More Autonomous Flights

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.

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Autonomous Flights

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.

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Tuning and Testing

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:

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Bottle drop tests

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.

Catapult launch test

We have successfully tested our catapult, which was kindly provided by 3D Robotics Mexico, with our test airframe (FX-79). The catapult has the benefit of allowing to take off without the need for a runway or undercarriage. The Viper would still be feasible for hand-launching, but the convenience and repeatability is a lot higher when using the catapult. The takeoff and climb are fully autonomous, the motor starts to idle as soon as it is switched to autonomous mode and automatically ramps up to 100% throttle as soon as the system senses the acceleration, allowing the operator to only focus on the pedal release.

Flight Tests in Baselland

Viper on the catapult ready for launch.

Viper on the catapult ready for launch.

Our team performed a series of flight tests in Anwil, including some spectacular Viper catapult launch tests – in the photo above it sits on the catapult ready to go. The outcome of the day was very worthwhile, leading to a number of improvements in the flight control software, updates to our launch checklist and some mechanical modifications on the catapult to make it beefy enough to deal with the 8.5 kg plane which it has to accelerate.

The long range search and rescue drone