Successful 10 Km full autonomous flight of the MAJA drone with the ArduPilotMega.

A 10 Km full autonomous flight of the MAJA drone with an ArduPilotMega

The MAJA drone has successfully done a 10 Km autonomous mission under flight plan on May 28, 2011. The purpose of my mission challenge is to succeed in a full 10 km autonomous navigation under a flight plan (FPL) with only the steering of the ArduPilotMega and its firmware (v2.2f JLN).
- All the 8 waypoints of the MAJA drone has been defined so as to be in line of sight of the pilot (me) who is able to override the autopilot and take the manual control in case of emergency.
- An automatic RTH (Return To Home) has been programmed in case of failsafe conditions (i.e. LOS (Loss Of Signal).
- The FPL is composed of 8 waypoints and the MAJA drone autopilot runs the FPL during 3 loops of about 3.35 KM. The full flight have been recorded with a GoPro HD wide camera.
- The MAJA drone is fully steered with an ArduPilotMega (APM v1.4) autopilot with a 9D0F IMU and the firmware v2.2f (JLN modified version based on the original APM v2.1 firmware).

The battery level, the RSSI level was monitored by the M-Link telemetry on my Royal PRO 9 (Multiplex) transmitter. After a 15 minutes flight time the Lipo (3S,11.1V 3300 mAh NanoTech) power battery level was 37%.

The weather conditions: Wind 16 Km/h from West.

The MAJA drone setup:

Avionic setup:
 - ArduPilotMega APM v1.4 (Atmega 1280 @16 MHz), 32 Mips
 - Full 9DOF IMU,
 - Built-in 16 MB Data Logger,
 - Airspeed and absolute pressure sensors (Bosh),
 - triple axis magnetometer HMC5843,
 - 10Hz Mediatek GPS MTK v1.6,
 - Full high speed telemetry with MavLink protocol,
 - Low speed telemetry with M-Link,
 - High Speed Telemetry (Mavlink).
 - PC Laptop ground station (APM planner),
 - Hand-held groundstation (Ardustation),
Firmware: APM v2.2f (modified version by JLN)
Camera: GoPro HD Wide

 - Brushless motor: Spitz 30 (BMI) 360 Watts (Max 480W),
 - propeller thin APC-E 12x6,
 - ESC: BMI #85505 C-45 (45-55A),
 - 4 servos Corona CS-929 MG (1.8, 12.5g),
 - Propulsion battery: Lipo 3S Turnigy Nanotech 3300mAh 11.1V,
 - Avionic battery: Lipo 3S Turnigy Nanotech 2200 mAh 11.1V,
 - UBec 5A, 5V for the Avionics (ArduPilotMega + Receiver),
 - Receiver: Multiplex RX9 DR with M-Link telemetry.

I am very grateful to the ArduPilot dev team and to all the contributors of the APM project:
Doug Weibel, Jose Julio, Jordi Munoz, Jason Short, Chris Anderson, HappyKillMore, Bill Premerlani, James Cohen, JB from rotorFX, Automatik, Fefenin, Peter Meister, Remzibi...
More infos at:

Views: 5962

Comment by Martint on May 29, 2011 at 10:33pm
Hello Jean,

That's fantastic, as much as I'm sitting here thanking you for showing off what can be done, I have to point out that you have cost me the price of the maja! I was very shall I get one, then thinking no it could wait a while longer, the waiting is all but over, I should have one in about a week and it's your fault ;-)
I hope to see more updates on this project of yours!

Kind regards


Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on May 29, 2011 at 11:02pm

Hello Martin,

Glad to see that you will soon have your MAJA too. Lets me know when you begins the avionics installation, the request time to build is about only two days on free time. The difference between the MAJA manual and my setup is the position of the COG, it MUST be at 75 mm and not 85 mm as mentionned in the manual.

Below the servos tuning:

Ailerons: +/- 15 mm

Pitch: +/- 12 mm

Rudder: +/- 22 mm

The elevator zero must be set a bit upward and the hand launch at full power with a climbing slope of about 20°.

The hand launch is very easy and there is no problem.

Regards, Jean-Louis


Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on May 29, 2011 at 11:19pm
"The elevator zero must be set a bit upward and the hand launch at full power with a climbing slope of about 20°."

Sinks as much as easystar...

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on May 29, 2011 at 11:33pm

Yes Krzysztof,

A launch 20° upwards is a good mean to overcome the natural tendency to pitch down during the launch of the MAJA due to the engine thrust at the rear.  This is normal for all planes with a motor placed at the rear. The motor is mounted with a small positive angle (about 2°).

Regards, Jean-Louis

Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on May 29, 2011 at 11:41pm

It surprises me in case of MAJA, I believed the centrally mounted angine would prevent that.

Maybe because it is heavy and coming out from the hand it is a little too slow?

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on May 29, 2011 at 11:50pm

The engine placed at the rear of the plane is a common emplacement in a UAV because there are a lot of advantages in a such setup.

Regards, Jean-Louis

Comment by Martint on May 30, 2011 at 12:06am
Sounds very much like the ez* Krzysztof, mine also sinks very quickly from the point of throwing! I made a few modifications to my ez*, the brushless motor I fitted is way to powerful and will push the ez down out of the sky while in flight if you just go to max power very quickly, increased slowly and the airspeed will raise and all is well!

@ Jean, thank you for the tips on the maja, I've just about completed the telemetry tests on the 2.4 xbees, the maja is going to be the test bed for them. I have got about 1 mile range on the xbees using basic antennas, I have some high gain ones arriving in the morning, the final test I need to do is check that there is not going to be a conflict between the rx and Xbee. I hope these final steps are successful, we can then have a telemetry kit here in the EU (might not be quite the range of the 900's xbees, but it's a step in the right direction!). I can't wait for the maja to arrive!


Comment by Junior Sammy on May 30, 2011 at 7:09am

Which 9DOF IMU did you use? Whats the name of it?

I'd really like to know :)

Comment by Jean-Louis Naudin on May 30, 2011 at 7:48am

Hello Junior,

I am using the ArduPilot Mega IMU shield board with an Analog Devices ADXL335 accelerometer and Invensense Gyros IDG-500.

You will find all the technical details and the schematic of this board HERE

All the firmware are OpenSource.

Regards, Jean-Louis

Comment by Martin Poller on May 30, 2011 at 10:03am

Hi Jean Louis,

Watching your progress with much envy, we haven't managed a successful autonimous flight of our HawkSky with APM on board yet, but hope to soon. We're currently making up the X Bees to set up a ground station. Then we'll be thinking about some sort of camera. Recon you're 6-9 months ahead of us in development.

Your flying weather is a lot better than we've had in Scotland for the last week or two, with gail force winds causing quite a bit of damage and bringing down trees.

Looking forward to more flight reports from you for even longer flights.

Kindest regards






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