Proposal for a high-speed serial (spi/i2c) arduino-based ESC for quadrotor/multirotor projects

(I applied for membership to the arducopter dev list but figured it was worth posting here anyways)

I'm a student in Electrical Engineering student at university, and I'd like to work with ArduCopter in developing a new Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) specifically for open-source quadrotor use.

My research would be quadrotor/multirotor stability and control charateristics for traditional ESCs, versus a high-speed serial ESC (such as the brushless controller for the Mikrokopter project, or the Open-BLDC project).  The Mikrokopter ESC is unsuitable because the code is closed source, and I'd need to work with the code as part of the research.  Open-BLDC is completely open source, but is too large and expensive for the target application we're looking at.

The project would be first designing and fabricating several of these high-speed serial (I2C or SPI) controlled ESCs.  Ideally I'd like to base them off of an Arduino (ATmega328), and provide a method of easily uploading the bootloader and reprogramming it.  This will, i think, be of good value to the DIYDrones community as a whole, since all of the board designs and code will be open source (unlike the Mikrokopter project).

High-Speed in this case refers to response rate, which is important for stability and control of the quadrotor/multirotor (system).  Not to be confused with high-speed motors, this is just describing the communication between the AP and ESC.

Once I have enough of these made, I would build (ideally) two identical quadrotors/multirotors, with the same APs (ardupilot mega) and sensors.  These would be flown outdoors in still air and wind, as well as tested in our wind tunnels in a formal stability and controls analysis, which is most of the academic research.

I'm submitting my research proposal documents very soon, and I need to budget buying (hopefully) two ArduCopter frames, and two full sets of electronics (one without ESCs).  I know the arducopter is still in it's beta stages, but is there any way I can get:
1) a cost estimate (ballpark) for the hardware components
2) either a cost estimate or (better) specifications for what kind of motors/props/ESCs and battery to use

Thanks so much, and I'm a huge fan of what you guys are doing (hope to lend my support)
~Alex Ray

Alex Ray
Senior, Computer and Electrical Engineering
North Carolina State University

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Great idea Alex!

I don't have any arducopter hardware (I'm building my own AVR-based quad as a separate project), but here's some thoughts I had on the matter:

I'd like to tackle this project myself, but I'm having a hard enough time building my quad!

- Roy
I'm EE (electrical engineering) so circuit design and fab is what i *do*.

Its the building flying things and not crashing them thats hard for me :-)
I do think there is a need for this project, so I wish you luck. As for price, I'm guess the ArduCopter guys are working out the details. If you can't wait for them, you can try here:

Keep us in the loop, especially if you plan to release open source hardware and/or software.

- Roy

I'd be happy to help in any way I can. Live in Indian Trail, NC and a member of the Core development team. My involvement was of frame design. I have the arducopter electronics and am finishing my arducopter build as well as several other quad build using other controllers.

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