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Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 16, 2008 @ 04:06 AM | 3,082 Views
The GWS tri blades R trash. They probably generate less power than the 9x6's. Could probably get them to balance using a better method than guide markings. A big issue is getting the carbon fiber rods to not rotate on their own.

We have a procedure to try to detect a thrust imbalance & warn the pilot along with the low battery, low radio bandwidth, & the usual visual cues.

December so far:
5 prop pairs: $29.40
4 new motors & 4 GWS props: $55.91
10 prop pairs: $51.85

With that, U get another blog graveyard story.

You seem intent on spending as much money as humanly possible to keep SUV's rolling off the assembly lines & into an enourmous pile.

It's time to forget about individually driven cars & roads as you know them. Cars can still be individually owned, as far as your government credit program allows, but the driving needs to be centrally controlled & the roads need to be specifically designed for autonomous electric cars. Maybe they need inductive charging or 3rd rails embedded in the asphalt.

You get in your car, dial up the destination, & a central computer synchronizes your trip with all the other cars so everyone can complete their trip without stopping. If cars were just invented today, they would all work like this. Roads would be designed from the ground up for autonomous electric cars & continuous recharging.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 15, 2008 @ 04:08 AM | 3,325 Views
Now that Rain Ramon is back to 24/7 rain, we got only some captive tests using the nacelle angles to stabilize yaw.

It's time to exume something from the blog graveyard. Today's blog grave is electric pianos #2.

In a real piano, the acceleration & terminal velocity of the key determines the loudness & tone quality. Those computer scientist musicians in Japan don't think about acceleration much. Acceleration is the rate at which the key goes from 0m/s to the terminal velocity. The faster the key goes from 0m/s to terminal velocity, the brighter & drier the sound. Lower acceleration produces mellow, wetter sounds.

Electronic pianos only convert total velocity to loudness. They detect the start & end times of key travel through a reed switch & that's it. Acceleration would require knowing the instantaneous position of each key, huge amounts of bandwidth, so it's never been done.

The electric piano hack is coming down to 3 options:

Completely remove the strip of reed switches & replace it with a strip of optical bounce sensors using tubes for isolation.

Drill holes under each key's weight & install optical bounce sensors.

Install an optical bounce sensor above each key & a small mirror on each key. Sense angular movement by the horizontal travel of the LED's reflection.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 14, 2008 @ 07:17 PM | 3,367 Views
There's danger in the RF above Rain Ramon at 1am. The last radio crash was at 12:58am. The next day in the apartment, saw bandwidth drop to 2kbit from 12:50-1:10 & then return to 18kbit by 1:30. U can see see it drop at other times if U scan long enough.

The latest theory is a large number of computers R running the same software & this software defaults to transferring a massive amount of data over 802.11 every day at 1am. A Windows virus scan program seems most likely.

There is no way to run XBee's outside the 802.11 spectrum. 900Mhz seems to be on the budget again.

The autopilot has enough margin to lift off a repaired vehicle without manually testing it. Doing so is unwise. The GWS tri blades aren't matched. The clockwise pair generates less thrust than the counterclockwise pair. You'll quickly hit maximum power & crash. So we're testing angled nacelles for the GWS's like toy quad rotors.

Someday, someone in a free country is going to resolder all their motors to spin the same way & try flying with angled nacelles. The advantage is having a wider selection of cheaper blades. This costs energy just like a tail rotor, however. In the mean time, back to paying your SUV bailout.

FYI, these angled nacelle photos were with the EOS 5D underclocked to 3 megapixels & ISO 3200.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 13, 2008 @ 07:53 PM | 3,187 Views
Lost radio contact again. Beauty crash. Of all the trigonometry, calculus, algorithm design, computer science, & Ben Waggoner bonuses, the biggest problem is this flaky radio.

The last time we fought this war, HP was.... laying massive numbers of people off. These guys don't have much imagination.

Was at the point where it was the PIC UART locking up at 115200, but we now have it running 12 hours without a crash. All roads point to the environment.

U think since we can land autonomously, she should get an onboard computer & land autonomously when the radio fails. Well, the usual autopilot failures are compass failures. Those cause her to fly faster & faster the wrong way. Having her plunge straight down still feels better than having her crash into someone's SUV.

The compass may be getting distorted by the growing pile of SUV's from your SUV factory bailouts.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 13, 2008 @ 02:48 AM | 3,480 Views
UAV programs have manual override. After the end of the program or during HOVER commands, the pilot can override position & heading.

MOVE lon lat alt
SET_ARC lon lat

puts U into polar coordinates, facing a fixed point. The right stick orbits & zooms the point in polar coordinates. That's a lot of trigonometry but business as usual in the computer graphics business. Unfortunately, U can't go in & out of polar coordinates & fixed pointing without rebooting. She needs an inflight GUI.

Now the rest of the story.

SET_ARC doesn't work well in high wind. It just computes angular distance to satisfy waypoints. U can be blown to the center & still satisfy.

Anyone who tries to explain altitude problems might as well throw their money at American communist programs. GPS has no logic. Sometimes up is down. Sometimes left is right. U have to have a satellite directly overhead to sense altitude. Without moments of glory like that, U might as well give up & go to a movie.

So we're not going to try explaining why one day automatic takeoffs were a failure with the UAVPL program, worked very well without a UAVPL program & started working when HOVER was set as the first UAVPL command. It just started working.

Mikrocopter skips GPS & uses a $20 MPXAZ4115A barometer for altitude. It seems to work well. No idea how well it works in Calif* wind. The $60 SCP1000 barometer from Sparkfun got too many errors in wind & it still lagged GPS. It just gave us Sparkfun bling.

GPS would have been much better if at least 1 satellite was in a geostationary orbit, but that would have cost a few bank executive bonuses. Maybe someday when navigation transponders shrink to the size of fleas, someone in a free country will attach navigation transponders to every communication satellite before launch, then sell very precise 3D position sensors to Americans.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 12, 2008 @ 02:23 AM | 3,140 Views
The crash recovery isn't going so well. Something's wrong with navigation & automatic takeoffs aren't working at all, so U get the Santa Claus blog.

There is no Santa Claus. If there was a Santa Claus, she would be a heroine instead of a man.

However, the concept of a single workshop making all the world's toys & a single person in a single vehicle traveling around the world to deliver the toys is real.

The real santa clause is a ship captain. The real workshop is China. The real sleigh is an ocean freighter.

Whoever invented Santa Claus was a genious because it's become the most efficient way of supplying the world's XMas presents. We do it with an ocean freighter & an army of Chinese elves.

Now page 2.

Communism must always have a captain. It can never disappear because humans can't sense absolutes. They only sense differences. If they don't sense a conflict, they'll pick communism. By winning cold war #1, US inherited the torch of communism & now look what's happened to China.

China coverage used to be about human rights & freedom of speech. Now it's pure evil. It's got no social programs, entitlement programs, or economic equality programs. Evil!! Their pure capitalism has cost their mortgages & jobs & made them drive around Civics while we have troubled asset recue programs, job programs, & SUV programs.

If those crazy Chinese got hold of Abu Dabbi or Vietnam, they could destroy US's way of life....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 11, 2008 @ 02:30 PM | 2,774 Views
Another round of batteries got those UAV programs running nicely. Be sure to put MOVE, HOVER after takeoff to climb to altitude.

Today's main event was great difficulty with GPS altitude. After a translation with continuous turning, GPS altitude spiked up, causing her to plunge. Manual override involved a complete loss of orientation.

Then had a number of failed takeoffs because GPS altitude was giving higher numbers when altitude was lower. She was taking off & plunging. By the time she stayed up, the battery was dead, but too many debugging printf's obscured the battery level until it was too late. Lost orientation in a manual override again.

Haven't been able to recover manually from autopilot in a while. It's much harder to determine orientation without a tail boom & when you're not flying full time. More complicated maneuvers R happening under computer control than ever before, making U less likely to know what it's doing.

The quad rotor is still costing the same to operate as the T-Rex. The benefits R outweighed by the larger size & more complicated autopilot missions.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 10, 2008 @ 04:41 AM | 2,901 Views
Getting a UAV programming language to work is bread & butter computer science. U could actually get a day job writing programming language interpreters, just not for UAV programming languages.

Unfortunately, can't properly generate arc movements. Went with a hack instead, to give visually pleasing arcs in simulation. Fortunately, it doesn't matter. They look horrible in flight tests.

Got another Goog Earth bailout so we can visualize UAVPL missions complete with animations, before flying them. Just takes a lot of hacking to get the programs right when U don't have a GUI for the programming side.

We're going to be fixing UAVPL bugs 4 a long time. HOVER followed by ARC MOVE is fatal. Got some nice flips out of that one.

Timing isn't as good as we hoped, since the actual velocity is still far below the fake waypoints. For a pirouette during translation, you're stuck with a large number of MOVE & TURN commands, hoping the MOVE commands are timed exactly with the TURN rate.

Probably going to add special arguments to the TURN command to make it turn constantly.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 09, 2008 @ 02:42 AM | 3,684 Views
The advantage with velocities by fake waypoint is U know very accurately what time you're going to arrive at a point. U can synchronize turns with translations. U can do all these camera moves.

forward flight & stop at waypoints
static hover at waypoints
forward flight without stopping at waypoints
turning while moving
turning in place
variable horizontal speed
variable turn rates
pointing towards a fixed location while moving
pointing away from a fixed location while moving
curved paths

Unfortunately, what we've done so far has taken diabolical amounts of waypoint logic & this list is beyond the limit of simple waypoint navigation. What U need is a complete UAV programming language.

// begin turning to new heading in degrees.
// command returns immediately
TURN heading

// begin turning towards an absolute position.
// command returns immediately

// wait for turn to complete

// Hover for duration in seconds.
// Duration of 0 or WAIT_TURN causes a stop at the waypoint.
HOVER duration

// Fly to the position. alt is m. speed is m/s
// U must call hover to stop at the position.
// Command returns when waypoint is reached.
MOVE lon lat alt

// Automatic landing

// Automatic takeoff for multiple landings & takeoffs (not supported)

// Set the horizontal speed in m/s (default MANUAL_V)

// Set the turn rate in deg/sec (default YAW_STEP)
SET_TURN_RATE...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 08, 2008 @ 04:54 AM | 2,906 Views
So VikaCopter's flight controller dates back to the 1Hz GPS & Corona. Her attitude responded to velocity & velocity responded to position, but what worked for 1Hz is not ideal for 4Hz.

All the other uBlox VTOL's have orientation responding directly to position & mostly ignore velocity.

The problem is the Blox algorithm can't do straight lines at constant speed & if the waypoint is too far away, it'll flip U over. U have to implement fake waypoints.

The algorithm is:

place a fake waypoint where U would be at the current time if U were going the desired speed. Disregard whether U ever satisfy the fake waypoint until U reach the final destination. That required rewriting a huge amount of the waypoint & PID logic.

U can't hit waypoints using fixed velocity, however. U need another rule that switches from the fake waypoint to the real waypoint when U think U can't get any closer & hope you're close enough that the position controller doesn't flip U over.

So how well does the Blox algorithm work? Not terminator precision, but much better than the Corona algorithm. For camera robots with very little flight time, your autopilot needs 2 perform missions as fast as possible & the Blox algorithm is very fast.

Programmed this mission:

take off
fly to waypoint 1 at 2m/s
fly to waypoint 2 at 2m/s
rotate 360
fly to waypoint 1 at 2m/s

This took 150 seconds with the Blox algorithm. The automated landing took over half that. Unfortunately, the automated yaw rate was too fast for the gyros, so heading was slightly off after the pirouette, but she finished the mission.

Looks like yesterday's dead battery got damaged more than it already was & now it's back to 6min flight times.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 06, 2008 @ 09:31 PM | 3,916 Views
Got some video of some missions using fully autonomous takeoff, waypoints, & landing, before heading down to the day job. Unfortunately, couldn't get Goog Earth to export a useful path, so she kept flying to the trees for the landings. This was standard Rain Ramon wind.

Autonomous takeoffs & landings (3 min 35 sec)

Burned up a few batteries on still photos & CU's because we couldn't get enough GPS quality for automated takeoffs. When GPS improved, had enough battery power for 1 complete mission. 1 other mission had a battery warning & 1 mission had a dead battery crash. Indeed, we're averaging 1 propeller every 6 batteries & they're too flimsy for even properly installed prop savers.

There is no soft cutoff with the SuperSimple ESC's, not that it would do any good on a quad rotor.

Bad news. U can't get any more flag shots. The surveillance cameras interfere too much with the radio. That worked with embedded autopilot where we only needed 9600 bps of uplink, but there isn't enough bandwidth to get enough telemetry down for the ground based autopilot....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 06, 2008 @ 01:14 AM | 2,936 Views
Unlike the lunar lander challenge, the Calif* lander challenge is only 32m horizontal & 10m vertical because because there isn't enough room in Calif*. Also, the Calif* lander challenge doesn't have precise positioning, rocket engines, or prize money because that went to mortgage bailouts.

So got automatic takeoff & landing trimmed out to where it looks pretty slick most of the time. In fact, it's faster to use automatic takeoff than human control. It's a matter of hard coding a lot of parameters to where the least amount of logic depends on GPS, mainly,

1) Getting the ramping speed low enough to not overshoot & high enough to not flop around on the ground.

2) Setting a high enough starting collective to get away with lower ramping speeds.

3) Using the PID controller to pull back neutral collective to what it should be after takeoff instead of 1m/s collective.

4) Trimming the neutral IMU attitude so it doesn't leap sideways during takeoff.

5) Doing 1 manual flight to get the cyclic & rudder reasonably trimmed.

but this has a lot more margin than some of our other robots. If U threw it on the ground & hit the switch, it would probably succeed despite a hairy takeoff.

Also, we're enabling full position hold for takeoff & landing, unlike GA Tech. U need a lot of battery reserve to do automatic landings.

Unfortunately our day job is back to its usual 7 day/week commitment & your government predicts above normal rain in 7 days. Not sure you'll get a daytime video of a Calif* lander challenge.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 05, 2008 @ 03:21 AM | 4,666 Views
So the propellers from Illinois made it after only 4 days. The propellers from China R still working their way through. Eventually we'll have a collection of 3 blade props as backups.

Got through 3 batteries without a crash. Hooray. The 10x4.5's + a very balanced ship got 9 minute flight times. Motor propeller combination is that important. Unfortunately we're still behind the T-Rex.

Besides flight time, we now have a freakishly quiet ship. Motor adjustment & slower RPM definitely paid off. Holy mother of mufflers it's quiet. Never heard of a powered aircraft so quiet. Even those powered gliders R like semi trucks in comparison.

The piece de resistance was of course, AUTOMATED TAKEOFF & LANDING using GPS ONLY. That's right kids. They say if U can get automated takeoff & landing to work using GPS only, U still can't afford a house but U must be able to afford something. It's much easier on a quad rotor because it's harder to flip over.

Programmed a bunch of rules for takeoff to work around GPS.

1) Minimum collective at power on starts the auto takeoff. Wait until absolute GPS climb rate is below a maximum starting value. Then set the hover position 10m above the stable altitude reading. Neutral cyclic & rudder R set to the starting stick positions.

2) Ramp collective until GPS climb rate is above a minimum ending value. Maintain 0 horizontal velocity & disregard position. U need to ramp fast enough for the attitude...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 04, 2008 @ 02:02 PM | 2,878 Views
Aviation, photography, & robotics hobbies R a good way to learn about the lives of the super rich.

After reading the Austin Meyer, Ken Rockwell, Philip Greenspun blogs we have 1 nugget of information 4 U. All this stuff about government stimulus packages, treasury oversight, mortgage bailouts, social-change-ism, stock market regulations, it's all garbage to keep the super poor busy.

U need 2 B making & selling something really cheap in massive quantities yourself. That's it.

There R 2 human populations departing each other as we speak. One group is the worker group, encountering very difficult times. The other group is the 1 man business group, becoming super insanely freakishly rich. Cash isn't gaining value. It's losing value catastrophically, making the freakishly rich merely the modern continuation of the norm 30 years ago.

This isn't a small group either. This is a very large fraction of the human race breaking off from the collapsing economy section like a chunk of Antarctica.

When we started Cinelerra in 1997, planned on charging $1 per copy of it & selling millions of copies. Then reusing GPL libraries like libdv looked real attractive for making a better product, so we had to make the whole thing GPL & trade the $1 per copy model for day jobs working on something else for a living.

12 years later, we're looking at the author of X-Plane, who started at roughly the same time, stayed commercial, & now flies full size...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 02, 2008 @ 10:12 PM | 3,398 Views
While you're still waiting for Chinese air mail, Hale Wayne was lashing out against the SSME again, so we put together some SSME p*rn 4 U. Needless to say, we always get kicked off the NASA blogs, but we don't get kicked off the Chinese, ESA, or ISRO blogs.

This was compiled from our Fl*rida still photos. Click on scroll bar and drag to rotate engine. Didn't bother 3D mapping it. Theoretically there is a tool somewhere for making it into a 3D model.

Engine Porn (0 min 25 sec)

Now today's nugget of information.

Blogs R losing their luster with private individuals & getting replaced by the instant message social network. Notice lots of blogs which used to get a major essay every day now get a few sentences per week. Who wants to do all that content creating when at most 2 people will read it or their old content will just get buried by their mountain of new content?

Blogs R now shifting into community based retail. For selling new products, the interactive blog format works where no forced advertising has. Unlike individuals, retailers want to bury their old content with new content & the readers actually have a connection to the content via their wallets. It's only a matter of time before the gm.coms & the hp.coms become blogs just like these award winning retail blogs, unless they all become government sponsored that is.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 02, 2008 @ 02:27 AM | 3,387 Views
Another $85 gone & the quad rotor continues the T-Rex tradition. As expected, the quad rotor eats motors & props like the T-Rex ate landing gear, main shafts, tail booms, main blades, servos, tail shafts, tail blades, batteries, bottom plates, electronics boards, & tail fins.

Fortunately 4 U taxpayers, the local hobby shop is no good 4 quad rotors so there will be no more sudden credit crunches. Everything is a 2 week mail order.

Now some easy reading while U wait for Chinese air mail.

Compare film to digital. The film had a light leak & crummy processing, but we feel it has better color than the digital one. Had to shift everything to the red to get the digital one to come out while the film retained blues. The film was fully automatic & 1 shot. The digital took many attempts & intentional underexposing. Suspect quad VicaCopter's lighting would look much better on film.

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as film. Everything is scanned & viewed on a computer eventually. Film has log color & better dynamic range, but it's still scanned by the same linear photodiodes of every digital sensor.

Even though they're both digital, film scanners do better than digital sensors. Maybe its because they can average data points over a longer time than digital sensors. Maybe projecting artificial light through a negative allows more information to be captured than directly sensing natural light. Maybe it's because Bayer patterns have 2x more green cells than R or B.

Sadly, no more film camera bodies R coming out for EF lenses. U have to get an old one for more than the cost of a digital camera.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Dec 01, 2008 @ 01:48 AM | 3,058 Views
The answer is yes. Autopilot can crash. The quad is still too underpowered to recover from a freefall & we're still trying bigger collective gains. The APC 9x6's were super strong, but U can't do enough in 3 minute flight times to justify replacing them.

In the mean time, looking at the continuing explosion of autonomous quad rotors in the world reminds U a lot of the explosion of Linux PC software in the 1990's. It's all college student based, just like Linux was.

Now some good gains.

#              P         I          D          PLIMIT  ILIMIT DLIMIT OLIMIT
Z_TO_DZ        -0.1000   0.0000     -0.1000    2.00    0.00   2.00   2.00
DZ_TO_COLLECT  0.0400    0.00020    0.0000     0.30    0.50   0.30   0.50
Now some crash gains.

#              P         I          D          PLIMIT  ILIMIT DLIMIT OLIMIT
Z_TO_DZ        -0.5000   0.0000     -0.5000    2.00    0.00   2.00   2.00
DZ_TO_COLLECT  0.0400    0.00020    0.0000     0.50    0.50   0.50   0.50

Posted by Jack Crossfire | Nov 30, 2008 @ 01:26 AM | 4,996 Views
2 minute flight times R killing us. It's like flying a rocket. Have enough credit again to upgrade propellers in the next 2 weeks.

Managed to stabilize altitude. It required higher collective limits. Altitude gains have been equal 4 all 3 UAVs. Horizintal velocity gains R identical to the T-Rex. The Corona needed 2.5x more horizontal velocity gain. Suspect it was because the Corona naturally damped horizontal velocities.

This was our first uBlox 5 test with fixed pitch. Fixed pitch rotorcraft give audible cues of collective response & the uBlox 5 is very fast.

Next, U need to align your IMU, magnetometer, & rotors or correct it in software. The result is inability to determine heading & starting lunges in horizontal velocity. Our IMU is off the rotors by a certain amount in pitch....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Nov 28, 2008 @ 08:02 PM | 5,086 Views
Got the 1st video of the quad rotor flying itself 4 U. Altitude hold is still worthless. May need an MRAC 4 that one. Not enough flight time to do much testing between battery charges. Definitely need more power. This is about as good as the coverage gets when U only have 3 minutes of flight time. Cool the batteries after 3 minutes & U can get another 2 minutes before the quad rotor starts to tilt.

Autonomous quad rotor (1 min 17 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Nov 28, 2008 @ 06:42 AM | 4,994 Views
Now some test flights of 200Hz PWM. 200Hz PWM changed everything.

The stability with 200Hz PWM is freakish. Holy mother of molasses it's stable. It's like flying the Corona again. Full manual mode has returned. With that, the quad rotor was open 4 business.

Sideways lunges went away. Either it was the damping or binding in a motor. The starboard motor seems 2 have a damaged bearing. Got some more life out of it by lubricating it.

The quad did its first reasonable autonomous hover. Take a look at the Goog replay.

Quad rotor's first autonomous hover. (1 min 5 sec)

The hover was 170sec & condensed to 64sec 4 U home gamers. For the first 70sec, we had to command a 2m/s climb rate. Altitude hold doesn't work very well. 170sec was the limit of the battery.

Flight times R still real short. Even if it's balanced, the batteries get flaming hot within 3 minutes. Need better propellers before trying anything longer....Continue Reading