on January 9, 2016 at 4:06am

For completeness, here is a video showing a manual takeoff in QHOVER followed by a transition to fixed wing flight in FBWA mode. It is similar to the AUTO transition above, but is entirely under pilot control.

Note that the plane moves forward a bit in QHOVER due to the angle of the motors relative to the calibrated level of the frame. Unlike QLOITER, QHOVER mode does not hold GPS position.

Comment by Darius Jack on January 9, 2016 at 5:22am

My congratulations.

I have tested Avatar model drone.
What comes next is variable pitch propeller by Walkera Furious 320

http://www.walkera.com/en/products/racingdrone/Furious320/

Just another challenge.

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