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Old Jul 24, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Denmark
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Quadcopter UAV project, need help getting started

Hello guys

I am very new to the R/C scene and also new to this board. I apologize if I'm posting in the wrong forum, but my questions cover broad topics I think.


My goal:
I would like to take on a UAV project based on a quad copter. I am very impressed by what I have seen with the mikrokopter (http://www.mikrokopter.de/ucwiki/) and projects like this:

FPV cularis, chasing boat , miami (3 min 7 sec)


I would like it to be able to lift a payload of a kg or maybe two, and have a control range of at least 100-200 meters. My budget for a prototype with limited functionality would be a max of maybe 500 euro / 7-800 dollars and I am willing to build alot of stuff myself.


My background:
I am a fairly adept C/C++ programmer, as I study computer engineering on my third year. I have experience with microprocessors and digital electronics, whereas I haven't worked much with analog circuitry. No previous experience with RC.

My problem:
- How do I connect the remote control transmitter to my computer?
I have seen something called a PCTx, but I am not sure if it'll have a long enough range, as I'm aiming for maybe 100-200 meters (the more the better) or more in a direct line. How is this solved usually?

I am pretty hopeless with analog circuits, so if a readily built solution to the receiver/transmitter is available (and affordable), I would prefer that :P


I'd like to make something like the mikrocopter, that can hover, fly by display, transmit gps position and other telemetry and all that jazz. Making the software is the least of my concerns, but I have no idea where to start really. I was thinking about buying a cheap R/C car and trying it out on that, so I won't wreck the quadcopter when I make my first mistakes.


TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ: Quad copter UAV. Where do I start?

Thanks in advance
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 08:22 AM
Gaftopher
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Nottingham Road South Africa/Bedford UK
Joined Feb 2007
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Have a look at http://www.diydrones.com

We fly quadrocopters for aerial photography, to get a kilo load you will probably need an Octocopter, your budget will need to move up a bit ;-)

Heres a clip I found using an Octo

Kent Coast - from above and beyond (4 min 16 sec)


Around here, Jack Crossfire is the expert on rotary nonsense!!!

Good luck

G

looks like Icebear and his mates have popped back over for a beer in this clip
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 09:07 AM
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Thank you for your answer

I have been lurking on DIY drones and I've stumbled across Jack Crossfires topics also. I've spent the night yesterday and most of today, reading up on RC in general and today I downloaded the FMS simulator and played with it for some hours. I've tried out a few different types of planes in the simulator, and it occured to me that flying helicopters / quad copters are actually a lot harder than flying regular planes.

I was first set for a blimp, as it seems easy to fly and can lift some payload. But I think the cost of helium refills, will raise the costs unnecessarily so. I want something that'll hover and fly about slowly and controllable, and for that, a quad copter seems to be the best answer. What is your view on this?

I think I figured out my initial question. If you buy a good 2.4 GHz rx/tx, you'll easily be able to reach out a few hundred meters.

My next question is now: What kind of platform should I aim for?
For a better hover control, it would seem that a quad platform able to control all 4 rotors individually, would be best. Are there any affordable quad platforms out there, able to do this? Or will my initial budget not hold.
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 11:12 AM
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Have you looked at the Multi Rotor section of RCG? http://www.rcgroups.com/multi-rotor-helis-200/

here is one cool project http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=959593

not exactly what you want, but it may give you some ideas as to what is needed.

I agree with Gary to lift that kind of payload your budget does not seem to be enough.

Have a look at Hobbyking.com they have some of the cheapest prices for the parts you will need, and they ship worldwide.

Off topic tip

Been new to RC, here is a good tip. When you see someone who seems to know what you they are talking about, click on their name and this will take you to their profile page, then click on the threads started by this person, and have a look to see if there is anything interesting. This has proven to me very useful in finding what I am looking for. I hardly use the search option.
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Old Jul 25, 2009, 11:19 AM
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look at this one also, it may be the closest to what you want to do

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1066119
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Old Jul 26, 2009, 02:59 AM
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A lot of great projects, thank you

Well, to be honest, the only reason I mention a 1 kg payload, is because I really have no idea how heavy the embedded control system will be. It depends much on how much processing power is needed.
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Old Jul 26, 2009, 11:44 PM
UniversityOfTechnologySyd ney
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maskinen
A lot of great projects, thank you

Well, to be honest, the only reason I mention a 1 kg payload, is because I really have no idea how heavy the embedded control system will be. It depends much on how much processing power is needed.
1kg worth of processing power is alot. :P
That is like a decent sized SBC with heatsink.. as in full x86 computer on a board.
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Old Jul 27, 2009, 12:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeefStake
1kg worth of processing power is alot. :P
That is like a decent sized SBC with heatsink.. as in full x86 computer on a board.

Yup, sure sounds like fun....... Imagine what you can do with that!
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Old Jul 27, 2009, 07:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeefStake
1kg worth of processing power is alot. :P
That is like a decent sized SBC with heatsink.. as in full x86 computer on a board.

Yeah, that was pretty much my initial thought. I have a freescale PPC 266 mhz with 128 mb ram and a full fledged embedded linux. Full load it eats 10w and it idles/crontasks around 2-3w, so that was my initial thought. It doesn't have any IO though, but I was thinking of pairing it up with an arduino or making the IO board myself. It has SPI and I2C afaik, so all I have to do is interface it.

I have been reading alot the last couple of days, and I think I will use the following for telemetry

motorola MPX 4115A barometric pressure sensor for altimeter
EM406a GPS or a ublox for navigation
AttoPilot XYZ sensors from DIYdrones for attitude-correction
Xbee Pro for wireless transmission

Also I am thinking about starting out on a fixed wing airplane (instead of a car), just to get the project going.

Pros:
+ Easier to get started, as you can buy a foam plane with decent carrying ability. Also no need to build everything from scratch as I would have to with a quad
+ EasyStar foam planes have bent wing tips and are therefore self-correcting in calm weather. This eases the attitude-correction a lot
+ DIYdrones ardupilot has a very well documented autopilot project that could help me out alot in my development

Cons:
- No hovering ability
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 01:02 AM
Gaftopher
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If its windy enough it will hover! if you just want to get a camera over a point in a really stable manner, a co pilot II will be enough. Lot easier to set just that up.
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Mortimer
If its windy enough it will hover! if you just want to get a camera over a point in a really stable manner, a co pilot II will be enough. Lot easier to set just that up.
I want to build a UAV and make most of it myself. I may also be able to make this a part of my semester project next spring. I realize that this may have an outlook of 6-12 months if I want to make most of it myself, but I don't mind the challenge.

I just bought the EM-406 GPS module from SparkFun. Only $3,44 overseas in shipping. Of course that means no insurance or tracking, but I was too cheap to spend $30 in shipping for a $60 gps

Well, knock on wood, let's hope it gets here

HobbyKing.com is really cheap on R/C parts compared to what they charge here in Europe. I'm just not sure how cheap it'll end up being when VAT and shipping is added. I gotta look into that.

All in all thank you all for the great answers you've given me
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 07:42 AM
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[QUOTE=Maskinen]
HobbyKing.com is really cheap on R/C parts compared to what they charge here in Europe. I'm just not sure how cheap it'll end up being when VAT and shipping is added. I gotta look into that.
QUOTE]

What they will do is put a value of say $15 and mark the item ether as an electronic sample, or a toy gift. The tax will not be a problem. At least it is not in the States or UK.
I recommend you get their Express EMS shipping method, like $10 more, and you get it in 3 days, the regular shipping takes like 3 weeks.

edit: $10 more than the regular shipping. It is worth to place a large order at once. BTW the shipping is calculated based on weight. Also create an account and the items will be less expensive than if you buy them as a non account customer. Accounts are free.
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Mecha
What they will do is put a value of say $15 and mark the item ether as an electronic sample, or a toy gift. The tax will not be a problem. At least it is not in the States or UK.
I recommend you get their Express EMS shipping method, like $10 more, and you get it in 3 days, the regular shipping takes like 3 weeks.

edit: $10 more than the regular shipping. It is worth to place a large order at once. BTW the shipping is calculated based on weight. Also create an account and the items will be less expensive than if you buy them as a non account customer. Accounts are free.

JESUS CHRIST! So you're saying I'm in for 3 weeks of waiting for my GPS Aww... I guess I was too cheap this time

Yeah I know the value-trick, but so does the customs here in Denmark. Every time I've bought something from outside of the EU (outside of EU means I have to add VAT) the customs have opened the package and added VAT.
But it's not so much the VAT - even with VAT it's cheaper than here. It's the shipping that usually adds to the cost.

I'm gonna get all the sensors and stuff before I get the actual plane I think..
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 12:37 PM
Gaftopher
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A great place for stuff like this in Europe, is http://www.coolcomponents.co.uk

Love Nao
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Mortimer
A great place for stuff like this in Europe, is http://www.coolcomponents.co.uk

Love Nao
Thanks alot Gary That is indeed a very nice shop. They have a broad arsenal of usefull UAV electronics!
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