Darrell Burkey's Posts (4)

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Serious Fun


[ Peter Barker, Andrew (Tridge) Tridgell and Leonard Hall analyzing flight logs ]

Take three software developers, a bunch of flying robots, a windy day, some
coffee and mix. What you will get is a fun day of exciting flying just as
we did when Arudcopter Developer Leonard Hall visited the Canberra UAV
team at the Canberra Model Aircraft this week.

Leonard dropped in to do some flying with fellow Ardupilot developer
Andrew Tridgell and other CUAV team members to catch up with CUAV progress
on various projects and to demonstrate how to tune aircraft. We even
learned the theory of how heli software uses a virtual leash to control

The highlight of the day was most certainly watching what happens when you
attempt to fly a 15Kg Porter quadplane in the wind when it's been poorly
tuned. I've never seen a plane pitch ninety degrees on landing before and
I hope that I'll never see that again. Other highlights were watching
Leonard tune a racing quad and a very smooth autonomous Gaui GX9
helicopter flying in high wind.

As the sun set on a cold windy day there was only one thing left to do,

dinner at a lovely Thai restaurant. You just couldn't ask for a better

More pics on the Canberra UAV Flickr page.

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Mapping Rural Australia


[ Walgett, New South Wales - Australia ]

Around here doing mapping with a Skywalker X8 isn't exactly news. Still, it's exciting when you finally figure it all out yourself and get to enjoy the fun of watching the plane fly over while taking hundreds of photos. A big thank you to everyone here that has gone before and to the Canberra UAV team who I fly with on weekends for all the help.

So last week Jack Pittar, CUAV pilot, and I headed out to a rural Australian town to partner with the Dharriwaa Elders Group who are surveying areas of cultural interest. Using a flying wing equipped with a Pixhawk and Sony NEX 7 camera we managed flights up to 29 mins long capturing over 900 photos. We uploaded the photos to MapsMadeEasy and the next day we had orthomosaic maps that were 3.4 pixels/cm resolution for the DEG to merge with their land survey data. We flew at 110 meters high using a 16mm lens on the Sony camera at approximately 17m/s which required the camera to shoot a photo every 1.3 seconds. 

The plane had plenty of flight time on board with two 4S 5 amp batteries. The flights we did only required 30% of the battery capacity with an average current draw of only 6 amps. We opted for a bungee launch system which has been working very well. Using Ardupilot we have the plane set to start the motor after it accelerates adding to the safety of the launch. We have been doing traditional landings which we found were difficult to control on dirt tracks so we will be looking at adding VTOL capability to the plane. We found a folding 12x8 prop to work best with our motor. We found that a Mystery ESC caused so much noise in the plane that the camera tripping circuit would not operate so we replaced that with a 40Amp opto ESC. During the take offs the current is spiking to 42 amps so we have a 60 amp ready to replace it with.

Our road trip was great fun and I'm sure we will be doing more of this work in the future. On the way home we stopped in to meet a land owner who has 35,000 sheep and cattle to discuss how UAVs might be useful for monitoring stock. Next month we hope to fly even further to assist a research institute monitoring the water quality of a thirty two kilometre long creek.

Enjoy some photos from our trip at Flickr.

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Mapping with A Flying Wing


I've had great success doing mapping with my Aeronavics hexacopter using a Pixhawk and Sony NEX 7 camera. But I wanted to start covering larger areas so I decided it was time for me to have a go at flying fixed wing aircraft. I started out with the excellent Volantex Ranger (HobbyKing sell it as a Quanum Observer) but the camera was a bit large for it so a friend suggested I have a try of an X8. We dragged a dusty old test X8 out of another friends garage and off we went. It wasn't long before we figured out how to bungee launch and auto land it thanks to some help from Tridge: 

And just today I finally managed to get the camera mounted and triggering from Mission Planner thanks to CUAV team member Jack who made a custom cradle to hold the camera. He also added a wire frame skid around the launch hook and a little skid pad on the rear of the plane to smooth out the landings. Up to this point we have only flown the plane with a single battery and no camera, so I was a bit worried when we launched it today that it might not accelerate fast enough to lift the extra payload. When I released the plane it launched almost exactly the same as before adding the camera and extra battery. 


So it was great day of flying and we are looking forward to our next test in a few days where we will be testing the endurance and doing some test mapping runs. 

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Flying with Linux at LinuxConf 2015

Ardupilot developer Andrew Tridgell has presented 'Flying with Linux' at LinuxConf 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand.  During his presentation Tridge connected to the running autopilot software of a plane being flown in Canberra Australia by CanberraUAV chief pilot Jack Pittar and Grant Morphett. A Skype connection to Grant's phone was used to display the flight to the audience in New Zealand.

Running Ardupilot on Linux enables other cpu intensive processes such as image recognition software to be run on the same platform as the auto pilot. To demonstrate how capable the system was of multitasking, a new linux kernel was being compiled while ardupilot was also being run to fly the plane. Compiling software typically places a very high load on a system but ardupilot ran normally flying the plane three times around a circuit. The plane even did a successful auto landing despite high winds.

Flight telemetry streamed live to the presentation while Tridge explained how the system was configured and the work that the CanberraUAV team had done since his last presentation a year ago. This work included winning the prestigious Outback Search and Rescue Challenge held in Queensland Australia last year.


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