Fully-integrated Drone Control System

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Description

Having worked with drones of all shapes and sizes, I realized that I ‘reinvent the wheel’ every time I design the flight computer for each. Thus, I designed a flight computer system that contains all of the necessary modules I use on each drone:

The Pixhawk flight controller is the centerpiece of the system, managing all of the drone’s critical functions. It’s connected to the transceiver for manual control, but mostly operates autonomously. I fabricated a separate module containing the altitude LIDAR, as well as an optical flow camera for precision position holding, so that the drone is capable of GPS-free operation. It is capable of maintaining its position within 10cm of the setpoint.

A video processing unit that takes in a feed from an external camera, compresses it, and sends it over a 5.8GHz video link. Additionally, it can transmit HD video over cellular, which is necessary for the high bandwidth. The video processor has a provision for taking telemetry data from the Pixhawk for sending over cellular in case of a breakage in the link.

Finally, there is a backup battery that intelligently keeps itself charged and ensures there is no loss of power to the system. This battery also provides power for launching a parachute in the event of a power failure to the motors. The smaller drones use a parachute from Skycat, which has an area of 4.5 square meters, while the largest drone of the fleet uses two of the largest manufactured parachutes from Opale Parachutes, each having an area of 12 square meters.

Quick Facts
  • Project Started: April 2018
  • Project Completed: May 2018
  • Prototypes: 2
  • Estimated Total Build Time: 12hrs
  • Current Status: Project Archived