If so, tell us about it here.

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I'm working on two main project themes:

The first is an aerial robotics platform built around an autopilot created in Lego Mindstorms NXT. Although this isn't the most sophisticated autopilot you can imagine, it's very accessible to kids. Thus the idea of an Aerial Robotics Contest, modelled after the FIRST League, that would be open to kids 10-18. We're shooting for a demonstration at the annual FIRST competition next year. We'll be covering this at GeekDad.com

The second is what I call "reductio ad absurdum" UAVs, or "Minimum UAVs". Those are drones that use commonly found off-the-shelf parts, such as cellphones or $40 chips used for electronics experimentation kits. The point of this is to democratize UAVs, taking them beyond the military, commercial application, and even university labs. The truth is that they're within reach of anyone who can afford a R/C plane, these days. This site is meant to promote that.
I'd love too, keep skirting round this challenge, looking for that window of free time to get going. Currently working on ground robots.
Yup, for an undergrad cartography research project
Nice idea to start this new forum!
I have so far just used ready made components like
UNAV PDC-10, Picopilot and some hobby projects from RcGroups,
so it'd be fun to take it one step further, or backwards really.

We certainly are! Our latest efforts involve flying Nokia NSeries phones (primarily the N95) on COTS RC Hardware (primarily the Multiplex EasyStar) to acquire imagery using PyS60 to control the camera, gps, antennas etc. Our S60 should be available shortly, and we are VERY interested in integrating Autopilot functionality into our setup as well as additional sensor types, airframes etc. Looks like our efforts to do WM based efforts should be merged up with yours.

The near term goal is to be able to upload photos directly from the devices in flight to the network to be shared on sites like this!

check out our group here on ning ... http://pictearth.ning.com/ ... and start linking up your imagery and videos there! ... we would certainly love to collaborate on our UAS derived imagery social mapping efforts as well.

I had been in a bit of a tech slump since my world travels came to a halt (ie job change) ... until I saw the VRFlyer shorts in Sept 06. That was it - I needed to build a UAV. And learn to fly it. And learn to program. Lets leave it at I had and continue to have a lot to do!

Come October, I had the de riguer Easystar and started the mods -- FPV 2.4 downlink, video gogles, and began adding the brains.

I am using the Parallax.com Propeller chip (no pun intended) for all my processing. It is a 8 core processor that is so far able to handle my GPS calcs (and return-home requirements) , R/C receiver and servo signal regeneration, video display (eventually my video overlay) and I am hoping to program alternate uses for my radio's joysticks when in autopilot mode. A buddy had just used a basic stamp for his 100k' balloon and recommended the 'new' chip to me.

I added Canon Powershot TX1 720p vid/still camera in a fixed position now, but have a pan/tile/zoom rig on the drawing board.

I've dubbed the airframe my Frankenplane 2 because of the vast amount of parts from just about everywhere. The 2 refers to it really being mostly an easyglider now. 3 will probably be mostly Cularis. I like/need the foam because of gravity's locally increase near my planes.

I am posting a few vids on youtube this week from my Kitty Hawk / OBX trip last week and will link locally.

Thanks for the great site - I'll second the need for these off the shelf and inexpensive aerial experiment platforms.


Very impressive! We were planning to upgrade to the Propeller chip ourselves. Do you have a site? (If not, want to host it here?) Also, are you willing to share your code for open source development?



I am indeed happy to open source all any of my code. I already posted my R/C servo capture and regen code on the parallax forums at http://forums.parallax.com/forums/default.aspx?f=25&m=179159. This is the basis for being able to turn the autopilot on/off.

I have my personal blog at hubner.net, and the projects seem to get as much face time as my wife and kids (and I think I'm in trouble now...)


I'm new to the website (just joined), but I'm interested in making my plane fly autonomously. I've added an electric motor to my glider, increased the fuselage diameter, and have created a payload bay. What would be the next best step? Should I try to install a stabilization system (gyros, infrared, etc) or a microcontroller (not much experience) or a camera, etc?

Thanks for your suggestions,

I'd start with the FMA co-pilot and a camera and see how that goes. BTW, do you have ailerons? If so, it's pretty straightforward to add GPS navigation to the rudder. If not, you'll probably have to go with a gyro system, which is more expensive/complicated.

Hey Chris,

I've elected to go without ailerons to save weight and lift. I'm surprised that by adding ailerons the complexity would be less. Is it because most GPS navigation systems are setup to handle pitch, roll, and yaw (not just pitch and yaw)? Thanks for the input...I think I'll start with the camera and then integrate the FMA co-pilot later. Is this the website for the FMA co-pilot...www.fmadirect.com?

Thanks again,

I'll try to start uploading pictures of my (slow) progress.

I know, it sounds counterintuitive. Let me try to explain:

We simplfy the fuctions of the autopilot by treating stabilization and navigation as two separate functions. By itself, stabalization can easily be handled by off-the-shelf horizon sensors, like the frmadirect.com Co-Pilot. And by itself, navigation is simply a 2D right-or-left GPS steering excercise. Put them together and you've got a complicated hardware integration challenge, but keep them apart and you can have two simple systems that don't have to even know about each other.

But the consequence of that is you need two ways to steer: the ailerons for the wing-leveler (the FMA Co-Pilot) and the rudder for the GPS steering.

So that's why having ailerons makes the whole system easier: it allows you to separate the two functions of an autopilot, making each part simpler.

Make sense?


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