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DroneDeploy launches real-time mapping

DroneDeploy is launching the first drone software capable of creating orthorectified maps in real-time. Farmers, surveyors and search and rescue teams typically had to wait for 4-6 hours for maps to be created out of drone imagery, but now can start making decisions with data as it’s collected live.

Tim VanDermyden, CEO of Stratos Aerial, a Surveying Drone company explains “Typically data processing takes four or more hours – actually it’s somewhat of a holy grail to get real-time aerial maps. This will save operators hours every time they fly their drones, and enable better decisions, as data can now be ground-truthed during a flight instead of hours or even days later as is the case wi mopth with existing systems.” DroneDeploy is able to achieve this real-time stitching because their drones are all internet enabled, and can leverage massive cloud infrastructure for the processing.

DroneDeploy CTO, Nick Pilkington, who has a Ph.D in Machine Learning explains “The drones stream back high definition imagery over LTE during the flight. Our software processes the images rapidly in the cloud and high-resolution orthorectified maps are delivered back to the user in seconds.” The technology is being demonstrated for the first time at ‘ASPRS UAS Technical Demonstration and Symposium’ – a dedicated Drone Mapping conference starting today in Reno, NV. Construction and survey companies are rapidly adopting drone technology, with over 500 attendees, and 50 drone companies displaying their flying robots.

Stratos Aerial, is launching two drones with DroneDeploy’s software, making them the first drones capable of real-time mapping. Visit www.dronedeploy.com for more information.

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Redesigning multirotor ESC’s

It's been quiet on my front, but that was because I was redesigning ESC's (for multirotors and AP's).

Most of the ESC's for multirotor use the SimonK firmware on a relatively simple Atmel microcontroller. There's a single control wire running from the autopilot to the ESC, which is a signal proportionally dictates how long the mosfets are left open and as such command the torque on the motors.

And that's pretty much all there is to an ESC... No signal/wire coming back to tell the autopilot how that particular motor is doing or what the rpm or current is, it's just a "command wire". That sounds a bit antiquated for 2014.

So this picture is of an ESC dev board I first started on, here using the Allegro A4960 chip for simplicity. Shipping to Brazil takes time, so before it arrived the design already morphed into something new, so that's why the board looks unused. Both the MCU and driver chip changed on the newest development board version and I introduced testing points for oscilloscope readings; this project is about to get serious!

What are the features that I think an ESC for a modern multirotor should have?

1. Send the rpm back to the AP; for logging. I see people posting logs to request help figuring out what went wrong, but the log only states the "pwm out" for each motor, which is in no way a guarantee that the motor actually did that. So we need some feedback that states what the motor was actually doing, not what it was commanded to do.
2. Overload detection; the ESC's know what the current is and warn for overload situations.
3. Current & velocity control; neither current nor rpm is actively controlled as a proportional measure to the input PWM signal. So the control loop for the AP spans the IMU, motors, ESC and props, which is a large loop with lots of variables. This ESC will run one or two 'inner loops' and become responsible for achieving either torque or lift and run at a much higher frequency than 500Hz. What you get is that some variables no longer impact the control loop of the AP directly, which should make the vehicle more stable and likely more responsive.
4. Field Oriented Control; The flyback diodes next to mosfets typically burn energy in trapezoidal drive implementations, which  increases the heat on those mosfets. This happens because the mosfets close suddenly. The motor coil wants to resist that change, so you have a current that has nowhere to go except through that diode. In sinusoidal control, there's always one mosfet open for any coil, so the current always has somewhere to go, which means the flyback diodes won't get used, so you don't lose the heat.
5. FOC; better efficiency, because the current is always perpendicular to the magnetic field. This may come at the cost of max. torque (related to motor inductance and then only about 5%).
6. FOC; lower torque ripple (1/2-1/3) vs. trapezoidal drive, so hopefully less vibrations, less whistling.
7. Send current readings back to the AP; another opportunity for precisely logging what goes on near the motors. This could be helpful to detect ESC/motor/prop health (bad bearings, prop drag, etc)
8. Configuration; the AP can reconfigure ESC's prior to flight or when in maintenance to tune it for a specific motor.
9. Motor monitoring; if the motor stopped, shorted or the mosfets misbehaved, the ESC can shut down immediately and advise the AP. The AP can then take additional action.
10. Opportunities for automated ESC tuning specific to the motor/prop in use.

The way I see this ESC make a difference is when abnormal situations occur. The current AP's cannot be informed of failure, so it would simply send a signal to "run faster", which, guaranteed, has a disastrous effect to mosfet or motor and could therefore worsen the situation. Soon as the AP is informed something is wrong, it could sound an alarm, activate a chute, disable the counter motor... you suddenly have options!


To spur innovation in this area, I'm considering to setup a kickstarter and actually manufacture around 1.000 or so at a professional PCB house. Aren't these features indispensable for an ESC made in 2014? Would you back it?

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PrecisionHawk Joins 3DR And Other Industry Leaders As Members of Small UAV Coalition

PrecisionHawk, an information delivery company that uses a small, lightweight UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] and cloud-based software to collect, process and analyze aerial data, announced today they have joined the Small UAV Coalition to help pave the way for commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the United States and abroad. Chief among the organization’s goals is to advance a regulatory environment that will support safe, reliable, and timely operation of small UAVs.

The Small UAV Coalition includes other pioneers in the industry including 3DR, Aerialtronics, Airware, Amazon Prime Air, DJI Innovations, Google[x]’s Project Wing, GoPro, Skyward IO and Parrot.

“The members of the Small UAV Coalition believe, as we do, that this technology has the potential to improve business operations across a wide variety of industries,” said Christopher Dean, PrecisionHawk CEO. “Our extensive work in the many of these civilian industries, such as agriculture, mining and forestry, to name a few, will offer added insight to a group full of innovative thinkers and industry leaders.”

Small UAVs weigh under 55 pounds and typically fly at an altitude of less than 400 feet AGL. These highly maneuverable, energy-efficient devices operate on rechargeable batteries and are equipped with the latest in safety features. They can be flown by a remote operator or an automated program in the UAV.

“The Small UAV Coalition believes safe commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small UAVs will benefit the lives of consumers and promote U.S. competitiveness,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition and senior advisor at Akin Gump. “We look forward to working with the FAA, FCC, the Administration and Congress to ensure this industry can flourish.”

Currently the FAA permits the use of UAVs in the United States for research purposes with certain institutions. PrecisionHawk has developed strategic and university partnerships with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Texas A &M, Cornell University and the New York UAV test site, as well as several others. These relationships have proven invaluable for fine-tuning the product development process for PrecisionHawk as well as giving the company the experience that will help to inform the dialogue of the regulatory framework for the UAV sector moving forward.

PrecisionHawk and the Small UAV Coalition will be represented at The Commercial UAV Show October 21-22, 2014 at Olympia in London.  Visit with Chris Harry Thomas, Precision Farming Consultant and PrecisionHawk representative, during his roundtable session on UAVs in agriculture.

For more information on the Small UAV Coalition, please visit www.smalluavcoalition.org


About PrecisionHawk

Precision Hawk is an unmanned aerial systems and remote sensing company founded in 2010. The company provides an end-to-end solution for aerial data gathering, processing and analysis to provide actionable information to clients across a wide range of civilian industries. The team is comprised of professionals with backgrounds in remote sensing, unmanned aircraft operations, software development, data processing and GIS systems development. The company operates out of offices in Indianapolis, Ind., Raleigh, N.C. and Toronto, Ont.


CONTACT:

Lia Reich, Sr. Director Communications

l.reich@precisionhawk.com

(919) 680-1296

@LiaReich

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Meet the T1000, 1+hr flight times w/ 1kg payload

I would like to introduce the DIYD community to my project, the T1000.  This is a tandem rotor helicopter based on T-Rex 450 parts, with custom 425mm asymmetrical blades.  The initial goal for the project (in 2011) was to have a fpv platform that could fly for over 1/2 hour.  I now think we can now achieve a 1+hr flight time with a 1kg payload.  This is similar to the twin-rex, and indeed utilizes their TH2 for the moment for servo mixing.  Our project differs in many ways from the twin-rex though.  First of all, we are using a large diameter thin walled carbon timing shaft through a square carbon torque tube.  We also use custom designed 2mm carbon nacell plates, along with our in-house manufactured asymmetrical 425mm blades.  The third requirement for us getting 1+hr flight times with this platform is the 18650b battery.  Though this drawing only indicates a 45 cell pack, I plan on using a 69 cell, or 3s23p custom Li pack.  The orientation of the battery pack, and the landing gear have yet to be determined.  

Please post any questions or comments (I will not be offended by negative comments, please be honest)

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Applied Aeronautics – Albatross Design Contest

As we are rapidly approaching the official release of the Albatross line of aircraft, we thought there would be no better way of saying thank you than by giving away a free airframe to someone in the community. As such we have decided a design contest is in order for the best paint scheme, with the winning designer receiving a free airframe incorporating his/her design.

 

We'll do our best to get the livery as an added color scheme option but thought this would be a good way to engage the community as we get ready for the release and getting this aircraft into your hands.

 

The contest is open as of this posting and will finish on November 10th. The designs must be possible from a production and manufacturing perspective (painting/vinyl). There must be an emphasis on orientation and visibility (i.e., contrasting colors), meanwhile maintaining an appealing and good looking aircraft. In that, we are excited and can't wait to see what you all come up with and to get the airframes out to you.

 

Let the designs begin, we look forward to seeing them!

 

The Applied Aero Team



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