new vehicle design tool

Hi all,

I'm working on some software that helps you select components (batteries, ESCs, motors, propellers) for a quadrotor/airplane/hybrid/generic UAV given a particular mission. It's basically ecalc in reverse with some optimization. I'm hoping it will be used by both beginners and experts to select parts or to validate part selections. I've been at this hobby for a few years and I still can't really find any tools (except ecalc) to validate any of the choices that I make for choosing parts.

Anyway, I'm at the point now where I could use some input from you all to help validate that the tool is working. I've been scouring the internet trying to find posts but I'm mostly finding quads, which is fine, but I'm hoping to add other vehicle types to the validation list - that said, I definitely won't reject additional quad data :)  The claims I'm finding are matching pretty well so far.

Here's what input I'm looking for from you all:
Do you think this would be a useful tool for you? If no, why not?

Are there options/inputs/outputs that you'd like to see?

Post some of your max/average flight times including: 
- which battery you use (# cells, capacity, discharge rating) and how far you discharge it (% or mAh)
- props (model or material, diameter, pitch)
- motors (KV ideally)
- the gross or component weights of your hex/quad/tri/airplane/whatever
- size of any wings and whether or not they tilt or are fixed to the body
- payload including fpv gear, anything else power-thirsty and/or heavy
Basically the more details here the better.

Here's a bit about what the software does. Lets say for example you want a quadcopter that will hover for 15 minutes that can carry a 1000 g camera. You input some things like:

desired payload
min desired flight time
min/max total weight
min/max motor KV
min/max prop radius and pitch
min/max # motors
min/max# blades per propeller
flight mode (hover, cruise, mixed)
cruise speed
and a bunch more optional inputs

For each type of battery (right now 2S-6S), it tries to calculate the minimum mass of a vehicle that can accomplish the mission by using blade element momentum theory and some looping logic. It tries to predict the weights of all the components that would be required - motors, ESCs, battery, propellers, chassis, wiring, etc. It also tells you which class of motors (KV, weight) will be able to do the mission, how big of a battery (capacity and cell count), which props (radius, pitch), how much current it will take, etc. If it doesn't find a feasible combination of parts, it outputs the closest and lightest match. Plus a bunch of other stuff.

Looking forward to your comments!

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  • Brilliant Idea!

    Perhaps motor wattage would be good too as on eCalc now.

    One thing that would be useful too, would be some instruction for stupid people like me, as to how to interpret the graphic information output from eCalc!

    • Thanks David.  Yep, it already provides required motor wattage.  There will definitely be instructions once it's released.  A tool's only good if people know what the inputs and outputs mean.

  • Do you think this would be a useful tool for you? If no, why not?

    Does the sun rise in the East?

    My feedback on...

    3DR Quad:

    4000mAh 3S NanoTech battery

    3DR Blue motors

    APC MRP 10X4.5 props

    GoPro Hero

    +- 19A drawn during typical flight

    Time 12 - 15 minutes max

    X-UAV Talon:

    With wing extensions

    12000 mAh 3S NanoTech

    Turnigy 3548 900Kv motor

    APC 12X8 Electric Prop

    500gram payload

    +- 8A drawn during typical mission

    At least 80 minutes flight @ 60Km/h IAS

    Hope this adds something.

    • Thanks Gustav. I'll run your Talon data soon (still working on the wing optimization).  Here's what I got for your quad (validation mode) - let me know how close these are:

      (caveats: I assumed you're discharging down to 85%, just hover for 15 min)

      Validation outputs (these calculated values should be close to your actual values):

      Cell count (S)     KV     prop dia (in)     prop pitch (in)     RPM     current (A)     bat capacity (mAh)
      3     837     5     4.5     4500     9.2     3832.3
      Validation mass outputs (these calculated values should be close to your actual values):

      cell count (S)         total mass (g)         battery         motors         ESCs         props         payload         avionics         wiring         chassis    
      3     1624.61     313.15     260.9     13.1     37.6     500.0     50.0     43.7     406.1

      I'll run the optimizer if these match closely (or at all hehe) with your actual vehicle.
  • Its a great idea.  The tool would need to be able to handle a full or partial set of inputs.  For example, a novice user might want to input only flight time, payload weight, flight mode, ..  An expert with spare parts might also want to input motor KV, number of motors, type of gimbal, etc.  

    You may also want to have a "tried and true" model option where the tool picks from a short list of tried configurations (frame, motor, ESC, props, battery, autopilot) and provides the specs for this configuration.  These T&T configs could be supplemented with pictures of built units to help the user build their UAV.  The user could then decide to go with a fully custom build based on tool output, which might have some build problems, or a T&T config which is not a perfect fit but is perhaps easier to build and there is a larger community of people with similar models.

    Just my thoughts FWIW.

    • Thanks Mark.  Yep, right now it already handles a partial set of input. You can specify basically as many or as few as you want.  I agree that it would help broaden its usability.

      I like the T&T idea.  While I'm looking around for others' builds, I'm putting together pre-made input lists to validate the tool against, so that could be molded into the T&T thing.  

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