ArduPlane v2: Full autonomous flight HIL simulation of a Nimbus 4m electro-glider drone

Here a video of the test of a Nimbus 4 meters wingspan electro-glider piloted by the firmware ArduPlane 2.28xp1 (updated version with a JLN mod). Test done in HIL mode with the AeroSIM-RC v3.83 simulator connected through the AP Mission planner v1.1.30 on an ArduPilot Mega board v1.

Test Mission profile:

  1. Full AUTO TakeOff,
  2. Exec of the flight plan (8 Waypoints),
  3. Full AUTO Landing.

The original ArduPlane v2.28 firmware has been updated (xp1) with some improvements:

  • Tuning of the final slope for a smooth touchdown, tested with the Nimbus 4 on AeroSIM-RC 3.83 in HIL mode,
  • Auto calculation of the wp_radius Vs the ground_speed and the max turn angle in AUTO mode so as to get the best turning point at the Wp,
  • add the CLOSED_LOOP_NAV ENABLED switch to allow redoing the flight plan after the end of the exec,
  • add HIL mode test in GCS_Mavlink.pde for AeroSIM RC v3.83 (and also Xplane v9), the APMHill plugin tested with the Nimbus 4m electro-glider model,
  • the CLI switch can be disabled, this allows to use only a APM CPU board without a full IMU shield for HIL test.


This is a part of the project Thermopilot (a Thermal Hunter drone): The purpose is to build a full autonomous Thermal Hunter Glider which is able to fly for a long duration in an area defined by a radius, a ceiling and a minimal altitude. The glider uses thermal soaring and dynamic soaring methods commonly used by full scale gliders during cross country soaring competitions. The ThermoPilot has been tested successfuly in flight during the summer and spring 2011 on a Cularis and a ASW24 3.50m electro-glider (below). Lot of flights have been done in high mountains (slope/ridge soaring) and above the fields (thermal soaring).

The Thermopilot project will continue intensively during the spring 2012... Stay tuned...

Regards, Jean-Louis

More infos at:

Views: 12836

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on February 6, 2012 at 11:29pm

Hello Pierre, 

I am glad to have some news from you and also to know that you are interested by this field of research...

Here some photos of a hand launch of my 4m20 wingspan ASW27 and fly in french Alps... I am really impatient to be again in summer and spring for thermal hunting and slope soaring...

Regards, Jean-Louis


Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on February 7, 2012 at 1:20am

Here a simple and a cheap method that I am currently using to conduct the firmwares (Arduplane and Arducopter) tests in HIL simulations with AeroSIM-RC and/or X-Plane v9. No IMU shield is required here, I am using only a simple APM v1.4 (2560) board and an USB-FTDI cable connected to the PC through the APM mission planner. I pilot like in real with my transmitter (Turnigy 9x) and the receiver (9X8Cv2) is connected to the the APM v1.4 and powered with the USB.





Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on February 8, 2012 at 11:42pm

Here some news about the ThermoPilot v5 project currently under developpement (now in phase 4). The  Thermopilot algorithms have been now successfully moved to the latest version of the ArduPlane v2.28 firmware (official release) wich is now the named ArduPlane v2.28ThP5 version for the project.

The ThermoPilot project have been started in october 2010 and lot of real tests flighst have been already done in summer/spring 2011 in fields and in also high mountains. I have started the project with a simple ArduPilot IMU board on a Cularis 2m60 electro-glider (phase 1, 2) and then on a ASW-24 3m50 electro-glider with an ArduPilot Mega 2560 v1.4 IMU (phase 3). The phase 4, now uses a APM v2 with the v2.28ThP5 firmware. My new firmware version uses a machine learning algorithm (ML) to do an accurate thermal hunting during a full autonomous cross country soaring mission of the glider.

I am using Xplane v9.70 as a test plateform in HIL mode because, it is able to reproduce with accuracy various weather conditions (thermal upwards, dynamic soaring, slope and/or ridge soaring) in real mapped world and fully compatible with the google map environnement...

Below some screens about the v2.28ThP5 tested in HIL simulations on Xplane v9.70, this new release of the firmware will be tested on the ASW-24 as soon as the weather will be less cold and better for the thermal hunting...

Below the flight plan used as a cross crountry soaring mission:

Along the predefined track, if the glider found thermal upwards, it uses them to gain altitude and then continu following the route.

In HIL simulation the glider can fly indefinitely without the need of the engine... Its really fun...



Comment by Marco Robustini on February 9, 2012 at 1:18am

WOW! Great job JL!
Have you plan to release your mods? :P

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on February 9, 2012 at 2:47am

Hello Marco,

Thanks for your comments. The Thermopilot mods for ArduPlane will be not yet released at this moment, because it is a part of a bigger project that I am currently developping. It will be released in few months after some further developments and full real tests missions on big gliders UAV in various weather conditions and environments.

Regards, Jean-Louis

Comment by Gary Mortimer on February 9, 2012 at 5:48am

I am really enjoying seeing proper airframes here, gliders rule! 

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on February 9, 2012 at 10:42am

Here a video of the ThermoPilot v5.2 in action during a cross-country soaring mission type tested in HIL mode on XPlane v9.7:

Regards, Jean-Louis

Comment by Mark Colwell on February 9, 2012 at 11:08am

JL your amazing, It is very hard to wait for the fully qualified release, I have several gliders to install it on,

Thank for all the hard work you do, it is a pleasure to read your  threads.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on February 9, 2012 at 12:39pm

How often does the platform find thermals in simulation? Can you run away to a known working slope based on wind derived from the aircraft in flight?? Very exciting stuff.

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on February 9, 2012 at 1:58pm

Hello Gary, in simulation the ThermoPilot find the thermal each time, as you may notice in some screens above, it is able to adapt the direction of the turn Vs the thermal position. It is also able to adjust the turn rate Vs the strenght of the thermal upwards as a glider pilot do during true thermal hunting. (Ps: I have been also a true glider licenced pilot few years ago...).

Some improvements that I soon have planned is to find and ajust the optimal speed of flight and the pitch of the glider Vs the rate of sink so as to follow the MacCready theory to be closest as possible to the polar of the glider...

Regards, Jean-Louis


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