To start, I want to thank you all for such a great site! I came here about a year ago and never quite got over how fun it would be to build my own UAV, so I'm finally going to try it.
Ideally the UAV would be able to receive some simple commands (fly to this location, raise altitude to this much, etc) and eventually carry a camera (something like this
after being modified a bit, which will take pictures at the specified coordinates. Ideally the plane would just be stable, slow, and easy to control.
My current plan is to use the Easy Star body (most likely I will be suffering from some crashes, so foam is very good) with most of the suggested mods for it (faster motor, slower prop, etc). I'm currently planning on using the Arduino Duemilanove for the main controller on the plane (mainly for it's low cost and ability to output a lot of PWM signals easily and get inputs from lots of digital and analog sources). I'm planning on doing the coding myself, just because that should make it far more interesting. For sensors, I am going to try to use Sparkfun's pressure sensor
and maybe their small 5 DoF gyroscopic and accelerometer board
, along with a GPS (I haven't decided on the model yet).
One thing I'm not too sure about is what I will do for controlling it by radio. I am thinking about using these
radio modules for their relatively low price and high power output, and then have some sort of setting on the plane to switch from auto-pilot to controlled directly from the radio. It seems to me that a lot of you have a failsafe backup computer as well as the radio control, to make sure that nothing can go horribly wrong, but I'm not sure how necessary this is, and I don't plan on flying the plane too far from where it takes off. I also don't know if something like those radios would be suitable for controlling the plane in real time. I would have a base station set up with a computer to control it and send it signals, as well as monitor the batteries and all that. I am also thinking about having some sort of failsafe system, where the plane will deploy a parachute if it is losing altitude too fast, the batteries somehow get lower than they should, or to help make it land without too much complicated control.
Some questions I have for you guys are: is there any reason I should use the IMU I listed instead of a thermopile? what should I look for in a GPS? do you think that radio would make sense for communicating with a UAV? does anyone know if a parachute system makes sense?
Any other thoughts or comments are greatly appreciated!