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Old May 30, 2011, 08:21 PM
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Joined May 2011
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Can anyone recommend a good autopilot?

Hi people,

my new UAV arrived today so I will be putting her together in the comming week, I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on top autopilots for her.

the key things for me are:

waypoints, even if out of radio range
auto landing when power critical

*maybe camera controls to*

I would just like to set her up on the ground, programme the waypoints in and let her go then have her finish her flight, land and for me to put the images/video taken from the mounted camra onto my laptop for flight logs.

if anyone can think of a camera system that would allow me to have real time video from the drone while she flies, even out or radio range this would be great.

thanks in advance
IKE
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Old May 30, 2011, 09:08 PM
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Canada, QC, Montreal
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How much money do you want to spend?
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Old May 31, 2011, 02:46 PM
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Asl long as it works and does what I need i will consider anything, costing is not important
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Old May 31, 2011, 03:40 PM
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Canada, QC, Montreal
Joined Apr 2009
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First you need to understand that getting a UAV in the air takes a lot of time, effort, learning, reading, frustration, and money. Unless you have a lot of experience with aircraft, RC flying, electronics, and software, it will not be as simple as buying something, plugging it in, and instantly performing autonomous flights.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but people on here don't want to waste their time giving advice to someone who is completely over their head. I'm not saying you are, I just want to warn you. No one wants to see you invest a few thousand dollars only to be disappointed. We have seen it happen many times, so a lot of people just stop answering questions like this.

That said, I would look into Ardupilot or Paparazzi if you want to keep things cheaper. Plus, I think it is good to support the open-source autopilot community. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, but it is covered extensively on different threads here, so I suggest looking for those threads. If you want to go more commercial, Attopilot is one of the cheapest out there and they seem to be good guys.

As for more higher end systems, I have heard good things about Procerus, and not-so-good things about Micropilot. These will run you a few thousand dollars each.

You also need to consider export laws, depending on where you live.

What type of "UAV" did you buy?
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Old May 31, 2011, 08:48 PM
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Edmonton
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Look like he got a Global Hawk from SonicElectric so I think an APM will be enough for the begining.
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Old Jun 30, 2011, 08:49 PM
"Let's put a camera on that.."
spagoziak's Avatar
Twin Cities, MN
Joined Feb 2010
1,063 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by aero_k View Post
First you need to understand that getting a UAV in the air takes a lot of time, effort, learning, reading, frustration, and money. Unless you have a lot of experience with aircraft, RC flying, electronics, and software, it will not be as simple as buying something, plugging it in, and instantly performing autonomous flights.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but people on here don't want to waste their time giving advice to someone who is completely over their head. I'm not saying you are, I just want to warn you. No one wants to see you invest a few thousand dollars only to be disappointed. We have seen it happen many times, so a lot of people just stop answering questions like this.

That said, I would look into Ardupilot or Paparazzi if you want to keep things cheaper. Plus, I think it is good to support the open-source autopilot community. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, but it is covered extensively on different threads here, so I suggest looking for those threads. If you want to go more commercial, Attopilot is one of the cheapest out there and they seem to be good guys.

As for more higher end systems, I have heard good things about Procerus, and not-so-good things about Micropilot. These will run you a few thousand dollars each.

You also need to consider export laws, depending on where you live.

What type of "UAV" did you buy?
This is an interesting point--what does ArduPilot do poorly? What's it not so good at? I'm pretty sure that's where I'm headed (next time I have money to spend), and I've not really seen much ArduPilot footage around. Is it not that popular? Atto looks lovely but for $3k, there's no chance of me ever owning it!

thanks!
spag
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Old Jul 01, 2011, 08:00 AM
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Try Robota. New technology, priced very well.

http://robota.us/
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Old Jul 02, 2011, 09:06 PM
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arizona
Joined May 2008
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I am an ATTO fan, 100% supporter and I would recommend the ATTO Those regulars on here know I had a stroke last year which left me with issues that limited my ability to fly.

If it were not for the ATTO and the guys there this hobby would have probably been lost to me forever.

I am a pretty smart guy had flow strictly recreational as a young man. But with the ATTO I fly almost every day now and am abought to start flying SAR type missions here in the desert.

The ATTO is not plug and play by any means but the machine will most certainly help you tune itself (almost). The support from ATTO is great, & comes with support time built in to the price.

My advice once you have defined your mission is check out the ATTO.

Bill
SkyArtek Cessna flown by an ATTO v2.0 and I just watch
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Old Jul 03, 2011, 03:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spagoziak View Post
This is an interesting point--what does ArduPilot do poorly? What's it not so good at? I'm pretty sure that's where I'm headed (next time I have money to spend), and I've not really seen much ArduPilot footage around. Is it not that popular? Atto looks lovely but for $3k, there's no chance of me ever owning it!

thanks!
spag
I only have experience with Paparazzi, but PPZ and Ardupilot are fairly similar. Ardupilot will run on Windows, Paparazzi will not. This is the biggest limitation to Paparazzi IMO. For the average "UAV beginner" (in North America at least) Ardupilot seems to be more popular. Paparazzi seems more popular in Europe.

It also appears that Ardupilot is used more by hobbists, while Paparazzi is used more by students and universities.

In student UAV competitions Paparazzi seems to be far more prevalent than Ardupilot. I think Paparazzi has more features and capabilities than Ardupilot. That said, the Paparazzi learning curve is pretty steep. I'm not sure about Ardupilot.

Attopilot has a cheaper infrared-based autopilot around $800-1000, rather than the more expensive IMU-based one. Might be of interest...
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Old Jul 04, 2011, 06:34 PM
"Let's put a camera on that.."
spagoziak's Avatar
Twin Cities, MN
Joined Feb 2010
1,063 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by aero_k View Post
I only have experience with Paparazzi, but PPZ and Ardupilot are fairly similar. Ardupilot will run on Windows, Paparazzi will not. This is the biggest limitation to Paparazzi IMO. For the average "UAV beginner" (in North America at least) Ardupilot seems to be more popular. Paparazzi seems more popular in Europe.

It also appears that Ardupilot is used more by hobbists, while Paparazzi is used more by students and universities.

In student UAV competitions Paparazzi seems to be far more prevalent than Ardupilot. I think Paparazzi has more features and capabilities than Ardupilot. That said, the Paparazzi learning curve is pretty steep. I'm not sure about Ardupilot.

Attopilot has a cheaper infrared-based autopilot around $800-1000, rather than the more expensive IMU-based one. Might be of interest...
That's a fine summary, thanks! I've looked at the PPZ site a few times and you're very right... looks like a pretty serious learning curve. In fact, I couldn't find a place to begin! I didn't know about it not running on windows, that's a real drag.

I have some experience with the infrared horizon sensors; they don't work well in Minnesota! Much of the year the ground temperature is too similar to the sky temp--with snow and rain and such. It works GREAT in the summer with clear blue skies, but around here those don't come by often enough to make sense. So for all those days where the sensors can't distinguish a large enough difference, I wouldn't be able to use my $900 autopilot
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Old Jul 05, 2011, 01:36 PM
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This is my personal opinion and is based on my personal experience with the people involved with the projects.

AttoPilot: Requires some learning, but mostly plug and play. You can buy an entire system from them already installed, tuned and ready to fly. They do have hobby grade stuff for sale, but they're really ready for commercial users. Great guys to work with, very responsive to questions and issues. Only downside (for some) is they're not open source. (GCS runs on Windows - HK's GCS) Price ranges from $700 to $3,000+

ArduPilot: Constantly a moving target. Lots of people working on lots of projects with lots of features. All open source (which can be good or bad) and currently, the only system I know of with 3 GCS's (plus a few more written by users and Ardu developers for their own use) one of which is mine (HK's GCS). The downside there are a LOT of cooks in the kitchen. So things get messed up and quickly fixed all the time. Their feature set is quickly passing many commercial autopilots. (GCS runs on Windows, Mac and Linux, plus command line interface) Price: About $300

Gluonpilot: Tom's a great guy and he really knows what he's doing. But it seems to me to be a one man show and he hasn't done enough self promotion. I haven't talked to many who have flown it so I can't say for sure how stable it is, but if he could get some help and some good press I think he could be a contender. (GCS runs on Windows) Price: $330 (not currently available)

FY21AP/FY3ZT: I can't say for sure how large their feature set is, but their hardware seems to be very functional. Their customer support is what's lacking. They're a Chinese company without an English speaking liason (or one that will reply with any regularity). They remind me a lot of how HobbyKing functions. You buy the hardware, it shows up quickly and then it's up to you to figure it out. I may not be speaking for everyone here, but if they could get their customer service in order, they too could be a contender. (GCS runs on Windows). Price: $1,400 (for FY3ZT = Full Autopilot)

Paparazzi: I might not be the best person to give an opinion on Paparazzi as I do not own one. It was developed by a French professor and requires Linux (or now Mac) to use their GCS. This alone will rule out 90% of their potential customer base. That decision has demoted them to largely an academic only platform. They may be the best auto pilot in the world, but I'll never know. (GCS is on Linux) Price: $520

OpenPilot: I don't own one of these either...but then NOBODY does! This has been touted as the greated auto pilot ever....for almost 2 years now. It's GCS looks awesome. What's missing is the hardware! Why? Beacuse the founder of the project doesn't want to rush it. This might all sound great, but with no deliverable date, how can you plan on using it for anything? So right now, it's just Vaporware. Another thing that's odd is the project is called "open pilot" but the hardware is closed source. (GCS runs on Windows, Mac and Linux). Price: unknown (not currently available)

Robota: I don't know much about this Autopilot. It's new on the market, but Antonio has been doing great things with it over the last few years. He won the Sparkfun AVC (aerial) the last two years. He placed 2nd or 3rd in the Outback Challenge last year. So it's a very capable system. I just don't have a lot of details. It's also a closed system. (GCS runs on Windows) Price: $1,900

UAVDevBoard: A bunch of very smart guys working on this project. The price is fantastic and they're always working on adding new features. I believe they are one of the least expensive boards out there at $150 without the GPS. The only downside I'm aware of is you need a PIC programmer to burn new firmwares to the board. Not sure how much of a drawback that is to a newbie, but it would be nice if they came up with a serial or FTDI interface. They are working on some new hardware and a new addition to their board: MAVlink! (GCS - not sure about, I know my GCS is compatible, but I don't know what else they use). Price: $150 (super inexpensive!)
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Old Jul 05, 2011, 03:03 PM
AMA 937634
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Nice writeup Kilmore.

What about Ruby? Have you had any experience with it?

http://www.uthere.com/

Myself, I'm waiting for EagleTree to release one but that's because I own a lot of their other gear.

-Mike
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Old Jul 05, 2011, 05:26 PM
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Old Jul 05, 2011, 05:37 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
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Old Jul 05, 2011, 06:55 PM
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The AttoPilot and Ardupilot are really the only two on HK's list that would be a consideration. I personally prefer the ArduPilotMega as its completely open, and fully capable. Given a bit more time the APM will surpass most commercial units, it already does in some aspects. The APM is practically just as plug-n-play as the Atto at this point. Actually, I think you can have one in the air faster than an Atto.

The RUBY mentioned above doesnt appear to be a fully functional autopilot, rather a co-pilot with RTL.
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