Arducopter Completes its First Photo Mission

This past Monday afternoon Jonathan and I went out to take the Arducopter on its first photo collection mission.  The mission was a success!  As you can see from the Arducopter's flight log displayed in Google Earth, the Arducopter completed a 250x250 meter photo collection.  Like our hexacopter missions, this flight plan is actually 350x350 meters, to give us some good margin of error outside of the 250x250 "important" area.

In the above photo I am doing the pre flight battery check, you can get a good sense of the scale of the Arducopter from this shot.  After finally having to name the Octo after I made flight log sheets with a name field, I decided on Dr. Octopus for this copter.

The Arducopter's flight plan lasted over 15 minutes and went a linear distance of 4.9 kilometers.  Since the theater building field we launched from was 10 meters below the elevation we launch from within the knoll, I set the Arducopter's mission altitude to 100 meters.  Normally we would fly at 90 meters for this type of mission, but since we had the opportunity to fly from outside the collection area and not have to fly up through the canopy in the knoll, I moved the site out and made up the 10 meters height difference.  

A brief to do list for the Arducopter Octo:

  • Fine tune the Navigation code.  Although the Arducoter did follow its waypoints, it had a tendency to overshoot around corners and make sharp banked turns, as well as not holding its desired velocity of 5 m/s.  I try tuning the navigation code in hopes of eliminating this behavior.
  • Fly out of the canopy gap.   Even though the Arducopter has no reason to fly though the canopy gap since it doesn't have the same distance from launch restriction that Mikrokopter has, my plan is to fly it out of the canopy gap to fly an absolutely identical flight plan to what one of our hexas would fly.  This would be for comparison purposes.
  • Install improved equipment.  Just this morning the improved Ublox GPS came in the mail, it is supposed to be more accurate than the Ardupilot's built in GPS.  I also plan to install a camera gimble to keep the camera pointed straight down at the ground, even when the copter is tilting to maneuver.
  • Fix the yaw issue.  As it is, the Aducopter always turns to face the waypoint it is flying towards.  However for picture collection, it is best for the Arducopter to always face one direction no matter which way it is going.  This is a technical solution I will have to find withing the Arducopter software.

All in all I consider this a great first test of the Arducopter's mission flying abilities!

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Comment by Erle Ellis on August 9, 2012 at 8:02pm

Awesome Stephen!  I am looking forward to seeing the first Ardu-Ecosynth scan of the Knoll very soon!

Comment by Stephen Gienow on August 9, 2012 at 8:34pm

Thanks Erle, the  scan is currently running. 

I've already checked off a few of the to-dos: I installed the new more accurate GPS and I fixed the yaw problem so that the Arducopter flies pointing north like our Mikrokopters can.

Comment by Erle Ellis on August 9, 2012 at 8:49pm

how different is the more accurate gps compared to the one we have been using with the MK?

Is it more accurate/capable than that one?

Comment by Stephen Gienow on August 9, 2012 at 8:56pm

I'd have to do some quick research, but I believe it is supposed to be on par with the Mikrokopter ones.  The Mediatek GPS that came with the Ardupilot board is a bit of a cheapy.


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