Missouri S&T UAV Team - More Autonomous Flying and Bottle Drop

For those of you not familiar with the project we are a university team competing in the 2008 UAV Outback Rescue Challenge, for more information about our team visit our site: www.aessuav.org

On May 10th we attempted our first bottle drop from 400 feet. The bottle had an aluminum tab attached to it which was held by small servo at the center of gravity of the UAV. We took off under manual control and gained altitude, as the UAV flew it’s oval path autonomously, the bottle was released over the field. The first bottle we dropped was a 500mL Nalgene bottle, which failed miserably (see picture below).

Missouri S&T UAV

With the water bottle attached, the flight characteristics were not affected, although takeoff distance was increased, the autopilot’s ability to control the UAV was not affected noticably. During these flights the winds were relatively high, ranging from 10 to 15 MPH, which made navigation for the UAV difficult, but the autopilot performed admirably. Though at times it was blown off the path, it returned quickly to the intended flight path. Several autonomous test flights were performed in the windy conditions, further demonstrating the robustness of our UAV platform.

Missouri S&T UAV Team - Nalgen Bottle

Three more test flights were performed on May 15th, all of which included water bottle drops with different bottle designs that took into account lessons learned from the first test. Enclosures were developed for subsequent bottles that allowed them to survive the 400-foot drop. Data was also gathered about where the bottles landed and at what point they were released. With this data the theoretical and actual horizontal distance traveled were compared. After analysis it turned out that the horizontal distance traveled from two of the drops was consistent, this allowed a simple model to be developed for the trajectory of the bottle. During the final flight, aerial video of the bottle being released was also obtained from the onboard digital camera (see the video below).

These test flights provided valuable data about how the bottle’s trajectory is affected by the wind resistance, as well as about how the UAV platform handles moderate winds. The next crucial step will be to integrate the onboard computer along with the camera into the aircraft to allow testing of the system as a whole.

For more visit: www.aessuav.org

Views: 205

Comment by Jack Crossfire on July 7, 2008 at 6:43pm
So who is the bottle supposed to land on & what color is the paint?
Comment by Nullified on July 7, 2008 at 6:46pm
For those flight we were just testing the ability of the bottle to survive the 400 foot drop. But in the actual competition it just hast to land near a human dummy (not painted a specific color).
Comment by ian powell on July 8, 2008 at 12:16am
To stop the bottle breaking put a small drouge parachute to slow down the speed it hits the ground,this will help to calculate the trajectory and save the contents on the payload.
Comment by James Ross on July 8, 2008 at 11:28am
Nalgene bottles are about the most indestructible thing I own and you guys broke one. Awesome!

Try a stainless steel bottle.

Comment by Sgt Ric on July 8, 2008 at 11:58am
Sounds like we start moving away from an experimental payload into the area of lethal projectile/bomb.

Comment by Sgt Ric on July 8, 2008 at 12:06pm
On another note...having your handler hold the plane using only one leg against the tail during runup test is not at all safe, esp with a steerable nosewheel connected to the rudder.
The plane pivots during radio check enough to loose a grip like that.

Alot of fields have a more formal attitude towards handling a running engine.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on July 8, 2008 at 1:52pm
Should swap the bottle with a water balloon.
Comment by Nullified on July 8, 2008 at 5:52pm
The reason only one leg was against the tail during runup was done to not block the camera's view, and it was firmly held by the wings during that test, normally both there would be a leg in front of each side of the tail.

We have since solved the issue of the bottle breaking on impact. But the reason we did not use a parachute is due to the fact that stowing the parachute adds more complexity and wind can have a greater effect on the trajectory.

Comment by Sgt Ric on July 8, 2008 at 10:32pm
There I go again, jumping to conclusions on my high horse...
Sorry to be so critical of such an outstanding program.


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