Hey Guys! (meant in the most gender neutral of ways),

I have taken my first real step toward building a DIY UAV! This will be boring to most of you, but to someone as far behind the curve as I am, this is HUGE. This community has come so far, and in such a relatively short period of time, that autopilots for RC planes are almost plug-and-play. However, I am determined to learn the basics of process control before moving on to an autopilot. After all, that's where you had to be a little over a year ago to even consider a DIY Drone.

I didn't start out with a LEGO Mindstorms, like this site's founder did, but I did get a Parallax BASIC Stamp Discovery Kit, which I believe was his next step. I don't plan to attempt to make an autopilot out of this controller--it's just for learning.

Now, I want you to pretend that the green LED to the right of the resistor (that's a 470 ohm resister, by the way) in the above photo is blinking once per second. I did that! Yes I did.

I'l like to say "stay tuned," but my projects tend to span years it seems. Maybe I can speed things up this time.

Paul

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Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on June 27, 2010 at 4:08pm
Paul,

Chris Andersons' first attempt at building an autonomous aircraft involved the Parallax BS2p and the Parallax PSC. I can send you the code if you want to see how it was done.

Regards,
TCIII
Comment by Paul Marsh on June 27, 2010 at 4:17pm
Hi Thomas,

That would be great. I'll send my e-mail address in a PM.

Paul

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 27, 2010 at 4:27pm
Hi Paul,

Congrats on starting your journey! I learned a lot with the Basic Stamp, and it was a great introduction to embedded programming. But just one warning that the reason I abandoned it was that it doesn't support floating point and that makes an autopilot REALLY hard.

So do use the Basic Stamp to read PWM and other sensors and drive servos, etc, but when you want to do more, I recommend you switch to Arduino. It's almost as easy to use as the BASIC Stamp, but much more powerful. This is a great starter kit.
Comment by Paul Marsh on June 27, 2010 at 4:37pm
Thanks Chris. I guess I've had my sights on the BASIC Stamp kit for so long, I never considered alternatives. I'm glad you mentioned it for anyone else that wants to start at the beginning.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 27, 2010 at 5:06pm
PS--links to all my Basic Stamp work are in here.
Comment by Troy on June 27, 2010 at 10:49pm
Basic stamps are grate for light lifting (and learning)! have fun, but the Arduino has a lot more umph.

I to started with a basic stamp. Didn't try to fly it but a few other things. I think one is still controlling the pump in my dads well (has been for 15 or so years). I then learned assembly for the PIC (hart of the stamp) and had some fun with them. Started playing with Atmal uContolllers and fell in love. Then discovered Ardino in last 6 months or so and wow. Why waist time righting drivers for an e^2 when you can down load one and spend your time coding something fun!

I haven't flown mine but instead plan to sail a boat with it. Hardware it is what I was thinking of building with a few extras. At a lower cost. Although I am leaning more and more toward sticking it in one of the planes in the workroom instead of the boat. Actually will likely get a Mega to fly and float the one I have.

Welcome and keep blinking the LED's :)

Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on June 28, 2010 at 4:22am
Paul,

I have a BS2p on a Parallax development board and am using it for manual steering using an R/C setup and for automatic obstacle advoidance while taking steering input from an Ardupilot using ver 1.0 software in the autonomous mode. I also have a BB Engineering Coprocessor board helping out the BS2p with the servo drive signals.

Regards,
TCIII
Comment by Dustin Romero on June 28, 2010 at 6:16am
Very cool to see someone else's excitement! I also started learning on bs2 and i loved every minute of it. the only reason i even found arduino (let alone this site) was that i cooked my bs2 in a failed R/C rover test. I haven't picked up my arduino's in a couple of months but see your excitement and remembering what that excitement feels like is pushing me to pick up my project where i left off. Thanks for posting, i think you just got me back in the game :)
Comment by Curt Olson on June 28, 2010 at 6:52am
I will echo Chris's sentiments. There are a lot of embedded controller platforms you could choose from and you can get a lot of good mileage out of most of them. I think just about all of them have an LED you can blink (which is important!) But if you are just coming out of the starting gate I would put in a plug for the simple ardupilot board. With it, you get:

- a good solid processor that easily deals with floating point operations and integers larger than 8 bit.
- a good solid C-language development system (a person could always argue the finer points of integrated development suites but the arduino tools are more than functional.)
- fail-safe muxing circuit integrated right on board. (THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!)
- ability to read the signals from 4 (and possibly more) channels off your receiver
- ability to drive 4 servo outputs
- several analog inputs and several digital inputs.

Perhaps this point gets lost because the ardupilot comes with default firmware already written and most of the discussion here assumes you will run that firmware, but at it's basic level, the ardupilot is just an ATmega328 CPU with all the into's and goes-out-of's wired to 0.1" header pins. Even though the default firmware has all the pins allocated and purposed and programmed, there's nothing etched in stone there. You can rewrite the firmware from scratch to make any of those pins do anything you want.

So just like you can take a pic processor and allocated the pins to do whatever you want and flash the led's on and off, you can do all those exact same things with the ardupilot board. The only thing UAS specific that it gives you is it's built in fail-safe mux (which in my opinion makes it even more desirable as a starting point.) For safety purposes, a manual override is an !ABSOLUTE MUST! so if you pick a different board and a different processor, you'll have to go out and purchase or develop a manual override circuit yourself and add that on top of whatever other board you are working with.

I don't want to sound negative about the Pic though ... engineers know that there are always several good ways to solve the same problem, so if you understand a particular platform and know how to make it do your bidding that might be the best path for you to take. A successful project starts with a solid platform that has the features and capabilities you need, but then requires solid engineering (both hardware and software) to push it forward through the development process and finally across the finish line as a solid robust working system.
Comment by Troy on June 28, 2010 at 8:30am
Curt is right on target.

Manual override is not as critical on a boat but I still really wanted it. I was looking at ways to implement one when I came across the ArduPilot. Its already there and tested!

Nothing against the ArduPilot code but you can load whatever code you want on the board and blink LED's exc.. to you harts content.

Arduino is also cost effective. You can lay out a circuit board with a processor on it and all the bits and pieces to make it go. It will cost you $200 -> $300 for one or two boards. Or get an Arduino for $25 (circuit boards get much less expensive as volume increases). May as well share the tooling charges for the PCB with others in the hobby, and help them out at the same time.

Troy

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