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Jun 20, 2013, 04:55 PM
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Arducopter teardown

A bag of bits arrived on the bench.

The GPS module is an old school ublox-6 with no compass. It does have an outboard amplifier for the antenna. Seems to be accepted that all future GPS modules will have integrated compasses, since they're both going to be far away from electrical noise.

The radios are bog standard 100mW 900Mhz Hope RF radios on a breakout board. There's no offboard AVR chip implementing a higher protocol. All the magic is in the Arducopter board.

Useful part if an analog NTSC overlay ever becomes needed. The ideal method remanes a USB capture board with software overlay on a laptop.

Power module with integrated buck converter to output 5.3V 2A & current sense resistor. You wish this kind of thing was integrated on the autopilot board instead of yet another bit.

The autopilot enclosure looks snazzy. In reality, it's squishy plastic, a nest of wires when installed & the self tapping screws are mostly stripped. They were able to get away with the foam directly touching the MS5611 barometer. That didn't work with the SCP1000.

The duck's guts. All the usual parts are there: HMC5883 magnetometer, MPU-6000 for gyros & acceleration, ATMega32 for reading the PWM inputs & overriding the autopilot, Atmel 45db321d 8 megabyte flash for flight recordings, Atmega2560 for the brain.

It's astounding that they kept with the more expensive ATmega 2560 instead of the cheaper STM32F4. They are definitely getting rid of the ATMega32 & overriding the autopilot in software. The flash chip would have been smaller & more reliable than an SD card.

With a bit of soldering, everything is there to have a stock Arducopter with version 2.5 of the board. There is no RC radio set in the apartment capable of generating the PWM it expects. Ideally, there would be a way of controlling it from the telemetry radio. That would take a bit of software rewriting or resoldering the telemetry radio output to a PWM generator. There's always hacking a radio set out of XBees.

It would be sad to depart from home made autopilots of years past for the outdoor vehicle. The ardupilot system definitely reached the point of being more functional than the home made systems ever became. The mane disadvantages are it's bigger, there's only 1, any improvements have to be done with that ancient chip, any changes off the standard path would need constant porting to stay good on every new version of Ardupilot.

Another idea is to have an Arducopter in addition to a Marcy 2 copter.
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