We will be using a new Arduplane Autopilot board for telemetry and autonomous maneuvers for the Plasma UAV! Here is some more information on the new hardware, software and capabilities of the Arduplane platform.
Autopilot and accessories
After receiving the part for the autopilot, I went on to assemble them and mount them together on a ready-to-fly frame. Problems were experienced with the x-bee wireless telemetry kit, in particular the flight side needed to be revived.
The purchased autopilot comes accessorised with an extremely flexible software that allows you to easily plan any type of mission, as well as configure the parameters to flight a plane in auto mode
Planning a mission can be done rather easily: on the mission planning software there's an utility that allows you to select, through a click and point interface, points (with their relative altitude) on a map and have the airplane fly through them. A second option is to write a script with a detail specification of the desired mission, by doing so it's possible to plan a wide array of options beside the waypoint location; a select few are: throttle power, speed, pitch-roll-yawn angles, rate of climb, maximum distance.
The same philosophy of the mission planner is used for configuring the autopilot to command the plane. As before it can be done through a user-friendly interface or by manually changing the C file. In the mission planner software, under configuration one can set
After completing the initial setup and having familiarized myself with the mission planner I carried out a test on the wireless telemetry kit.
Testing has been executed around Stanford campus, the screen-shot above (right side) shows part of the testing itinerary along with the collected telemetry
Due to the cost of the autopilot, along with its fragility, before field testing it I have carried out simulation to assess the full capability of the board. This has been done through a software in the loop simulation by means of the X-Plane10 flight simulator.
In these simulations the capabilities of the board have been extensively test but I have incurred in three minor drawbacks: time, frame availability, take-off. The first two are due to the software available: because of its demo nature it comes with a limited usage time (10 min per session) and with a single RC plane preloaded.
After having tested the capabilities of the autopilot on a simulated environment I moved on to test it on a pre-owned plane. Firstly I tested the correct functioning of the movable surfaces on ground, following this first test I moved on to examine its ability to correctly level the plane when flying.
Finally I set the loiter function on the flight planner to have the plane circle around a fixed location at a given altitude.