UAV Project

So as you can probably tell I’ve been a bit busy last few months. However, I’ve been very busy with Arduino related stuff for both Medway Makers and Maidstone Hackspace, as well as my own things. My latest project is to build a UAV (Autonomous Aeriel Vehicle). I’ve been meaning to do something like this for some time now and Tom from Medway makers spurred me into action by purchasing some bits for his own UAV project.

For the airframe, I’ve bought myself a Skua from X-UAV (see photo). This is a 2.1 metre wingspan endurance flyer. The aircraft is solely designed to carry the cargo pod slung underneath it and has a dome for placement of a camera. I went for this aircraft due to it’s stable flight, huge payload capacity and the ability to stay up for long periods (Users have recorded flights of up to 2 hours).

The plan will be to kit the aircraft out with GPS and a flight computer to enable it to fly autonomously. The aircraft will then be fitted with a camera to enable it to do video and/or photography. I would also like to fit an FPV video camera and in conjunction with a head tracking pair of FPV goggles get a great FPV experience. Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. The list of equipment that I plan on fitting to the aircraft will be a telemetry transmitter, emergency GPS beacon, airspeed sensor, altitude sensor, temperature sensor, pressure sensor, FPV camera and transmitter, aerial photography camera, WiFi configuration link and data logger. The flight computer will be a Teensy 3.1. Although there are off the shelf autopilot units you can buy such as the ArduPilot, I want the challenge of building my own flight controller and ground station from scratch.

In the UK there are (unfortunately) a whole load of laws surrounding the use of ‘drones’ and limits on what you can do with them. So, my UAV will be fitted with all kinds of safety features such as an auto ‘return to home’ feature to allow it to return to where it launched from in the event of either a low battery situation or if it loses connection with the ground station. It will also be fitted out with automatic terrain mapping to allow it to keep a set height above the ground. I would also like it to have inbuilt geofencing abilities so it will automatically avoid airports, power stations, military bases, built up areas, etc. It is important to me that the craft stays within both safe and legal limits so I do not cause injury, damage or fall foul of the law. Luckily I live out in the sticks a bit and have plenty of open spaces around me.

I live right next to the River Thames and we get a lot of large ships going up and down the river daily. it would be great to get some photos or video of the ships from the air. Obviously, this will all depend on if that is even legal, which is something I will need to find out. Trying to find out what you can or can’t do is not easy.

Currently I am working on the navigation side of the project and have a uBlox NEO-6 GPS module to play with. I’ve been trying to get valid NMEA strings from theGPS unit using a Teensy and the TinyGPS++ library. Unfortunately the TinyGPS++ library is no longer supported and is a few years old now and I don’t think it’s fully compatible with a Teensy. I am searching for a better GPS library and may have to write my own.

As usual I will keep you updated on the project as I go.

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