“IN THE 2017–2018 ACADEMIC YEAR, WE WILL CONTINUE FINE-TUNING OUR AIRCRAFT AND SYSTEMS SETUP, WORKING ON AUTONOMOUS TAKEOFF AND LANDINGS AND WAYPOINT NAVIGATION.”
We had a chance to speak with the test pilot, Midshipman 1st Class Luke Redito, to get a feel for what it’s like to fly in the UAV competition. Here’s what we learned.
MAN: Tell us what a typical flight is like during the competition. How much is you piloting the model and how much is autonomous? Luke Redito: A typical flight is supposed to be mostly autonomous: takeoff, landing, inflight maneuvers, et cetera. A safety pilot is in place to take over manual control in the event that something goes awry. Currently we are successful operating with waypoint navigation, but takeoffs and landings are done lineofsight by the pilot. What are your drone’s specs?
The wingspan is 97 inches, and the overall length is 62 inches.
The readytofly weight is
12.5 pounds, and we are running two 5S 5000mAh batteries in parallel. The motor is an eRC 60size brushless outrunner that turns a 17x10 Epropeller. The speed control is an Eflite 80amp, and we are using four Hitec HS322HD servos. Additionally, we are using a Spektrum AR9020 receiver and a DX9 transmitter.
Can you give us some specifics about your camera and gimbal setup? We are currently working to find a gimbal that will work with our airframe since we are limited in space. The current setup is with a downwardfacing camera that is mounted vertically in our airframe. We 3Dprinted the mounts to fit our cameras. We built in some vibration dampeners to ensure highquality, vibrationfree photos. We also have a wideangle camera that is of lower image quality, but it is good enough for image recognition.
What safeguards are built into the flight system?
At any point in a flight, the safety/ test pilot can take control of the plane with a flip of a switch on the transmitter. This is a requirement for the competition and for our own peace of mind. We also have a wireless battery monitoring telemetry system that we can see on our groundstation laptop to warn of any battery malfunctions, so we can land immediately.
What are your plans for 2018?
In the 2017–2018 academic year, we will continue finetuning our aircraft and systems setup, working on autonomous takeoff and landings and waypoint navigation. We also want to begin flight testing our new composite construction airframe, which will be more robust than the balsa Telemaster.