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Vulture 2 autopilot reports for duty

Sexy open source kit to control LOHAN spaceplane

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As you can imagine, it's all go here at the Special Projects Bureau's mountaintop headquarters ahead of the imminent arrival of the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team.

Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphicBlokes in white vans have been bowling up to the door for the past month, their couriers' chariots disgorging boxes packed with kit, as we prepare for the landing of our Vulture 2 spaceplane.

Among the geekgasmic gadgets to emerge from the bubble wrap is our spaceplane's autopilot – the Ardupilot Mega 2.6 – known to its mates as the APM 2.6, and described as "a complete open-source autopilot system and the bestselling technology that won the prestigious 2012 Outback Challenge UAV competition".

And here it is, complete with the external 3DR GPS uBlox LEA-6 and compass unit, and power module. Sexy stuff:

The Ardupilot Mega 2.6, with GPS unit and power supply

Naturally, we need some bits to go with that, so feast your eyes on some other gear which recently popped through the letterbox (click on pic for a bigger version):

Servos, connectors and other bits for our Vulture 2

  1. Flexible cable snake
  2. Threaded pushrod
  3. Futaba S3016 servo (for canards)
  4. Spektrum A7020 digital wing servo (for rudders)
  5. 33A Brushless ESC
  6. Ball link control horn
  7. Large control horn
  8. Control horn
  9. Pushrod stoppers
  10. Ball link
  11. Servo tester
  12. Servo/autopilot connection leads
  13. V-tail mixer

Obviously, there are are four servos in total, and we took the precaution of getting a servo tester so we can put them through their paces in a standalone mode.

We've got far too may servo horns, but as we don't know which ones we're going to use, we got them as a "just in case" contingency. Ditto the pushrods and V-tail mixer – cheap kit which will come in useful if the need arises.

Overall, we reckon we've got just about everything we need, although one of these will be pretty handy too:

Our Futaba transmitter and receiver

That's a Futaba T6J 6-channel 2.4GHz transmitter, with a complementary Futaba 2006GS 6-channel receiver. When the whole avionics shebang is installed in the Vulture 2, we'll have a radio control capability for testing purposes, while the APM can operate the aircraft with complete autonomy.

Simple as that. Expect full details on how the installation pans out – punctuated no doubt by great deal of cussing – in due course.

Now if you'll excuse us, another white van man bearing gifts is knocking at the door... ®


Further LOHAN resources:

  • New to LOHAN? Try this mission summary for enlightenment.
  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • Join the expert LOHAN debate down at Reg forums.
  • All the LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vids live on YouTube.
  • For our SPB photo archive, proceed directly to Flickr.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

LOHAN - A Special Projects Bureau production in association with...

  • 3T RPD logo
  • University of Southampton logo
  • Applied Vacuum Engineering logo
  • Escher Technologies
  • Flashpoint Fireworks logo
  • HAB Supplies logo
  • Rock 7 logo

Paper Aircraft Released Into Space

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