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Old Mar 26, 2010, 10:15 AM
crd
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United States, FL
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Space Aerial Photography Aircraft

As some of you already know, there was a guy that was able to take pictures from "space" 22miles high by only using a digital camera, a weather balloon with a parachute and a GPS tracking device.

I want to make a similar project but involving and aircraft with GPS autopilot to return home.

I'm thinking about using a aircraft made of Elapor foam, The weather balloon will take the aircraft up in the sky and when it reach certain altitude the aircraft will detach from the weather balloon and start gliding back home via GPS coordinates either the ducted fan or propeller will provide propulsion once it gets closer to home.

I have a FMA co-pilot that could help me maintain the aircraft steady while glidding, but I need to find a good and cheap autopilot.

TRACKING: I got a cheap boost mobile i335 and installed gps-tracker software works like a charm tracking the phone live only $0.35 a day, I programmed the phone to run the gps-tracker application 24/7. the phone casing will be removed to save on weight and it will have it's normal battery and an external power source. I can track the aircraft position live on their webpage. (this might work only in certain altitude only, the GPS will still work but the data might not if the phone losses signal) I will install a better antenna for the phone also to see if I can get signal upthere .

VIDEO FEED: I might also use a 2 watt 2.4ghz video transmitter to provide live video feed down to earth, the aircraft will have a small lightweight patch antenna facing down to earth and I will have a yagi antenna pointing to the sky (this might work or not, I'm not sure)

CAMERAS: I will have (4) of those keychain video cameras recording 24/7 facing each corner of the aircraft (1) Kodak Zi6 HD video camera facing down to earth also recording 24/7, and (1) small still camera set to take pictures every few minutes. the kodak Zi6 if connected to the video transmitter it will provide live feed to me while it records on HD. the LCD turns off while the AV cable is plugged in to save battery.

Everything will be insulated and inside a waterproof 1/16" acrylic box, the complete camera box will measure aoround 4" x 3" x 3" and it will be located in the middle the aircraft, all the keychain cameras and the Kodak Zi6 will have their plastic covers removed, they will be powered with 3.7v 4000mAh lipo, all of the cameras use micro SD and normal SD cards so even if it lands on water I might be able to get the data out.

Now it's time to start designing the aircraft, and getting more info about autopilots and also do some testing with battery duration on this system.

I will post pictures of my design soon.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 10:25 AM
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When you say Cheap what price are you talking?
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 11:38 AM
crd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airmcn_3 View Post
When you say Cheap what price are you talking?
Reliable GPS autopilot that can do the job, I need it to control the plane to a certain area, I can then take control of the aircraft by radio control. The simple the better. I need something that can do the job but the cheapest in price not quality, if this end up at the ocean and I lost everything i don't want to loose a expensive autopilot hardware.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 11:43 AM
crd
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This is my paint design sketch of what I want to do. the camera mount will be installed on a swivel mount so it mantains straight all the time, I will do this mount with my laser cutter machine, it would look like much smaller than the one the sketch.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 11:58 AM
crd
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Here is a video of the Boost Mobile GPS tracker working, the lag on the updated date is about 5-10seconds not bad at all.

Here is my wife going to work. (just in case, she knows about the gps-tracker, in fact I have 4 old boost mobile phones that I will hardwire one on my car just in case gets stolen I can track it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB5RQ0PXJN0
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 12:11 PM
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You might take a look at this site for inspiration.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Before you actually do this, consider what will happen at 45k ft when you hit an airliner head-on. Calculate what your true airspeed will be at that point, and what the TAS of the of the airliner is. Then consider the amount of energy you'll have to absorb as it's hitting the front windshield of the aircraft.

At lower altitudes, you might as well be sitting still to the airliner, but at the higher altitudes, your TAS will be much, much higher. Since the aircraft's kinetic energy scales with velocity squared, this can become a significant problem.

I'm sure 20 people will say "it's not a big deal, just do it" but I think you should consider the safety aspects carefully before doing this, as they aren't as straightforward as just launching a weather balloon that's falling through the atmosphere.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but the last time I thought about trying I came to the conclusion that for me, the risk wasn't worth it.

If you could somehow include a radar reflector in your design, that would help decrease the risk significantly. Since you have to have FAA oversight to launch the balloon, the zone should also be relatively clear of aircraft. These are all just things to consider.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 01:29 PM
crd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poynting View Post
Before you actually do this, consider what will happen at 45k ft when you hit an airliner head-on. Calculate what your true airspeed will be at that point, and what the TAS of the of the airliner is. Then consider the amount of energy you'll have to absorb as it's hitting the front windshield of the aircraft.

At lower altitudes, you might as well be sitting still to the airliner, but at the higher altitudes, your TAS will be much, much higher. Since the aircraft's kinetic energy scales with velocity squared, this can become a significant problem.

I'm sure 20 people will say "it's not a big deal, just do it" but I think you should consider the safety aspects carefully before doing this, as they aren't as straightforward as just launching a weather balloon that's falling through the atmosphere.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but the last time I thought about trying I came to the conclusion that for me, the risk wasn't worth it.

If you could somehow include a radar reflector in your design, that would help decrease the risk significantly. Since you have to have FAA oversight to launch the balloon, the zone should also be relatively clear of aircraft. These are all just things to consider.
That's one of my first things to consider, I wanted to have autopilot for 2 reasons, one avoid loosing the equipement in a lake, ocean, forest, etc. And other reason was safety of the people on the ground, the chance of hitting an airplane is super very minimal but I understand your point if it happens it's not worth it. I will start with low altitude tests and see
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 02:12 PM
have foam, will fly
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these guys do it with a glider, kinda old but good info.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 03:02 PM
crd
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I saw the 2 links and that's what I want to do. I want to go as high as I can and glide my way down, the important component will be the autopilot, wich one to use.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 05:32 PM
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i like the idea :-)

balloons are a cheap way to goto nearspace.....

be sure and post pics of the airframe u end up going with,... would make a great writeup here.
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Old Mar 26, 2010, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Before you actually do this, consider what will happen at 45k ft when you hit an airliner head-on. Calculate what your true airspeed will be at that point, and what the TAS of the of the airliner is. Then consider the amount of energy you'll have to absorb as it's hitting the front windshield of the aircraft.
Remember to factor in the likelyhood of such a colision. Even the FAA's own statistical studies show the event to be on par with the second coming. (Why listen to 20 people when the studies are already compiled?)

Weather baloons under 4lbs. need no FAA certs. or supervision, etc.. Somebody up to code can quote the line.
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Old Mar 31, 2010, 11:55 PM
prefer lift over drag anyday
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http://spacegrant.colorado.edu/bould...2007/index.htm

We had a failure on the weather balloon cutaway device and never got to try again. It was a fun project though!
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Old Apr 01, 2010, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyzguy View Post
http://spacegrant.colorado.edu/bould...2007/index.htm

We had a failure on the weather balloon cutaway device and never got to try again. It was a fun project though!
Why should a cutaway device failure keep you from trying again (unless you're near the ocean and everything was heading out over the ocean and lost at sea.)

crd - great project and I'm in the process of trying to do the same thing myself. (see: http://bear.sbszoo.com/bear3-4/bear4.htm for our last trip to the edge of space) I'm not familiar with the Mobile GPS tracker you mentioned, but if it's cell phone based, cells phones are not to be used airborne. Even if you don't care about this, be aware that very few GPS units are made to function above 60,000 ft and certainly not any of the types found in cell phones and most other consummer devices. The only type of tracker I know of that can work reliably for things like this is an amateur radio APRS tracker. Nice thing about APRS is that there are thousands of digipeaters and iGate stations across the country that will automatically place your tracking data on the web within sec's and using Google Earth with a wireless internet connection is the easiest, and my favorite, way to track and recover payloads.

workshop - I'm not 100% sure about FAA requlations, but believe they are very similair to the one's in Canada and true, under about 4 lbs no special permission is required, but the local air traffic control center must still be notified of launches and kept up to date as to where balloons are except when >50,000 ft (above controlled air space) which is easy using APRS as controllers can simply watch a balloons progress using the tracking data available on the web.
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Old Apr 03, 2010, 09:55 PM
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crd,
If you plan on using an elapor plane to come back to ground, perhap the air filled foam (any type of foam really) will compress from atmospheric pressures. You might end up dropping a floppy bananna with wings to back to Earth station 1. Just my 2 cent for it's something I have been thinking of doing too.
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