I recently posted in a forum about how to add 3G uplink to a UAV model.  This project seems really fun to me, so I'm thinking about writing the software to make it happen (a little web server and some new features for Andropilot).  

However, the bummer is that some uses wouldn't be legal in the USA (given the current harsh FAA interpretation we need to operate under - <400 ft, visual range of control).  

To make sure this app/feature was used 'correctly', I would have it check to see if you are in a 'long range control is legal' country.  If not legal, I'd have it automatically send a mavlink RTL command if you got more than x (1?) km away from the home location.  

My question:

  • Are there countries where unrestricted long range control are legal?
  • If you are in such a country, are you willing to put a (cheap) android phone into your plane and give this a shot?  If you are, I'd probably be willing to make the software/servers go.


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Comment by Kevin Hester on February 18, 2013 at 4:41pm

In fact, it would be possible to have the server automatically prevent flight into controlled (class B,C,D) airspace by populating a database of exclusion zones...  

Perhaps something like keep plane <300' AGL, out of controlled airspace and inside visual range (if required).

Comment by Kevin Hester on February 18, 2013 at 4:49pm

The phone could also periodically take and geocode pictures.  The server would then be able to show a global google-map with (optionally uploaded) tracklogs and picts.

Comment by Jean on February 18, 2013 at 5:08pm

I'm in Australia.  Not sure what the laws are here, but I'm very interested in this.

Comment by Erwin Felisarta on February 18, 2013 at 6:16pm

I'm in the Philippines. I'm also very interested in this. I have an old LG Optimus One android phone which I can use. Let me know what else I'll need. :)

Comment by Ravi on February 18, 2013 at 7:44pm

hi kevin, i am interested in being part of 3G control of UAV. i am in india. we do not have clear UAV laws as yet. also no laws for RC aircraft flying. they are being drafted.  i have a beautiful aircraft fitted with APM 2.0. recently i flew the aircraft 22kms on auto mode. there were 18 waypoints. the navigation and stabilization was perfect. the aircraft has an endurance of 80 mins with 6400mAh Lipo fitted. the craft is still ready to fly. i have never used android platform but i can give it a try with your guidance.

Comment by Hamish Cook on February 18, 2013 at 8:30pm

Or, you could just build the system without artificial restrictions, and trust people to know and abide by their local regulations?

I've been looking at using something like a Raspberry Pi with a 3G USB modem running MAVProxy. 

Comment by Charles K Taylor on February 18, 2013 at 9:22pm

I am definately interested in this project.

By the way the 400' limit is only within 3 miles of an airport according to AMA rules and the FAA says to coordinate with 5 miles of airport.  So it is perfectly legal to fly higher than 400' if you are not under either situation.  Now there is still this clause to consider:

(b) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall 

be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue
enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who
endanger the safety of the national airspace system

So as long as you operate your aircraft within visual line of sight and in a safe manner you are good to go.

Comment by Kevin Hester on February 18, 2013 at 10:27pm

Ok.  I think I'll make something like this then.  It will be a few weeks...

Comment by Rana on February 18, 2013 at 10:44pm

Charles, I have two RPi's (Raspberry Pi B model), one is acting as ground station with HD TV as display monitor for RPi and other RPi airborne running Paparazzi. Also the airborne RPi is fed to 1W video transmitter through a video switch controlled by one of the free channel of my airborne regular PPM receiver. By the click of the switch on the transmitter at the ground, I get view of the onboard camera / normal display output from RPi.

Presently the airborne system is using 1W amplified Wi-Fi to get hooked on to the GCS RPi. I have plan to integrate the camera with RPi so that I do not need to use separate video switch.

Comment by c j g on February 19, 2013 at 6:12am

Like it. Andropilot is really fine, but could think about a version, which could connect to Mission Planner and/or QGroundControl as well. Both are running MavLink (TCP and/or UDP). Doing this myself, i had some problems in the past with power-levels (android-phone V+ and apm/battery V+).

a) USB-Host (power level concerns, but maybe we could power the control part of the APM with battery of the (telemetry)phone over the USB-Host connection?)

b) serial-USB. SerialUSB i don't know, if we could only use 3 Pins of the 4 Pins Uart-telemetry port (Ground, TX, RX) in a dual powered setup to avoid power-level troubles. If somebody has more knowledge, this could help a lot.
c) Bluetooth (saver and easier, but strange to set up an air-connection just for 5cm)


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