Big win for Dean! Purdue has been getting great press for its AttoPilot-powered UAV. Excerpt from Network World: (Slashdot coverage here:

"Researchers at Purdue will soon experiment with an unmanned aircraft that pretty much flies itself with little human intervention.

The aircraft will use a combination of global-positioning system technology and a guidance system called AttoPilot that uses GPS signals and an on-board flight-stabilization system to guide the aerial vehicle to predetermined points. Researchers can be stationed off-site to monitor the aircraft and control its movements remotely. AttoPilot was installed in the aircraft early this year, and testing will begin in the spring, researchers said.

According to Purdue, researchers have been using a small, lightweight unmanned aircraft - essentially a model airplane equipped with electronics - to collect agricultural data for Calmar Labs in Remington, Ind. The vehicle is equipped with infrared and digital cameras to take photos to assess the effects of shadowing on corn growth or to monitor the effects of drought or floods on crops. Until now, the aircraft has been controlled by a conventional radio receiver, which required human intervention to begin and end the missions, Purdue stated."

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Comment by Paul Marsh on January 29, 2009 at 5:04pm
Some of the reader comments such as "Old News," or 'no big deal' are kind of interesting. Small UAV capabilities might be old news to people very close to the specific topic, but I really don't think the average Joe has any idea how sophisticated the model aviation world has become (as opposed to military developments where cutting edge is more-or-less taken for granted). Even people with a strong interest in aviation in general aren't aware of what's going on in the model world. Indeed, until I discovered this site, I had no clue whatsoever how realistic and affordable amateur UAVs had become, and I regularly read model and general aviation magazines.

A number of years ago I saw this same thing. I was talking with people outside the hobby, but interested in aviation, who had no idea that small turbojets were now powering model airplanes. I was so amazed by this that I actually put together a short storyboard video and ran a proposal by Discovery Wings Channel to do a documentary on the topic. You can't say I wasn't thinking big! I actually got a response--they liked the idea but had no budget. Well, that made two of us. Some time later, though, you would see short references to model jets on various programs (Hunter Ellis flew one on the show he was hosting at the time). Just for you cynics, I don't think these later clips had anything at all to do with my proposal. I think it was inevitable that some coverage would be given. I'd just like to see more.

I still think there is enough material, enough technological development and enough ignorance (meant in the most positive of ways) out there to justify a documentary on model aviation. To be sure, the Military Channel is in need of more stimulating programming these days. Of course, if such a documentary has been made recently, I missed it.

So, Chris, surely you have contacts in the TV world! Why not get yourself on TV with a such a documentary starting with amateur UAVs? Can't wait to see it!!!
Comment by Paul Marsh on January 29, 2009 at 5:29pm
P.S. -- Just as a point of interest, The Military Channel recently did a special titled "Science of War" which had a fairly long segment on UAV development. They covered some of the small ones, such as Pointer and Desert Hawk. It was a good program overall.
Comment by Venom57 on January 29, 2009 at 5:35pm
I wonder if they got FAA approval!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 29, 2009 at 6:27pm
@Paul: Already did it: Wired Science program on UAVs (nationally broadcast on PBS last year).
Comment by Jack Crossfire on January 29, 2009 at 6:42pm
But did Dean get paid or was it a free beta beta beta sample? Universities tend to take whatever they can get for the least cost. It's not very hard to get a free sample into a research paper. The next level is to get them to pay you to integrate it. They sometimes create a class or a research center on your product & pay you for continuing support.

Many classes & research centers are created to teach how to use commercial products & students are hungry to get product names on their resumes, so academia is a good racket.
Comment by Paul Marsh on January 29, 2009 at 7:32pm
@Chris: Well done, Chris. I should have guessed it had been done already! If I'm not mistaken, I believe the NASA autonomous helicopter was in the Science of War program as well. It was demonstrating its ability to see objects on the ground and land among them without crashing. Anyway, I enjoyed your segment on Wired Science and am glad that word is getting out. There has never been a better time to be in the model airplane hobby.

Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 29, 2009 at 9:56pm
Interesting real world stuff though. I would like to know how many hours the airframe has on it with the Atto and what problems if any were faced.

Are there any other Atto real world stories to be told??

Dean cant be faulted for getting test products into the hands of people that are going to write their results nicely!
Comment by Patrick Egan on January 31, 2009 at 9:56pm
That one made the FAA radar and are supposed to have a COA
Comment by Dean on February 3, 2009 at 12:40am
Jack - they paid me, or rather Calmar in Remington Indiana did.

Yes Gary - airmcn_3 on RCgroups has well over 200 flights with the v1.8 AttoPilot on 2 airframes. I just mapped out a 20 acre cactus garden North of Phoenix last Friday using an E-flite Mini funtanaX and Olympus 7 MegaPixel camera under windy conditions. The flight took only 4 minutes, and I got (as usual) line hold within 4 meters. The distribution of atto v1.8 is only to a few people right now. There is a guy in california doing lots of flights, and I'm headed up to Kansas this weekend to help a guy get fully integrated ASAP so he can demo for his local police department.
Comment by Michael Leasure on January 31, 2013 at 2:07pm
Flights were made line of sight before the COA concept even existed. We were taking aerial photos for crop evaluation in extremely remote areas over 10 years ago. Small UAS will be what i call manually assisted for many years to come. The autopilot and gyros essentially stabilize the aerial platform and reduce pilot workload and skill required. I am teaching UAS in 2014 with no COA. All indoor.

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