3D Robotics

T3 Contest, Season 2, Round 1: Synthetic Trappy!


You know the story: a FPV flier who goes by the handle of Trappy decided to prove something to someone and pulled a stunt in NYC a few weeks ago, filming a flight that went from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, and posting and promoting it online. This has generated a huge amount of controversy in RC/FPV/UAV circles. We discussed it here, and suffice to say it was the general sense of most commentators that this was Very Bad: dangerous, reckless and casting our hobby in a very poor light.


The problem is that Trappy, who is actually a very accomplished FPV pilot with many impressive (and usually safe) videos before this one, flew a Zephyr around Manhattan in Class B Restricted Airspace, in the landing patterns of three major airports and far beyond line-of-sight. He also filmed it and sent it to the media, where it was widely shown on national TV. This is not only in violation of FAA rules, but it's also the kind of thing that can ruin it for all of us if legislators take this example as an opportunity to crack down on our hobby.


What should he have done instead? Well, if he wanted an aerial tour of New York City, he could have had a great one on a simulator. Thus the theme of T3, Season 2 Round 1: Synthetic Trappy!


This is a simulator round. It's winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and too cold for many DIY Drones members to fly. That's a perfect time to brush up on your UAV "hardware in the loop" (HIL) simulation skills. It's a great way to test your autopilots and code on the workbench in realistic but totally safe conditions by connecting them to a PC Flight Simulator like XPlane or FlightGear.


Your mission is to do the following: program your autopilot to recreate Trappy's mission and make an autonomously-created video that simulates the one Trappy made, showing the safe way to fly planes around NYC: in a simulator only!


WRONG (Trappy's original video):

RIGHT (A rough simulation of the flight in Google Earth):


Here's a KMZ file (shown at top) that roughly covers Trappy's route, as best as we can tell from the video, which probably involved several flights and has edits and out-of-order bits.  Here is the tour file that was used to create the above Google Earth video.



Your job is to create your own FPV NYC video, not by touring in Google Earth as I did above but instead by recording a simulated UAV flight using a HIL setup.


Here's how to get started with HIL simulation in ArduPilot Mega. You may want to use Happy Killmore's GCS to record your HIL sim and then replay it in First Person mode. Or maybe you have your own GCS or HIL setup that can do even better.Other autopilots have different HIL sims.


The judge (Gary Mortimer, as usual) will rank the submissions on closeness of simulation of Trappy's video, creative use of a UAV sim, and autonomous maneuvers that are particularly impressive (such as swooping down on bridges and alongside buildings). We don't really expect anyone will closely duplicate Trappy's routes; instead, we're more interested in the sim and mission-planning techniques you use. Crappy videos with cool tech will score well ;-)


As always, post your submissions in the comments below. Just an embeded YouTube video, a KMZ file of your simulated flight and description of your setup.  Winner will get their choice of a MediaTek GPS module or a magnetometer, but all entrants will get points for Season Two of the T3 contest.


Submissions must be in be 12:00 midnight PST on Sunday, Jan 30th.


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  • oops - spell check missed "Victors."  It should be "Vectors."

  •     There is a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Corridor along the Hudson River.  I ought to know, I've flown it many times in a private plane.  VFR flight also means no flight plan is required nor necessary.  For the professional journalists, that means aside of the 9/11 fear mongering, nothing illegal was done.  So, for those looking at a Sectional of the NY area, the class B airspace is somewhat misleading.  And many a pilot - without transponder on - fly out to the lady (Statue of Liberty).  And there are no Victors ( approaches or departures ) to any of the three airports that traverse the Hudson River at that altitude ( or even close ), unless, of course, you count those unique events when brave pilots wanting to save passengers - when they have no where else to go - ditch or land their jets in the Hudson River.   One civil pilot website to Check out http://germase.com - as a for instance.    Or, you can just use your mind and imagine no civil aviation traffic uses the Hudson River - just don't open your eyes.

         Oh yes, and if there is a problem in that airspace a helicopter may be scrambled from a helipad in NYC but generally, they have to be out over the ocean before they send a fighter.  But perhaps we should consult with Dick Cheney who was in command of NORAD during 9/11, where not one single fighter responded, until very much later that day.  Oh, my mistake -- Mr. Richard Cheney left the United States and is unavailable for comment.   And behind the curtain we have War number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4, number 5, number 6, number 7 or number 8.    

            And judging by the number of military UAV's here and around, ask the FAA if they can do anything about a military drone or any other flying military vehicle?  They will immediately direct you to the military as they have no jurisdiction by statute and are, in fact, subordinate to military operations.  So, get a military waiver or verify you aren't doing something that poses a real problem. Civil IFR ( Instrument Flight Rules ) flying requires a transponder so your aircraft can be seen on radar and collision can be avoided. There are also other requirements for IFR flight. 




  • Developer

    Just to complete this thread for those following it by email; and those reading in future weeks; the winners were announced at this location on the 8th February 2010:



  • Moderator
    Well done all, a few more hours and this round will be closed so hold you hand up now if something is taking forever to render and you will still be in.
  • 3689387328?profile=original

    I didn't do anything really original, but I did come up with something that looks like what's required so I might as well submit it.


    Flight Path     FPV View

  • 3D Robotics
    For the judges: Phil's entry is here.
  • I've made an other short video showing the OSD with the Xplane and GE view underneath:


  • I'd like to sing in the contest too!

    3692161083?profile=originalSetup details:

    The flight was fully autonomous (including takeoff and landing) using the Crash 4 Sure autopilot and OSD system. We're using our own application to adjust and make plans for the autopilot. Communication made possible trough USB. The same application can handle Xplane and initiate the HIL simulation. Here is a picture of the hardware being used:

    3692161036?profile=originalThe thin black cable carries analog video signal from the graphic card TV-out, trough the OSD and finally an EasyCap digitize it again. Pulling Xplane to the extended desktop, I have a simulated video for the OSD too. It can be seen on the left side of the first picture, but sadly it doesn't appear on the captured video.



    KML file


    As you can see the flight path was not so precise due to the simulator, custom app, GE and the video capture was overloading my computer. Simulation was running barely over 10Hz when it was intended to run at 50Hz. Next time I should get a quad core processor for the job :)

  • Excuse the typos! I see I was in a hurry writing the above ...


    / Marc

  • Explanation to what you see in my "Manhattan_Tour.KMZ


    There is TWO recorded tracks:

    One GPS track and one track thats "estimated" by the dead reckoning algorithm in the autopilot.

    If you study the tracks in detail you will see "Manual mode" in a few places. That's because some of my WP'a are "LOITERING" WP's. That is for example "Groud Zero", Ellis Island, Governors Island and Liberty Island.

    A LOITERING WP is holding the drone INDEFINITELY, or until you throw the "MODE" switch OFF-ON. (Really from "FULL AUTO" to "STABILIZED" and back to "FULL AUTO".

    There is also a lot of other data in the .KMZ that will slow down most machines of not turned off:


    PITCH / ROLL / YAW and

    EARTH WIND 2D VECTORS should normally be turned off, but if you look at them, I did create a difficult take-off and landing environment with 20kts side wind, just for fun and to show the reliability of the control loop.

    You see that teh LOITERING WP's suffer in precision from the wind since I only do ONE turn before switching to next. If I had continued to loiter, the circles would be perfectly centered around the targets, but the video was over 30 minutes with only one turn around each of the landmarks I would have toured if flying a drone over New York.


    The tour should have ended with an autonomous landing at La Guardia, runway 22, but I went out of fuel after a number of testflights and the simple reason I forgot to refuel between flights. I had to find a "dirt field" in a hurry and managed to land there in manual mode without any damage whatsoever.


    This whole flight would be possible to do in "real life" since I stayed inside my "envelope of reach" when it comes to radio links for video and data (50Km). 


    I hope you can verify the flight from the REALLY poor video, but I had to compress the poor source material to be able to upload it since I'm using a mobile phone for online access at the moment. I didn't want to cut the video so that there is evidence that this is ONE continuous flight without edits. 

    The only adjustment done through the flight was to adjust the air-brakes to lower the airspeed when approaching the loitering WP's and the "ADVANCE" when leacing the loitering WP's




    / Marc 

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