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Oct 05, 2015, 03:34 PM
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Ran D. St. Clair's Avatar
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OpenAero-VTOL Flight Controller Introduction

Please consider this an introduction, not advertising. Some folks in my area have been playing with flight controllers as a way to enhance their flying, or as a way to learn about the things that they can do. 3D foamies make an ideal vehicle for this since they generally have good power and tons of control authority, and many of them are very crash durable as well.

I assume some of you really hate the idea, but I would encourage you to look at it from a different angle. There is a wide range of control systems options that you may never have experienced. Things like rate mode, attitude mode, autolevel, etc. You may not need or want these things on a 3D foamie but you also don’t know what you are missing if you have never tried them. You might add some tools to your toolbox that can help with warbirds, or jets, etc.

With that it mind, OpenAeroVTOL is free and open source flight controller code that runs on the inexpensive KK2 hardware, around $20. While originally developed to support VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft, it has evolved to become a universal flight controller that can do almost anything. Some of you may be familiar with the Eagletree Guradian. Well think of this as a Guardian with fewer limitations.

I am posting it here because I think there are a lot of people here who would want to use such a thing, but will never find it in the VTOL related forum. The thread for OpenAeroVTOL is located here:

The code and extensive user documentation can be found at the end of the first post.

So what can this thing do, and why would you be interested?

It can stabilize almost any kind of aircraft, from standard airplanes, to multicopters of any configuration, to flybarless helicopters. It is not aircraft specific in any way, nor is it limited to aircraft. If you need gyros or accelerometers to stabilize something it can probably do it.

Examples of what it can do…

1. Make a typical 3D foamie fly with mathematical precision. Make it hover hands off for as long as you like.
2. Stabalize aircraft that are otherwise unstable. It has even made aircraft fly both forwards and backwards. As a practical matter it could be used for war-birds and other scale aircraft to cure various bad tendencies and make them fly better/safer.
3. Create trainer modes. For example, a small electric flying wing meant for combat (Battlewing) can be made to fly so gently that it becomes the ideal trainer for small children.
4. Fly aircraft of extremely unusual configurations. For example, it has flown an 18 engine VTOL and was used by NASA to stabilize the GL-10, 10 engine tilt wing, tilt tail, VTOL.
5. Experiment with different flight modes. For example, it gives you the power to fly in “Attitude Mode” where you lean the stick to lean the aircraft, and it returns to level when you neutralize the stick. Of course it can also do “Rate Mode”, heading hold, attitude hold, and any combination you might want. Think of it as a tool box full of tools, or a lab course in control and stabilization where you get to do whatever you want.

What can’t it do?

It is not, by itself, a flight controller for fully autonomous drones. It doesn’t have GPS or a magnetometer so it doesn’t do return to home or fly a pre-determined path. It also has nothing to do with any sort of On Screen Display (OSD) or First Person View (FPV) mode. You, the pilot, are still in direct and immediate control.

It cannot break the laws of physics, or make an aircraft do something that it doesn’t have the power or control authority to do. It can ,however, make much better use of the available power and control authority by virtue of high speed electronic reflexes.

What is required of you to make it work?

You don’t need to write code, and you don’t need a computer except to initially load the code into the flight controller. The KK2 has a small LCD display and a 4 button interface for direct configuration at the flying field or at home.

You do need to have a basic understanding of the physics that allows your aircraft (or other project) to work.

Do NOT expect to tell the interface that you have a 4 engine tilt wing with a variable pitch tail rotor. This is not a “tell me about your aircraft” type if interface. It is a “tell me what you want each motor/servo to do” type of interface.

Do NOT ask anyone for a fixed recipe of parameters to fly some unusual aircraft you just invented. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to figure it out. That being said, others have used it to fly 3D foamies in various interesting ways already, so some folks might share their parameters.

With all this power and universality comes a lot of parameters. They can be daunting at first, and you might have to learn a few things before you can make good use of them all. If you don’t want to learn then don’t bother.

There is a lot more information in the RCG thread, including a user manual that is now over 120 pages. You now have the power, if you are willing to learn to use it…

I will leave you with this one example of many…

Winged Utility Vehicle or WUV octadeca motor vehicle (15 min 59 sec)
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