Feeds

LOHAN's handsome young autopilot springs into life

Pixhawk, lights, Picam, action

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

It's been a couple of weeks since the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team took delivery of a brand-spanking new 3D Robotics Pixhawk autopilot for the Vulture 2 spaceplane, and we've now whipped out our original ArduPilot Mega (APM) 2.6 and hooked up the new kit for a quick test.

Here's the Pixhawk up and running while we attempted to work out just where all the bits and pieces are going to sit...

The Pixhawk and peripherals roughly laid out in the Vulture 2 fuselage

...and here's the same snap with a few parts marked for those of you not acquainted with the autopilot:

Annotated view of Pixhawk parts inside the Vulture 2

  1. LiPo cables
  2. Radio transmitter
  3. Power module
  4. Pixhawk
  5. Buzzer
  6. GPS/compass
  7. Safety switch
  8. Canard servos

With the beast powered and transmitting via the 3DR radio set, we were able to confirm a comms link to the flight planner software, which in turn told us all was well with the autopilot, GPS and compass:

Screen grab of the mission planner with Pixhawk connected

The radio hook-up is essential for our purposes. If you cast your eyes over this fetching portrait of the naked Vulture 2...

The components of the Vulture 2 laid out

...you can see that the avionics bay has an upper lid, the rear of which forms part of the bayonet joint attaching the nose to the rear fuselage/wing assembly.

That's a tight fit - as indeed it should be - so once the lid's on and the aircraft's assembled, it's a real faff dismantling everything to get at the avionics.

Accordingly, a couple of things needed to be outside the aircraft, namely the Pixhawk safety switch and its amazing technicolour LED dreamlamp. The former is what you press to enter a "ready to arm" state once the autopilot's fired up. The latter indicates autopilot status.

Handily, 3DR had promised customers an external LED for just such circumstances, and kindly sent over a hot-off-the-press example so we could get down to business. These snaps show more of of our provisional kit layout work earlier in the week (including a first fit of the Raspberry Pi Model A and heroic Playmonaut), and the LED and safety switch attached to the fuselage:

The Pixhawk roughly laid out in the Vulture 2, with Raspberry Pi board and Playmonaut

The Pixhawk safety switch and external LED mounted on the Vulture 2 fuselage

Also in the box was an airspeed sensor kit, which took a bit of wrangling into the Vulture 2's pointy beak...

The airspeed sensor and board connected by tubes inside the Vulture 2 nose

...and a nerve-wracking nose job to create a nostril though which to pass the air-sucking proboscis:

The airspeed sensor protruding from the Vulture 2 nose

With all that boxed off, the moment arrived to install the Picam for the aforementioned Raspberry Pi, which will be handling mission photo/video duties.

The airspeed indicator probe and the Picam lens protruding from the Vulture 2

The camera peers out from the underside of the aircraft's nose, meaning that its view will be more or less horizontal during ascent and launch phases, when the Vulture 2 will be slung at an angle of 20 degrees from vertical on the fantastical flying truss. Trust us, it all makes perfect sense.

The Pi will also have a Radiometrix NTX2 transmitter to dispatch live images earthwards, GPS unit and accelerometer. It's all tried-and-trusted stuff, courtesy of Pi-in-the-sky guru Dave Akerman.

So, we're currently attempting to assemble a 3D jigsaw puzzle of avionics in such a way that stuff is solidly mounted, but also accessible should the need arise. As an example, the Pi will sit above the canard servos, but has to be whip-out-able if the servos require attention.

In addition to what we're already fettling, we have to throw into the mix some Styrofoam insulation, the extra Pi bits, R/C receiver, batteries for both Pixhawk and Pi, and one of Anthony Stirk's PAVA minitrackers.

Despite the tight squeeze, we have promised our beloved Playmonaut a decent seat, as is only right and proper. ®


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

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.