We consider offering radar altimeter for UAV's

Hi everyone

My name is Oyvind and I am one of the founders of Intelligent Agent (www.intelligentagent.no). We are a startup that develops radar technology for robotics.

We want to make radar technology available for UAV developers and are considering the possibility of offering a radar altimeter. We have most of the technology readily available and won't need too much time to finish a working prototype. 

To get some input, I would like to start a discussion here to hear from you guys what your thoughts are on this.

What do YOU use an altimeter for? To keep a certain distance above ground? For autolanding? For avoiding collision with ground? Other?

And what is important for this application. Is it long range? Is it accuracy? Resolution?

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  • Developer

    I was thinking the problem for alt hold is you need to be more accurate than the barometer (9cm but also has a "random-walk" behaviour) for anyone to be interested but that's not actually true because the barometer is only telling your absolute altitude..it's not telling you your altitude over the ground which is actually much more important at least when it comes to not crashing. 

    Forward facing would also be useful for collision avoidance when you're speeding around the waypoints.  A sonar is too short to give you any real warning before you plow into a tree or wall.

    Over $500 and it's coming close to the entire cost of an ArduCopter but then again, people are putting more and more expensive cameras on there so surely someone will buy it won't they?

  • What has put me off trying autolanding is accuracy.  I fly gliders with large airbrake flaps.  It is critical to get the flaps up from full brake position during final flare otherwise they tend to break the servo as the flap hits the ground.  My estimated requirement is +-10cm or better accuracy over the closest meter.  I might suggest a 30m range with +-10% accuracy to enable well controlled final approach.

    If you wish to have the majority or people buying then it needs to be cheap enough to loose/damage and not have sleepless nights over it.  Having said this, it is not a standard piece of consumer equipment like a gps.  I would expect it to cost more.  Should the radar be the next piece of equipment on the UAV enthusiast wishlist after they get their first UAV flying?

    If you consider the latest 3DR gps at $75. https://store.diydrones.com/3DR_GPS_LEA_6_p/br-3drlea-6.htm

    and an FPV setup at ~$250+ just for the goggles.  Too expensive and people will go for the FPV as a more fun option.

    Question:  Would this radar module be mountable inside the aircraft or does the antenna need to go outside?

  • What is the price-threshold that would make amateur UAV operators switch to radar altimeter?

  • Developer

    I'd be interested in an altimeter for coping with varying terrain. What do you think is possible? It would need to work at altitudes of 100m or more, and would need to use only a minimal amount of power (maybe 2W would be ok?). It would also need to be light and cheap! Is that possible with current radar technology? What sort of radar frequency would it use?

    Cheers, Tridge

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