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: