Further to our first attempts at fully automated formation flying (see http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/ardupilot-formation-flying-attempt), Phil (http://diydrones.com/profile/PhilRudram) with his rebuilt Valdez (v2) and I headed out to try again.

Most of the flights were really good with the two planes following the route (and each other) very well. The turns especially were almost mirror images of each other and watching the two planes from the ground flying in almost perfect formation was amazing.

The first afternoon was really calm and this benefited both planes a lot. Each flight lasted around 25 minutes.

On the first day we tried a triangular course with waypoints around 700m (2300ft) apart but on the second day the course was set rectangular with the long legs around 1200m (3930ft) apart. The wind however had picked up a bit and was a bit lumpy with thermals starting to build.

We took about 2 hours of onboard video with a Mobius camera and a bit of ground video, but due to the wide-ish angle of the Mobius' lens the lead plane was often quite small although they looked really close at times both from the ground and from the FPV video setup on my plane.

All went very well until... not unexpectedly - a midair collision!

See the video for details.

Views: 1419

Comment by Gagarien on April 15, 2014 at 12:17am

Nice Graham love it!, is that the Vaal ? 

Comment by Trung Nguyen on April 15, 2014 at 5:44am

Looks like fun Graham. How are you handling telemetry with the two planes? Can MP monitor both? Are you on the same frequency, and if so, do they interfere?

Comment by Felixrising on April 15, 2014 at 6:27am

Very cool!

Comment by Martin Peres on April 15, 2014 at 7:37am

Avoiding collisions like that couldn't be handled easily by using the telemetry link. Planes should broadcast their GPS location. Then every plane around should try to keep a distance of at least 10m between every other plane.

To avoid problems such as "which plane should move and which one shouldn't?", I think both should. The front plane should accelerate until it reaches 120% of the assigned speed, then it should either move to the left/right or down/up to make way for the other plane and then slow down to 100% of the speed. 

The rear plane should do the same except it should slow down instead of accelerating.

I am not convinced planes would have to communicate more than just broadcasting their position. Is someone willing to spend time on setting up a simulation to check the behaviour and see if more synchronisation is needed?

Comment by Graham Dyer on April 15, 2014 at 7:54am

 Thanks guys, it was quite a bit of fun. @Trung we're using two laptops and two telemetry radio's on 433MHz but with different ID's and there does not appear to be any interference.

@Martin: there is the little known 'swarm' function but we haven't tried that yet (http://planner.ardupilot.com/wiki/swarming/)

Comment by Martin Peres on April 15, 2014 at 7:55am

@Graham: Sweet, I didn't know this feature existed already!

Comment by Graham Dyer on April 15, 2014 at 7:56am

@Gagarien, yes, north eastern edge of the Vaal Dam.

Comment by Antonie Kruger on April 15, 2014 at 8:55am

Hi Graham, that was great, at the Vaal, nogal. Thanks for sharing, great video.

Comment by Trung Nguyen on April 15, 2014 at 9:03am

Graham, the Swarming wiki appears to be written for MR. Do you know if there is any reason it would not work for fixed wing? I wonder what the update frequency is for the "leader's" position and subsequent followers' guidance corrections.

Comment by Graham Dyer on April 15, 2014 at 9:42am

No idea, we'll attempt it on our next outing to see if it functions for fixed wing.


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