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Handsome young autopilot reports for spaceplane duty

LOHAN welcomes 3D Robotics' Pixhawk kit

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team this morning welcomed aboard a handsome young autopilot for our Vulture 2 spaceplane - the hot-off-the-press 3D Robotics Pixhawk.

3DR kindly offered to donate a couple of Pixhawks to the cause, after ArduPilot fixed-wing lead developer Andrew Tridgell suggested we'd benefit from the improved data-logging capabilities over our existing ArduPilot Mega (APM) 2.6.

So, here's what came out of the box after the delivery bloke in the white van had knocked at the door this morning:

The Pixhawk kit straight out of the box

  1. USB cable
  2. Power module for LiPo battery hook-up
  3. Connection guide stickers
  4. Safety switch*
  5. Connector cables
  6. PC splitter module
  7. Micro SD card USB adapter
  8. Mounting pads
  9. 4GB micro SD card and adapter
  10. Buzzer

A round of applause for 3DR for supplying an SD card, and the USB adaptor. Very handy. There are details on how the other bits work, including the status-singing buzzer, right here.

An absolutely essential additional peripheral is the unassuming uBlox GPS unit...

The 3D Robotics GPS module

...while an optional 3DR radio set will allow us to talk to the autopilot without the faff of connecting to it with a USB cable:

The 3DR radio kit

We've already tested the radio link with the APM 2.6, are here's the transmitter temporarily connected to the Vulture 2 ahead of the aircraft's forthcoming brain transplant:

The radio connected to the autopilot in the Vulture 2

As we noted last week, as well as swapping out the autopilot, we'll need to reorganise the avionics bay to accommodate a Raspberry Pi and nose-mounted Picam. There's also the matter of getting an airspeed sensor into the Vulture 2's extremely pointy beak, and LOHAN fans will recall that we still have to resolve the hot coupling issue for the plane's rocket motor heater.

That's quite a lot to be getting on with, especially in parallel with the ongoing Vulture 2 paintjob, but rest assured we still have plenty of quality teabags on hand to fuel our labours. ®

Bootnote

*Essential, we reckon, lest the improbable rack of electronics inside the Vulture 2 suddenly achieves Skynet-syle self-awareness and decides it'd be much better off without the LOHAN team.


More from the lovely LOHAN:

  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • If you're new to LOHAN, seek out our mission summary for enlightenment.
  • There are photos our our magnificent Vulture 2 spaceplane here, and detailed structural plans here.
  • For your further viewing pleasure, we have all our photographic material stored on Flickr.
  • Our LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) videos live on YouTube.
  • 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

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