We are just settling down after an intense week of building and testing. 10 days ago we received our airframe of choice for the competition: the Applied Aeronautics Albatross. The intermediate goal was to bring PX4 fixed-wing support one step further by improving support for completely automatic missions from takeoff to landing on a runway.
We were able to make good use of the last few weeks of good weather. VTOL support in PX4 is becoming more and more stable and supports now the 3 basic types of VTOL UAVs:
- Standard (non-tailsitter, non-tiltrotor)
In addition to manual flight we also successfully tested completely autonomous flights with transitions on a standard VTOL.
Have a look at the videos:
The past few weeks we’ve been intensely testing VTOL integration in PX4 with the BirdsEyeView FireFly6. Autonomous transition is now ready!
Because the competition starts in two weeks already, it was time to see if we’re ready and if our system works when it counts. So yesterday, we added a lot of (camera) pressure, and went for the real thing: setup, start, search, drop, land. And all this with the SRF Einstein TV crew filming us.
Last Sunday we reached another milestone accumulating a total of 6.5 hours autonomous flight. With this we met the main requirement of Deliverable #3 for the OBC requiring 5 autonomous hours with at least one flight longer than 30 min.
Following this we moved onto the next phase of testing our “Joe Finder” onboard vision system in the Viper. The initial results were looking quite promising.
The following video shows a compilation of the flights from the day including some sequences created from the onboard downward facing imaging camera.
Walking the Viper back after a successful flight:
A nice hot day with the wind coming in from a perfect direction at about 20km/h at ground level. An early start and three autonomous flights was a great way to end the week last on Friday.
This time I had the wingtip camera back onboard and was able to capture some great video this time.
Andreas and I were out to do some more auto flights yesterday adding some more time to our total logged hours. 1.5 hours accumulated flight time, 3.5 hours to go.
Here is a short video of the Viper passing overhead during one of its missions:
Ready for launch. The catapult has been working quite nicely.
We started clocking up on autonomous flight hours required for the 3rd and final deliverable which will be the final one before heading to Australia.
On Sunday we flew two autonomous missions: a 15 min. mission after finalising our tuning efforts and then a 30 min. mission covering a distance of 42km (flying small circuits). As we continue flights we will be working on optimising flight performance which should give us well over 1 hour flight time with the full battery load.
Here is a video showing the Viper cruising above and my son enjoying the onboard view.
Here is Julian relaxing while he keeps an eye on one of our test wings with the inbuilt vision systems searching for us in the field.
Good News, the Swiss Fang is still on track for the competition. We successfully made it through deliverable 2. This means that the competition committee has verified the technical details of our system and determined it meets their safety requirements.
Currently, we’re tuning the Viper for efficient and stable autonomous flight.
The following video shows a nice manual start with the improved catapult:
A key requirement of the competition is not just to locate but to supply the simulated lost hiker (Outback Joe) with a 500 ml bottle of water to bridge the time until the cavalry arrives by jeep or helicopter.
Last weekend we successfully tested our bottle drop mechanism. To maximize the efficiency and therefore range of the airframe, the bottle is suspended inside the fuselage and released through a trap door – thanks to modern 3D printing technology we were able to create a customized solution that nicely fits into the airframe.
This video shows not only the bottle drop in action and stable flight after the drop, but also an extract of our checklist procedure, launch and landing.