Feeds

Autopilot guides Texan plane home from a dizzying 30,000m

LOHAN choice ArduPilot Mega shows The Right Stuff

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

In some highly encouraging news for The Reg's Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team, a Texan high-flyer recently used the ArduPilot Mega (APM) 2.6 to guide a glider back to base from a heady 30,780m (101,000ft).

A still from the onboard camera during the flight of NTNS 4

Larry Grater's North Texas Near Space 4 (NTNS 4) aircraft hit around 790km/h in an "extended dive" before levelling out at roughly 16,460m, after which it "hit all waypoints and loitered down over the landing location". Larry then took control and landed the plane manually via First Person View (FPV), as the insert later in this video shows:

Tremendous stuff. AS LOHAN fans know, we've got a 3D Robotics APM 2.6 for our Vulture 2 spaceplane...

The Ardupilot Mega 2.6, with GPS unit and power supply

..and here it is temporarily bodged into the aircraft for servo testing purposes:

The APM mounted in the Vulture 2

Many of you have cautioned that getting the autopilot working properly is a extremely tricky business, especially since we have a supersonic, rocket-powered phase for our mission.

Agreeably, we were recently contacted by ArduPilot (the fixed-wing APM flavour) lead developer Andrew Tridgell - of Samba and Oz UAV Challenge fame - who put us in touch with Larry.

So, we've got some expert input on what is probably the most challenging part of the LOHAN project, apart from the small matter of getting a bloody rocket motor to fire at altitude.

There are others in the APM community working on the particular problems of stratospheric autopilot operations, so we're in good company.

To give an idea of what we're up against, here's Larry's outline of problems he encountered during the NTNS 4 flight: "Two major and several minor issues with software have been run to ground. Roll autopilot capture was delayed due to a coordinate system issue with pitch and roll rate feedbacks. Navigation bearing hunts around the waypoint bearing due to lack of pressure-altitude correction in wind estimate and bearing correction code."

We know you lot are as keen as we are to see the Vulture 2 take to the skies, but we're sure you'll agree a certain degree of caution is in order, as is a proper test programme.

As a prelude to that, we've been advised to kit out the spaceplane with a 3D Robotics digital airspeed sensor, which we'll do at the same time as sticking in the nose-mounted Raspberry Picam. These jobs impact on the aircraft's ongoing paintjob, so you'll have to bear with us as we tackle a plethora of parallel tasks.®


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
  • Random Engineering logo
  • Space Graphic Solutions logo
  • 3D Robotics logo

Paper Aircraft Released Into Space

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.