Development of a rotary-wing test bed for autonomous flight
Thesis (MScEng (Electrical and Electronic Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
This project developed a low-cost avionics system for a miniature helicopter to be used for research in the field of autonomous flight (UAVs). Previous work was done on a small, electrically powered helicopter with some success, but the overall conclusion was that the vehicle was underpowered. A new vehicle, the Miniature Aircraft X−Cell, was chosen for its ability to lift a larger payload, and previous work done with it by a number of other institutions. An expandable architecture was designed to allow sensors and actuators to be arbitrarily added to the system, based on the CAN standard. A CAN sensor node was developed that could digitize 12 channels at up to 16 bit resolution and do basic filtering of the data. Onboard computing was provided by a PC/104 based computer running Linux, with additional hardware added to interface with the CAN bus and assist with timing. A simulation environment for the helicopter was evaluated and shown to provide a good test bed for the control of the helicopter. Finally, the avionics was used during piloted test-flights to measure data and judge the performance of both the modified helicopter and the electronics itself.