Together, the Dronelab at ENAC in Toulouse and the MAVLab at TU Delft have developed the Cyclone. It is a hybrid drone of the tailsitter type, with just 4 actuators. In the video, we show autonomous flight, ranging from hover to forward flight. Below, we will highlight some of the interesting aspects, but more details can be found in the paper.
The vehicle is designed with efficiency and simplicity in mind. More than anything else, the Cyclone is a fixed wing aircraft capable of hovering. It is equipped with two propellers and two flaps. To spare the beautiful plane in the image below, we made a cheap version to test with. The Cyclone that is starring in the video has a 3D printed fuselage and a foam wing laminated with Kevlar. With the battery we are currently flying with it weighs 1.1 kg, flies most efficient at 16 m/s, and tops out at about 30 m/s (level flight).
To control the Cyclone, we use a method called Incremental Nonlinear Dynamic Inversion (INDI). The benefit of this method is that it is able to compensate for unmodeled effects or disturbances, by considering the angular acceleration. After all, according to Newton, all moments acting on the drone together result in an angular acceleration. This way, it is possible to compensate these moments and disturbances without modeling them.
The way we see it, a hybrid, like any rotorcraft needs to be able to keep its position regardless of wind. This means that the drone needs to be able to fly at any constant airspeed (0-30 m/s) without ascending. Therefore, were for a transition to forward flight or back, climbing a bit will make things much easier, we are not doing this. However, that means that we need to deal with high angle of attack flight, which generates a large pitch-down moment. A moment so large, that saturation of the flaps is commonplace (watch the flaps in the video during the back-transition).
We used the newly designed 'Chimera' autopilot, which is aimed at ease of use and runs the Paparazzi open source autopilot software. Among the many features are an STMF7 processor, an SD card slot, a mount for an XBEE and a differential pressure sensor.