Thursday, October 10, 2013

FY14 Real World Design Challenge-Kickoff Announcement

Today, I had the honor of representing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU)-Worldwide at the FY14 Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) State Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Challenge Announcement in Washington, DC. We met with leaders from academia and industry, program supporters, and student participants to present the details of this year's challenge (design of a UAS to support precision agriculture using a systems engineering approach). The level of excitement from all those involved was high, while the identified focus of the challenge was well received (read about the challenge details here).

Earlier this year, RWDC asked ERAU-Worldwide to develop the FY14 challenge. Recognizing the opportunity to contribute to the furthering of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, our leadership agreed and made the necessary assets available. Over the last couple months I have worked with and led a diverse team of colleagues from ERAU-Worldwide, Sinclair Community College (SCC), and the RWDC Technical Team to establish the design and associated background details of the challenge. Thanks to the exceptional hardwork, dedication, and support from all those involved, we were able to create a highly relevant and interactive experience for the student teams. By participating in this challenge, the students will have an opportunity to gain a wide exposure to engineering, design, and business concepts, while they work in collaborative team environments.

I look forward to our continued involvement in the coming months as we lead a series of webinar discussions covering the background details of the respective challenge areas, including the composition and operation of UAS designs, basic aeronautical and engineering design principles, the application of UAS for precision agriculture, creation of a business case, and challenge design tools. I'm also excited about our role to develop both the National challenge component of this year's competition (judging occurs November 2014) and the subsequent design challenge scenarios in the years to come. Competitions such as RWDC offer an amazing opportunity to introduce students to exciting educational focus areas (i.e., major and minors of study) and career fields that they otherwise may never have exposure to. It is through participation in collaborative exercises promoting creative thinking, innovation, leadership, and communication that students will build the priceless experiences that serve as guides on the path to success. For more detail regarding this year's challenge, please visit the RWDC Getting Started page. To read about the announcement, check out the ERAU-Worldwide news release.

Members of the ERAU RWDC Design Team with RWDC and ERAU-Worldwide Leadership. Left to right, Dr. Brian Sanders (ERAU), Anthony Coppola (RWDC), Dr. Ken Witcher (ERAU, Dean, College of Aeronautics), Dr. Ralph Coppola (RWDC), Dr. John Watret (ERAU, Chancellor, Worldwide), Dr. Brent Terwilliger (ERAU), Dr. Andrew Shepherd (SCC), and Dr. Adeel Khalid (ERAU). 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Citing a Single Source Within a Paragraph

I was recently prompted with a question regarding how to cite a single source within a paragraph: "How do you best cite all the material in a paragraph, when it is from a single source?" I have been seeing this question (and resulting issue) more and more with the citation being placed at the end of the paragraph, without any context. Unfortunately, this is not the most appropriate or correct manner to provide the citation as it indicates the source is only applicable to the final sentence (University of Washington, PYSWC, 2010).

Instead, I suggest creating an introduction to the paragraph that indicates you will be referring to the same (i.e., single) source all through the paragraph (University of Washington, PYSWC, 2010, p.5). If you start the paragraph with the identification that you will be paraphrasing from a single source, it will be unnecessary to provide subsequent citations within that paragraph (Eastern Illinois University, n.d., p.3). Keep in mind that with this method you will need to close the paragraph with the relevant citation and re-introduce it for every new paragraph the material is used in (Eastern Illinois University, n.d., p. 3). The result will be a consistent, easier to read style of writing that is dependent on the use of a single citation.

The acceptable alternatives to this method are:
  1. Paraphrase the material down into a single sentence with subsequent citation (McAdoo, 2011)
  2. Provide a citation reference at the end of each applicable sentence (McAdoo, 2011)
  3. Use parenthetical citation, where the author and year are identified in the first sentence and only the author appears in subsequent references in the paragraph (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Academic Support Center, n.d.). 
Whichever method you plan to use, focus on maintaining consistency throughout your paper or article. I suggest that you avoid switching between methods unnecessarily or your writing may appear awkward or confusing to the readers. For my own writing, I tend to cite everything at the individual sentence level and then use the final sentence in the paragraph to state my interpretation of the presented, paraphrased, quoted, and cited material.

Eastern Illinois University. (n.d.). American Psychological Association (APA) guide. Charleston, IL: Author. Retrieved from

McAdoo, T. (2011, March 18). Citing paraphrased work in APA style [ Web log post]. Retrieved from

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Academic Support Center. (n.d.). APA style citations. Chicago, IL: Author. Retrieved from

University of Washington, Psychology Writing Center. (2010). APA style citations & references: A guide for psychology undergraduates. Seattle, WA: Author. Retrieved from

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ERAU-Worldwide 2013 Atlanta: Spending Time Getting to Know My Colleagues

This week I'm attending the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide Conference in Atlanta, GA. So far I've been able to spend quality face to face time getting to know my fellow professors, leadership, and coworkers a little better. We've been attending briefings, enjoying meals together, and performing collaborative, team-building exercises. It isn't all fun and games though, we are spending plenty of time discussing goals and strategies to improve our programs, research, and teaching. Tomorrow, I will be briefing my colleagues in the College of Aeronautics on my experience incorporating concurrent development concepts into Embry-Riddle's online course development process. In the meanwhile, back to the fun. We are preparing to depart soon for the World of Coke in Downtown Atlanta for an evening sampling various beverages Coca-Cola produces and further strengthen the important relationships among colleagues at the premier aviation University, ERAU-Worldwide.

My team's solid control tower design, to lift and support a large cup filled with M&M's:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

AUVSI 2013-Washington DC

As I sit at Reagan National Airport waiting to board a flight home, my first year attending the AUVSI show is drawing to a close. I had a very productive couple of days meeting with UAS developers/manufacturers, attending relevant and timely presentations, networking with fellow alumni, and of course seeing the wide variety of unmanned air, ground, and maritime systems on display. Wow, what a show! 

Thanks to some early preparation with the AUVSI show mobile app, I had a detailed (and dynamically changeable) plan to attend several specific presentations, including:
-Who are the Navy's future unmanned aircraft operators and how will they be trained and integrated? (Stout, 2013)
-Closing the research gaps for UAS sense and avoid (Cook & Davis, 2013)
-Evaluating human-robot implicit communications using psychophysiology (Reinerman-Jones, 2013)
-ISIS+: A realistic ATM-UAS simulation environment (Pastor, 2013)
-Four operational barriers to integrating UAS into the NAS (Barstow, 2013)
-Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) airspace integration using notices to airmen (NOTAMs) for airspace user awareness (Harris, 2013)*
-Key considerations for the operation of commercial UAS airfields (Brooks, 2013)*
*Author/presenter was an ERAU alumni

One of the more interesting presentations I attended was from one of an ERAU-Worldwide colleague, Dr. David Ison, covering privacy implications associated with UAS operations, the 4th ammendment, and established case law precedents ("Privacy and Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration in the National Airspace System," Ison, Liu, & Vincenzi, 2013). The major take away I had from his well-received presentation was that it is not unreasonable to expect to see law enforcement use of UAS over 400 to 500 feet, as long as they do not use technology not readily available to or affordable by the general public. In other words, standard or high definition (HD) video is fine, while forward looking infrared (FLIR) or other thermal imaging is not (for now). 

While walking the floor I also had the opportunity to see some great examples of innovative and unique designs (e.g., hybrid fixed-wing/rotary-wing systems) from established firms (e.g., Lockheed Martin, Boeing/Insitu, AAI/Textron, ISR Group), small-emerging companies, and student design competitors (including multiple ERAU student teams). The show tends to spread the focus of coverage across the three major unmanned operational environments (e.g., air, ground, and maritime). So given my role with ERAU-Worldwide (UAS Discipline Chair), I opted to concentrate on air and UAS related exhibits/presentations. See below for some of the more interesting pictures from the floor of the show.

Please note that AUVSI will be changing format next year as it moves from August to May (12-15th) and returns to sunny Orlando, FL (Orange County Convention Center). So mark your calenders, get those Bermuda shorts ready, and start that long-distance walking regime (conferences are notoriously rough on the feet) because you will not want to miss it!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Preparing to Attend the 2013 AUVSI Show in Washington, DC

This year's Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) show starts on Monday (12 Aug) and runs through until Thursday in Washington D.C. During my initial preparations I found their mobile phone application, which they have provided to assist attendees plan and log their activities.

Google Android Version:

Apple iOS (iphone/iPad) Version:

After spending an hour with the iOS (iPhone) version of the app, I have been able to:

1) Build and store the list of presentations I plan on attending (note in Sessions, stores in Planner->My Itinerary)

2) Build and store the list of Exhibitors (vendors) I would like to see on the floor (note in Exhibitors, stores in Planner->My Exhibitors)

3) Identify and store any meetings I have planned with Exhibitors (note in Exhibitor)

4) Review the floor plan to determine where specific Exhibitor booths are located

The app also has sections to record notes, review speaker biographies, separate information by tracks (i.e., domains; e.g., air, ground, and maritime), and stay apprised of current show news or information (e.g., Buzz or Twitter feed). I'm looking forward to attending this event to meet with and hear from some of the foremost experts in unmanned aerial system (UAS) development, research, and integration. Look for updates next week detailing some of the interesting topics and systems I see at the show.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Use of Modeling and Simulation to Evaluate Unmanned Aerial System Asset Allocation and Assignment

Modeling & simulation (M&S) can be used to support the assessment of UAS asset allocation and assignment to meet specific missions or tasks by providing the means to examine potential usage strategies (i.e., use cases) and effectiveness determination (in terms of cost and performance) of various UAS platforms or combination of platforms. Through the use of a simulation framework, terrain data specific to the operational environment, and models of mission specific objects (e.g., UAV platforms, vegetation, and subject/target objects), it would be possible to run multiple scenarios, platforms, and search patterns virtually; providing an opportunity to observe how the aircraft and associated sensors (e.g., Day TV, infrared [IR], and synthetic aperture radar [SAR]) would interact with the specific target environment. The results of such a research project may provide the framework for the development of a system to determine advantages and limitations of M&S use for UAS asset assignment evaluation, while identifying appropriate UAS platforms and flight profiles to obtain maximum mission effectiveness.

An example where the value of such M&S use could be exhibited is in support of a radiological disaster recovery and monitoring UAS project NASA has been discussing with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for the 2020 Mars Rover launch. A baseline for evaluation could be established for this specific project by modeling the terrain (i.e., Kennedy Space Center), environmental conditions (e.g., wind, precipitation, and temperature), size and location of exploded radioactive debris, and capabilities and operational flight profile of several UAS (group 1-5). By observing the interactions of the subject UAS in this scenario, it is envisioned that a recommendation could be made to NASA regarding what UAS assets would be most appropriate to support the mission, categorized by cost (e.g., asset acquisition, support, and operation) and capability (e.g., sensor acuity/fidelity, range, duration, and speed). Such a demonstration may provide the opportunity for further refinement of the concept (i.e., UAS asset allocation and assignment evaluation) and eventual development of a system or product to meet the needs of public and private UAS operators (e.g., government agencies, military, researchers, and commercial users).

This research is in the proposal stage and the team is looking for further contributors and partners from Industry, Academia, and Government.

Link to Abstract...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reporting from IITSEC Paper Review - Struck with Inspiration

Today, I'm participating in the review of paper submissions for the Interservice/Industry, Simulation, and Education Conference (IITSEC) - Simulation subcommittee. This is my first year as a reviewer and it has been a great experience working with experienced simulation industry and Government representatives to evaluate this year's submissions. While preparing for this meeting, I started thinking of how modeling & simulation (M&S) could be used to support the development and use of UAS for a radiological disaster recovery and monitoring project NASA has been discussing with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. M&S could provide the means to examine potential usage strategies (i.e., use cases) and determine the effectiveness (i.e., in terms of cost and performance) of various UAS platforms (or combination of platforms). Through the use of a simulation framework, terrain data specific to the launch environment, and models of mission specific objects (e.g., UAV platforms, vegatation, and radiological debris), it would be possible to run multiple scenarios, platforms, and search patterns virtually; providing an opportunity to observe how the aircraft would interact with the subject environment. The results of such a research project may provide the ability to determine advantages and limitations of M&S use for UAS asset assignment evaluation, while identifying appropriate UAS platforms and flight profiles to obtain maximum mission effectiveness.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Visit to Wright-Patterson AFB

Before leaving Dayton I had an opportunity to stop in to see both the Air Force History Museum and the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL). While at 711th Human Performance Wing, I received a very interesting briefing on how the Air Force is integrating multiple forms of subject (i.e., operator) sensing (e.g., cardio, ocular, voice stress, and task focus) to assess, measure, and augment interactions on an RPA/UAS control system. While I could not take pictures when on base, I was permitted to take pictures in the museum. The highlights of the museum visit include the Kettering Bug (first military UAV), MQ-9 Reaper, RQ-4 Global Hawk, X-45A, a Ryan Firebee, and a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. Next time I will need to visit the Presidential Aircraft section (ran out of time this trip).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ohio UAS Conference

This week I represented my employer, ERAU-Worldwide, as an Academic Panelist at the 2nd annual Ohio UAS Conference hosted by Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH. The conference provided an opportunity for "key officials and representatives from both government and industry" (Ohio UAS Conference, 2013, para. 2) to meet with members of academia for collaborative discussion of UAS integration, access to the National Airspace System, research opportunities, and stakeholder needs. At the conclusion of the Academic Panel, Mr. Michael Toscano, the President and CEO of AUVSI and an audience member, took the opportunity to address the crowd and stress the importance of what ERAU is doing to support community outreach and education through our recent partnership with the Real World Design Challenge (RWDC). In his impromptu address Mr. Toscano related how he served with important members of Government and industry, including Mr. Jim Williams of the FAA UAS Integration Office, as judges for the RWDC high school competition. He commended the awarding of a $50,000 ERAU scholarship to each member of the winning team along with my and ERAU's involvement in UAS education.

While attending the conference I also had the opportunity to listen to speeches, briefings, and panel discussions from the following stakeholders in the UAS community, including:
-Michael Toscano, CEO and President AUVSI
-Jack Blackhurst, Director of Human Effectiveness Directorate, AFRL
-Maj Gen Edward J. Mechenbier (USAF Ret), SAIC
-Dyke Weatherington, Deputy Director, Unmanned Warfare, USD AT&L/UW
-Steve Pennington, Director of Bases, Ranges, and Airspace, USAF
-Janis Pamiljans, VP for UAS, Northrup Grumman
-Jim McGrew, Business Development, Unmanned Systems, Boeing

Ohio UAS Conference. (2013). About. Retrieved from

Monday, April 22, 2013

Traveling to the Ohio UAS Conference

This morning I'm preparing to depart Washington, DC for the birthplace of aviation, Dayton, Ohio. On Wednesday I will be sitting on an Academic Panel for the Ohio UAS Conference, hosted by Sinclair Community College. The focus of this panel will be to discuss how higher education can best support this growing field, including integration of UAS into the National Airspace System. I'm very excited to convey what contributions Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide is making in terms of education, curriculum, and research. I'm also looking forward to sharing recommendations regarding how academia can provide support and leadership within the domain.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Observations from Real World Design Challenge

Today I had the fortunate opportunity of spending time with student participants of the Real World Design Challenge. Focus for this competition was put on time and cost to determine efficiency, with the students required to identify a viable business case. Throughout the day I observed presentations and met with students and their mentors.

What I was most impressed with was the capability of teams to:
-apply real industry project titles/roles to team members and successfully implement the expectations of these roles
- use industry professionals for their input and guidance
- provide detail definitions of ground support equipment
-use the engineering design process, with defined staging and milestones in their efforts
-perform risk analysis and use the findings in selection and justification of designs
-identify transportation/ logistical considerations for proposed designs
-employ methodical approaches, featuring statistical analysis, during component selection for designs (e.g., application of component driven design, quantitative analysis, and qualitative down select)
-propose innovative flight patterns to perform scanning/detection of an environment of mixed terrain (no trees, small, med, large trees)
-perform visual line of sight (VLOS) calculations using Pythagorean geometry
-provide business case examples (e.g., compared costs to manned and other UAS options, uses, and operational costs)
-use of simulation to test/verify desired aerodynamic considerations for fixed-wing performance

In the future, it would be beneficial for teams to consider:
-logistical support equipment necessary for use of internal combustion propulsion (glow plug, electric start, fuel, maintenance considerations)
-mitigation of adverse effects (e.g., vibration, exhaust, reduce throttle response, additional support requirements)
-use of identical components/designs to support maintenance and commonality of design
-reference construction materials

Seeing What the Next Generation of UAS Developers Have in Store for Us

This morning I'm preparing to visit with some of the most creative minds of the next generation of UAS developers; high school student's whose design entries have earned them a spot at the RealWorld Design Challenge (RWDC) in Washington DC. I'm excited to see what they have in store for us. Considering they have grown up in a world immersed with technology that expouses digital connection, this cadre of learners will be well prepared for the high-paced, collaborative, educational environment at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). Expect more to come, as I report on some of the interesting and innovative entries I see today.

Monday, March 25, 2013


This weekend I started construction of a portable, self-contained, ground control station (GCS) for my supervisory sUAS control research project (see pictures). I was able to locate an affordable case from Harbor Freight ($29), which makes a great platform for housing all of the other control components. With the application of some velcro, I was able to create removable attachment points for the control transmission (TX; e.g., 2.4Ghz and 900 Mhz Xbees) and video receiver (RX; 5.8Ghz) gear. I was also able to incorporate two 7" LCD monitors that I had lying around. My next step will be creating some removable mounts for the left and right hand sides of the case, where I plan to mount the HOTAS joystick and throttle. I would also like to tie all of the power cabling into a single point (i.e., surge protector) for protection and to bring all of the cables down to a common point (single power cable). If I have the time, I would also like to add in a SD card digital video recorder (DVR; output connected to second monitor), several momentary and single-throw switches/buttons, and a common sound system (headphones and speaker playback). I will be posting further updates as I add more improvements and capabilities to this base design, so check back often.

Monday, March 18, 2013

EAGLE-FW sUAS Dressed Up

I just put the finishing touches on the Supervisory sUAS Control project logo and the exterior labeling of the EAGLE-FW. I'm waiting on several components that will be required before I can get it up in the air. Check out the updates below.

Supervisory sUAS Control Project Logo

EAGLE-FW (exterior/ nose)

EAGLE-FW (deatil on wing)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Supervisory sUAS Platform Design Designations

Every aircraft design needs a designator or name. For the two small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) platforms (i.e., fixed-wing [FW] and rotary-wing [RW]) I am developing to support my supervisory control research, I chose:

Experimental, Analytics Gathering, Low-cost, Electric (EAGLE) sUAS

So the EAGLE-FW and EAGLE-RW sUAS, respectively. Considering the mascot of ERAU (my employer and the fund provider for the research) is an eagle, the selection seems appropriate. The primary purpose of these designs is to exhibit a low-cost proof of concept supervisory sUAS control system and perform a series of quantitative experiments to capture data (i.e., gather analytics) using the two customized electric powered vehicle elements (built off Storm 430 Helicopter and Lanyu FPVRaptor R/C platforms).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Modifications to sUAS Vehicle Element (FPVRaptor)

I spent an hour making some modifications to the FPVRaptor that should make my life easier as this project develops.
First, I removed the two strips of reinforced tape from the bottom of the wings that covered the servo cabling. I used EPO foam safe CA glue to join the wing and wing cover. I also applied a significant amount of clear packing tape to the leading edges, over the servos, along the center length of the top and bottom of the wing, along the flaps joint, the trailing edges, the edge of the flaps and ailerons, and around the center (wing joint). Adding the tape should provide additional (minor) structural integrity and protect the foam from nicks and cuts (see shine on the wing in the image to the left).

I also decided to removed the wing mounting screws after one of the retaining nuts came loose. I opted to replace the screws with a combination of rubber banding and velcro (non-structural). This should allow me to remove the wing, without the hassle of dealing with the screws (very prone to stripping and boring out the head of the screw). This attachment method should also help to quickly separate the wing and body in the event of a crash, reducing the potential for structural damage. The velcro attachment points were mated at the fusalage opening (see image to the right).
I also added four bolts and nuts to serve as the attachment anchors for the rubber bands. I bored out four holes, added a nut on the inside for each, another on the exterior, and applied a liberal portion of glue to both the nuts and bolt to keep them in place. The strength of the plastic fuselage made this mounting method possible. If the fuselage would have been EPO foam, I would have had to use another bracing method such wooden dowels. The result of this modification can be seen in the image to the left.
I'm happy with the overall ease of these modifications and hope they simplify future use, maintenance, and upgrades on this airframe. The image to the right depicts the finished product. On a side note, this platform is really big and roomy, which should accomodate the research and control gear I plan to install. You can judge size (1.6M wingspan) against my dining room table (six-person).

Fixed-Wing sUAS Vehicle Element

The original intent of my supervisory control for small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) research project was to demonstrate integration of supervisory control into a single rotary-wing R/C platform. However, due to efficient budgeting and realized cost savings over the original proposal, sufficient funding remained for the addition of a fixed-wing platform. For this project, I selected the FPVRaptor after a long review and comparison of available R/C airplane platforms. This platform is available from for approximately $75 (prices change based on currency fluxuations):
Look for updates as I describe some modifications I will be making to further improve the usability of the platform and install the research equipment onboard.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Special Acknowledgement - Research Donation/Discount

A special thank you to Skylark FPV for donating one of their Tiny OSD III systems for use in the proof of concept small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) supervisory control system I have been developing for my research. I plan on integrating this system once I have completed the addition of a first person view (FPV) camera and transmitter (TX) into my sUAS platforms. The primary features of interest of this onscreen display (OSD) include:
  • Barometer to determine altitude (to ensure operation under 400ft in compliance with AMA recommendation and FAA guidelines)
  • Configurable OSD screen
  • Lightweight (22.5 grams/.79oz)
  • 60 amp current sensor to determine battery state (current, voltage, and mAh remaining)
  • 10Hz GPS (to determine speed, position, and altitude)
  • Return to home indicator (to determine position relative to ground control station [GCS])
This system is available for purchase online for $108 from the Skylark FPV Store:

A thank you is also due to Pololu Robotics & Electronics for providing me with a 50% discount on the purchase of their Mini Maestro 24-Channel USB Servo Controller (Assembled). I will be adding this system into my existing supervisory control system as the primary vehicle control (PVC) system. I plan on utilizing the higher-resolution Pololu protocol on the Maestro in conjunction with a pair of Digi International XBee-PRO 802.15.4 extended-range modules (RP-SMA and wired antenna) for wireless PC servo control. This controller is available for purchase online for $49.95 from the Pololu store:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

sUAS Platform - Ground Testing Successful

My initial series of ground tests for the small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) research were highly successful.

Stage 1 - Control Servos Response Testing
For this stage, I was able to confirm elimination of the previously observed servo response jitter/stutter and improve timing by switching to the Pololu serial servo protocol. The difference in performance between Pololu and MiniSSC was remarkably different (see the following video):

Stage 2 - Powerplant/Tail Rotor Testing
For this stage, I was able to confirm proper response of the electronic speed control (ESC), brushless motor, gyroscope, and tail rotor. To improve safety, I removed the main blades and left the flybar paddles in place (see the following video):

Stage 3 - Integrated Controls and Powerplant
For this final stage, I was able to confirm successful integration of all the controls and the availability of sufficient power for operation. I connected all controls, applied maximum/minimum control limits (5% for cyclic pitch/roll, 50% for throttle/collective pitch, and 25% for tail rotor), connected power, and interfaced with PC control (i.e., ground control station [GCS]; see the following video):

After wrapping the final video I did achieve a brief airborne hop with a slight adjustment to the collective pitch limit (increased to approximately 60% of available movement, no throttle change was necessary). I am highly confident at this stage that the platform is ready for aerial testing activities and will fly with the increased weight of the custom developed landing gear. However, before I initiate aerial testing I will need to confirm the weight and balance (i.e., center of gravity [CG]) of the sUAS. Check back soon for more updates.

Friday, February 22, 2013

sUAS Platform Ready for Ground Testing

This week I was able to make considerable gains in improving the resolution of the servo movement. I also put some work into preparing the helicopter for ground testing by wrapping and securing all of the electronics and the associated wiring. I decided to replace the stock landing gear and create my own using carbon fiber gear from a fixed-wing platform and some 1/2" PVC tubing. I expect this new landing gear will help distribute some of the weight during the testing and provide sufficient clearance for the addition of a high-definition first person view (FPV) camera and pan/tilt control assembly in the future.
sUAS Platform (angled view)
sUAS Platform (head-on view)

sUAS Platform with cowling removed
sUAS Platform (electronics exposed)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Phase I: Two-Person Supervisory Control of sUAS Research

I am happy to report I have managed to successfully integrate the three 120-degree Cyclic/Collective Pitch Mixing (CCPM) servos of my small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) platform (Storm 430 R/C Electric Helicopter) with my custom developed wireless PC servo control system. This intitial step was a big breakthrough as it proves the software that provides wireless PC, USB gamecontroller, and CCPM servo control does work as required. I still need to fine tune some of the controls and smooth out some slight stuttering, which could lead to adverse operation when in flight. Nonetheless, I was very happy to reach this milestone in development.

The next step in this process will be connect the tail rotor servo and gyroscope for yaw control. Once I have connected the remaining controls (e.g., engine throttle) and fine tuned the movements, I will be ready for an initial flight test. Upon succesful completion of the flight testing I will proceed onto Phases II-VI, as described below:

Phase II
1) Construct supervisory control unit (SCU)
2) Integrate SCU into the sUAS platform to provide primary vehicle control (PVC) and secondary supervisory control (SSC) of the system
3) Confirm capability of SSC system to relinquish control to the PVC and regain as needed (i.e., when SSC controls are engaged)

Phase III
1) Purchase first person view (FPV) visual system
2) Integrate FPV visual system into sUAS platform and base station (i.e., laptop and monitor)
3) Confirm capability to operate the sUAS from an egocentric viewpoint (i.e., video from the sUAS view) using PVC system, with secondary operator providing supervisory control using SSC

Phase IV
1) Purchase onscreen display (OSD) system (see example OSD)
2) Integrate OSD system with FPV subsystem on the sUAS platform
3) Confirm capability to monitor location (GPS coordinates and return to home indicator), altitude, airspeed, and battery voltage using OSD and FPV system

Future Upgrade
At the completion of Phase IV, the sUAS will be fully operational as designed for this research application (proof of concept two-person supervisory control system). With future funding opportunities, I hope to upgrade the sUAS to support additional research with the following:
  • Nine-degree of freedom (9-DOF) inertial measurement unit (IMU; see example 9-DOF IMU) to measure x, y, and z accelerations, x, y, and z rotations, and x, y, and z magnetic heading readings to provide accurate orientation state (pitch, roll, yaw relative to Earth and magnetic north)
  • Range finder sensors for x+, x-, y+, y-, z+, and z- to provide accurate distancing
  • Onboard PC for increased injteroperability and calculation capability to support autopilot functionality (i.e., increased autonomy and simplified user control routines; see example single-board PC)
I'm also happy to report, this past Wednesday I earned a Technician Class Amateur Radio License. Once my name and callsign appear in the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Universal Licensing System (ULS) database, I will be able to operate FPV and radio communications gear to support sUAS and R/C operations. Check back for future updates of this ongoing research project.

12 Feb 2013 Update: I've been able to improve the resolution by increasing the communicatio Baud Rate from 9600 to 57600. I've also added in the tail rotor/gyro control. Here is a link to a video update (Updated sUAS Control):

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Use of Personal Experience in APA Writing

Several students have recently asked about how to best use their personal experience when addressing areas in their projects or comprehensive exams.

1) Here are some resources to explain citation vs personal experience in APA writing:

Chelsea Lee. (2011, April 28). Can you cite personal life experience? [web log post]. Retrieved from

See Locating Appropriate Source Material (Marek, n.d., pp. 3-4):
Marek, P. (n.d.). The basics of scientific writing in APA style. Orange, VA: Worth Publishers. Retrieved from

I use "personal experience" and knowledge to establish the general framework of what I'm writing. I then use that framework to define my literature review (research for citable sources), which I use to confirm my statements (i.e., assertions and declarations). Sometimes, I find what I believed to be correct, was not and need to change my statement and line of thinking. Such a situation is exactly why personal experience alone is insufficient, it must be corroborated or supported by others. Despite what we've experienced we are not always correct or the best authority on a subject.

2) The following resources also provide significant APA formatting and writing information:

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL; this is a VERY good resource):
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from

APA Style Blog:
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). APA Style Blog. Retrieved from

APA Style Homepage
American Psychological Association. (2013). APA Style Homepage. Retrieved from