We took our Telemaster up again today, this time with two APMs on board. There were two aims with this flight. The first was to get an idea of how much two APMs would vary in their attitude and altitude solution, and the second was to test a new experimental GPS that one of the CanberraUAV team members received as a birthday present from his brother (his brother builds GPS modules for a living).
For the outback challenge competition we plan on having two APMs in our plane. The idea is that the mission control computer on the plane (a pandaboard) will constantly monitor both APMs and will switch over to the backup APM if the first one starts misbehaving. To do that we need to know how much variation between the two APMs we normally should expect, so we know when we should be thinking about switching between them. The logs from todays flight gives us some idea of what variance we should expect.
The setup we used today was that both APMs were connected via USB to the pandaboard, plus one of them was connected to the normal servos, receiver etc, and was used when we were in stabilise or loiter mode. Both APMs logged detailed telemetry to the SSD on the pandaboard via mavproxy.
Apart from being in slightly different positions in the plane, the only other differences between the two APMs were:
- one used a 5883L magnetometer and the other used a 5843.
- one was connected to the planes pitot tube airspeed sensor and the other wasn't
While looking at the results I found that the magnetometer on the 2nd APM hadn't initialised, which means its yaw and heading values are rubbish. We'll need to do more flights in the future after ensuring that both magnetometers initialise correctly. I'll also need to add a warning message to mavproxy for when the magnetometer doesn't produce good data.
The first thing I wanted to look at was the roll/pitch solutions. Here is a typical graph for a short section of the flight.
The tracking between the two APMs was reasonable, although not as good as I had hoped for. The two IMUs will of course have had slightly different calibration, so we expect a constant offset, but the graph shows that the offset isn't constant. Sometimes the 2nd APM shows a larger roll, and sometimes the first one does.
The altitude solutions show a similar variance:
The VFR_HUD altitudes are from the two barometers, the GPS_RAW values are from the GPSes, both are in meters above sea level. The two height estimates tracked each other quite nicely, with the variance small enough not to bother a plane. A quadcopter hovering might have some problems at low altitude, but at the altitude we were flying at today (around 100m or so) it wasn't an issue for the Telemaster.
The airspeed/groundspeed values were about what I expected:
the pitot tube produces a much noisier signal than the GPS does, and the two GPSes tracked each other quite nicely. The difference between the pitot and GPS readings could well have just been the wind, which was several meters/second.
I was curious to see if the raw gyro readings tracked each other. The MAVLink RAW_IMU packet allows us to see the raw sensor values before that are processed by the APM, and I wanted to see how much noise showed up:
We'll be looking at these log files a lot more closely in the coming weeks, but this quick look has already told us a lot of what we need to know for designing our OBC avionics, and working out how to do failover between the two APMs.