Canadian Competition After a Lovely Little Dip

So after a very lengthy period of not posting, it is time for Canadian Competition again. Right now we are on our way to Southport, Manitoba, rocking to skipping music tracks and testing electrical components. So why are we testing components, well yesterday we decided to let the plane take a dip at the pond adjacent to our flying field.

Rijesh and Mark pulling the plane out of the pond

It was a fun adventure pulling this fellow out of the lake. We were experiencing intermittent Radio Control(RC) loss while in the air. Some on ground range testing would have been wise, but fortune favours the bold. Apparently not. The plane lost RC and crashed into the lake. Our Airframe is in fairly decent shape. The landing gear is a goner but the plane took the crash well. Our Avionics box filled with itself up with water. We have two switching voltage regulators that were built as a capstone project, and thankfully those shorted and blew up fairly quickly. Our telemetry radio has a few scorch marks on it, so it is probably pushing up daisies. Apart from that the rest of the electronics seem fine. Contrary to popular belief water isn’t that extensively damaging to circuitry. As long as the water is not filled with excessive dissolved solvents the water actually acts as an insulator.

Thanks to Mark’s steadfast work, we have a second airframe ready to go. We should be able to remake the Avionics box, with a few adjustments to accommodate a new radio and possibly and new autopilot board. Our current Autopilot board uses something called a PPM encoder which takes the signals from all the channels of the RC receiver and converts it into a single pulse signal. If this is fried we may or may not decide to transition to a Lisa/M 2 autopilot board. This board has a built in receiver. Using this board will require us to reconfigure our autopilot software. Since we are not using any autopilot stabilized flight, this would not actually benefit us. At this competition, however, we were only planning on flying the plane via RC. The original autopilot board without the ppm encoder will still allow us to fly, take photos, geo-reference images, and monitor the plane’s telemetry.

Looking back it seems like our intermittent RC issues may have been due to a metal cowl we added to the plane. We have eliminated faulty hardware and brown outs as possible causes.

This year, we are bringing a second team to the competition – Team Murphy. They’re a subgroup of UAARG composed of fourth year students designing a small lightweight UAV for their capstone project. All fourth year engineering students take part in a yearlong project, where they apply what they have learned from a variety of their courses. They had some very promising results in there test flight yesterday. They managed to retrieve very clear images and find some targets we set up on the ground, giving some good data for the georeferencing part of their system.

The van was just now filled with everyone on a laptop coding and working away on something or another, save the driver.