T3 Season 2, The Model


Its T3 time again but first I have started tagging people that have entered T3 in the past on their member icons its a very small recognition for their valuable contributions which have driven APM forward faster than it might have without the competition. They have not only put their equipment on the line discovering new ways of doing things but countless hours as well.

Unsung heroes in the development of low cost autopilots for all.

So lets get into this round.

I waste far too much time on the most excellent GEFS there could be more 3D buildings laid on top of the Google Earth base layer. Lets change that.

The last T3 challenge "The Cube" bought some really outstanding results and the natural progression from this is automated flight around a building or natural point of interest and the creation of a 3D model perhaps in 123D catch of the subject. Last November Alan Sanchez showed us how. Improvements in the multirotor code that came into play at the Sparkfun AVC will help with the flying.

This could be achieved with a fixed wing platform with a little thought.

We should have some ground rules (pun intended) you must seek permission to make a model of the building, or natural wonder! You should fly no higher than 130m and the flight should be hands off all the way and you should stay visual with the airframe at all times. Please do not create a model of something in class A airspace unless it's at a recognized model aircraft field.

The flight must be at very least autonomous from just after take off to just before landing. If you can do it all autonomously bonus points! FPV entries will not be permitted.

If you submit your model to Google Earth and get it placed bonus points when it appears on GEFS for me to fly around it. In this case the model might be skinned with images taken from the air.

This is no simple task so it should remain open for six months. Normally I tack time on at the end so to break with tradition lets start the competition on the 1st of August and run all the way to 1st Feb 2014! That gives folks the extension weeks in advance!

Prizes to be announced when I have finished twisting CA's arm. As we know he always comes good.
I am also putting out a call for volunteer judges from the ranks of previous T3 entrants to help me decide. This one is I think going to be very subjective and how attempts are documented is going to be a big factor. 

There is no doubt automated building inspection will be a part of the future for sUAS.

Good Luck, be safe


Now let the traditional but did you mean XYZ questions begin! Oh and if you are tooling around on GEFS as well look out for me as Gary sUAS News, often slope soaring ;-)

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  • Randy, I'm not sure you technically need a gimbal at all for this?  Probably ask FalconUAV, does he have a gimbal on the airplane?  I'm not sure they need to be *perfectly* level straight-down photos.  As long as the copter was flying slowly, in low wind, I'm guessing maybe you can get away without a gimbal.

    But if you must have a gimbal, then the fun begins.  Brushless gimbals are obviously the best, but probably unnecessary for this use. A servo gimbal and a fast shutter speed should be good enough.  

    The camera is probably going to be more important than the gimbal.  Some cameras just can't handle any vibration.  I had purchased a Canon S100 and tried to use it, and even on my very low vibration H-8, the majority of the photos were blurry, even at very high shutter speeds.  The issue is the lens assembly in these just isn't meant to be subject to high frequency vibration.  The natural frequency of the lens is right in line with the vibration on a multi-rotor.  So the lenses shake, and make blurry photos. However, if you use the shotgun approach, and just take tons of photos, at high shutter speeds, you should get enough usable ones. But you'll have to manually sort through them and delete the bad ones I think, before you try and run them through the post-processing.

    A GoPro would not have this problem, but I'm not sure if the photos it takes would be suitable for the post-process?  Too much fisheye?

    I'm now using a Sony Nex5, and the problem seems to be gone. The lens assembly is much heavier, and stiff.  But you need a good size machine to lift this thing.  Not a 3DR quad, for sure.  One of your enRoute hexas would probably work well.

    I suspect that many of the "outdoor rugged" P&S cameras would work, as the lens assemblies are also probably robust.  I have done test flights with an Olympus Tough T6000, and it worked, but the photo quality on this one isn't great.  Newer tough P&S cameras should have good results.

    IMO, if you're going to go with a servo driven gimbal, probably the easiest and best thing to do, is make one yourself using Servo Blocks from Servo City.  There was a blog post about this a while ago.  Many of the cheap fiberglass camera gimbals are pretty junky, and will cause as many problems as they solve.

  • T3

    Thanks for the help Gary, but I'm still feeling a bit lost.  Will you disqualify an entry from UMBC (the coordinates I provided)?  I don't have transportation to go anywhere else, so if I can't take pictures here I probably will not be able to enter.  Plus I already have permission to fly here below 400 feet (from my boss who is a professor at the university, based on his interpretation of flight regulations.)

  • Moderator

    @Stephen here's a less scary bit. Sadly your spot looks to be in the surface section of airspace for 


    See the bit that says 100-SFC (they are on top of each other) that's 10,000 feet to the ground then just west there is a bit 10000 down to 1500 so you could fly under that and then its 10000 down to 2500. Its also all within a TFR but I will let you find out what that means... Its TFR 1/1155 and a tad further west there is 0/8326,-10.171875006042713&...

  • T3

    jDrones has a gopro gimble and a bigger gimble for point 'n shoot cameras.  They are made for jDrones copters, so a 3DR copter should be able to lift them.  You might have to drill a few extra holes in the mounting plate though.

    ArduCopter GoPro Cameramount, 2 axis
    R/C UAV and ArduCopter manufacturer and one stop shop. We make your FPV come true.
  • Developer

    So, I need a roll-pitch stabilizing gimbal that'll fit on a 3dr quad (or hexa or Y6 I guess) and hold one of those little digital cameras.  Anybody have any good ideas?

  • T3

    Gary, I am unfamiliar with the big scary map, so some help would be greatly appreciated.  I'm hoping to fly at  39°15'23.02"N,  76°42'41.08"W.  Please tell me how you do it so I can start to learn how to read the map.

  • Moderator

    Honesty that's the trust part of these contests. @Luca as long as its not in controlled airspace and you can walk around it, go for it. @Stephen same for you.

  • Moderator

    First question: So...  The rules say:

    "The flight must be at very least autonomous from just after take off to just before landing. If you can do it all autonomously bonus points! FPV entries will not be permitted."

    How do you want us to verify this?

  • Moderator

    I think you're spot on Gary.

  • I am thinking my University's Grand Mosque!


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