“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.”

Model Airplane News - - FLIGHT TEST -

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.

Way­point nav­i­ga­tion.

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