The dev team is delighted to give a Christmas present to ArduPlane users in the form of a new geo-fencing feature!
Geo-fencing allows you to define a GPS fence around your flying area, plus a minimum and maximum altitude. Within the fence you can fly ArduPlane normally in any mode you like. If you go outside the fenced area then the APM will automatically take over and bring the plane back to a pre-defined return point, ready for you to have another go.
We're hoping that this feature will both help beginners learn to fly, and also allow experts to perfect complex aerobatic stunts while minimising the risk of a crash. It is also ideal for ensuring that local club rules on flight boundaries and maximum altitude are followed.
You can read all about how to setup and use the new feature in the ArduPlane wiki, but I thought it might be fun to tell you about a test I did of geo-fencing yesterday at my local flying field.
It was Christmas eve, and I was at CMAC testing the geo-fencing code. A family had turned up to watch the planes flying, including Wilson, a 5 year old who loves aeroplanes
I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test geo-fencing as a training tool, so I asked Wilson if he'd like to try flying a plane by himself. As you might imagine, he enthusiastically agreed!
I took up my SkyWalker with the APM2 fitted, and then enabled the geo-fence. At first I put it in a loiter at about 70 meters, and showed Wilson how he could control the loiter using the transmitter sticks. After mastering that we put the plane in FBWA mode, and Wilson flew it himself. He was delighted!
The fencing really made a difference, as he made some mistakes and flew outside the defined area or too low a few times, but each time the APM took over and brought the plane back to the return point, where it loitered ready for him to have another go. We then flicked the trainer switch to give him control again, and he took the plane around more than a dozen circuits. Not bad for the first time flying a plane at that age!
I also did some test flights with my SkyFun yesterday, and I was delighted to find it worked very well with geo-fencing. One of the reasons I added the geo-fencing feature was to help me improve my manual flying skills. I've found that flying with the APM stabiliser enabled means that my flying skills don't improve as much as I'd like, so I really wanted to practice flying more in manual mode, but I also found that in manual I tend to crash far too often. With the geo-fence enabled I can fly in manual with a safety net. That allows me to really improve my flying skills without crashing. It means I don't need to remember to change modes when I get in trouble - the APM is constantly monitoring my position and altitude, and if I am about to crash it takes over and brings the plane back ready for another try. Great fun!
Many thanks to Wilson for test flying the new ArduPlane code and happy Christmas to ArduPlane users everywhere!