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Final Report Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Commercial Hunter Program
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GPS Weapon Guidance System

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Josh Wood, Max Tonsi, Gavin Goodson

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Caruth Institute for Engineering Education Lyle School of Engineering SMU, Dallas, Tx May 134, 2010
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1. Background
In Fall 2009, the Marine Corps approached engineering students at several universities with an intriguing proposition. Students of multiple disciplines and backgrounds were split up into teams and told asked to disrupt a specific military scenario in essence, to play the bad guys . Using only an internet connection, a basic engineering background, and assuming an unlimited budget, students were encouraged to think outside the box and use consumer off the shelf products to create sources of mission interference. A group of SMU students proposed a GPS missile guidance system.
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Essentially, tThe students used a frequent and currently used terror tactic as the source of their COTS disruption. Insurgents in hostile areas are using basic trigonometry and ballistic physics to aim unguided rockets at specific targets. Due to a number of factors, including wind and propulsion inconsistencies, these attacks very rarely hit their intended targets. If this accuracy could be increased even slightly by adding a relatively inexpensive GPS guidance process, these attacks could instantly become more devastating. With information about GPS and autonomous flight abundant on the internet, it is not difficult to understand why this is a very possible threat. A cheap

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solution to retrofitting existing missile tech in hostile areas could be devastating, so it is very viable information to know whether this capability is possible.

The initial report made by these students was a generic application of GPS technology; it did not include design details or an in depth analysis of the processes behind the technology. In January of 2010, SMU engineering students were once again asked to be of service by prototyping this technology.
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but also as a knowledge base. offering beginners guides.com was the most novice-friendly of these websites. links to simple hardware platforms and sample software. the research conducted for this project was performed using only the internet(and limited to websites that did not require any login credentials or any other registry information). Research One of the key ideas of this project is the influence of the internet not only as a source to purchase materials from. Formatted: Line spacing: single Formatted: Font: +Body The research required for this project can be categorized into two components. there exist a number of websites that are dedicated to this burgeoning technology. The ArduPilot autopilot hardware board was chosen based on several key factors. It boasted a feature list that encompassed all of the functionality we required: y Programmable 3-D waypoints the ability to pre-program destinations was key.2. component. Therefore. 4 . as we can then translate destination points into targets y Altitude control via elevator/throttle the elevators can be remapped to the horizontal control canards allowing for elevation assistance and potential range extension y y y GPS interface for EM406A GPS the board includes the desired GPS interface Battery powered a must for portable electronics such as a rocket Small (30mm x 47mm) easily fits into the body tube of our chosen commercial model rocket y Extensive sample code repository code variations to assist in our debugging process The feature set on this hardware platform gave us a cost-effective autopilot system. In correlation with the recent surge in interest of autonomous electronics. and discussion boards with troubleshooting. DIYDrones. The first issue to tackle is the notion of autonomous flight using GP as the key guidance S. The community support of this website and the hardware it promotes was probably the key factor in our decision to go with one of their platforms.

however. Information about model rocketry is abundant online. The original commercial hunter report suggested a simple modification of existing rocket systems to add a method of guidance. but still very reasonable. DIY drones. A Google search quickly led us to a website complete with instructions to build a radio controlled rocket.With the basic research for autonomous GPS flight taken care of. even has educational lesson plans and physics demonstrations available for free for teachers to download. our original design plan was to merge these two concepts into a GPS guided rocket. we chose to modify existing model rockets to attempt to achieve this goal. Information on modifying existing rockets was slightly more difficult to come by. This included complete assembly instru ctions. 3. There was enough information on this website to fully construct a radio controlled rocket. the focus shifted to how to apply it to a weapons system. an industry -leading model rocket manufacturer. the interfacing of the motors that control these surfaces with a GPS guidance system has multiple solutions. so we felt that no additionalresearch for adding control surfaces to rockets was necessary. Original Design Plan Based on our research on autonomous. offers up several alternative autonomous hardware choices and references to others that exist that aren t sponsored by DIY drones directly. Estes. The addition of control surfaces to a rocket enjoys little variation between design. The instructions for adding motor control Formatted: Font: +Body 5 . Our primary research website. a detailed wiring diagram for a circuit that eliminates longitudinal body roll and several pictures of the operational set-up. GPS controlled motors from the DIY Drones community and Radio Controlled model rockets. from how to build your own to mixing and creating rocket engines to launch procedures. in this vein.

The circuit that changes the CDS photocell resistance into different pulse widths for the servo is a simple 555 timer that can be assembled on an experimenter's circuit board. Due to the nature of the testing that would be required of this system (approximately 15 unrecoverable launches would require the construction of at least 15 of these rockets) we chose to apply these control surface elements to an existing model rocket.and roll stabilization to the rocket were somewhat clear. any up command will translate to down . we took as many design elements from the pre-existing R/C controlled rocket as we could. 12 pt The method we use to gain roll stability is simple and works well. Formatted: Font: +Body. so initially just the GPS hardware required interfacing and extensive modification. 6 . Therefore. A control circuit is used to sense the sun and generate pulses sen to a t model servo to correct any roll. Then the operator can concentrate on guiding the rocket by the joystick on the transmitter. Eliminating this roll is the key to a successfully guided flight. It requires launching only on a clear day with the sun low on the horizon. One of the potential issues with attempting to navigate a rocket in mid -flight is the possibility of roll along the longitudinal axis if the rocket rotates 180 degrees. and rudder controls will be reversed as well. and the online plans we discovered had an elegant solution for solving this problem.

a 68k. the servo must move the control surfaces so as to turn the rocket back to keep the sunlight on half the cell. 12 pt If you are firing the rocket vertically it is best to shoot when the sun is low on the horizon during morning or evening.01. a silicon diode (276 -1122). and the proper connectors for your make of servo. . Photo roll stabilizer circuit Formatted: Font: +Body.2.1. 1/4 watt resistor. Other parts are . If light totally floods 7 . a CdS cell (276116). 12 pt There are several boards to choose from at Radio Shack.Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 3. Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 3. Set upthe launch pad so the sun shines onto half the photocell thru the window in the body tube.22 and 10 mf capacitors. Roll stabilizer circuit diagram Formatted: Font: +Body. As the rocket turns.

Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 3. The CDS cell we used to replicate this system had a 8 . it should roll to be half-lighted again. some of the parts theyused in their design were discontinued.the cell. Roll stabilizer window and control surfaces Due to the age of the website containing these instructions. it should roll back to be half -covered. If it is shaded entirely.3.

5. this circuit was copied and initially verified as functi nal. Light-sensing roll stabilizer circuit With roll stabilization addressed. which had to be accounted for in the circuit design. Other than that issue.4. we decided to emulate the RC rocket it was a proven design (according to the website s author). o Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 3. For the control surfaces. and would 9 . Modified design using existing model rocket Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 3. attention then turned to recreating the RC rocket and modifying the ArduPilot hardware.smaller internal resistance.

We developed the autopilot software while assuming we had functional radio control of the control canards.therefore possibly save us some development time compared to devising our own system. The best approximation can be obtained by simply looking at the photo the author provided. as the non -uniformities of our manufacturing process became more and more evident. R/C rocket layout The software modifications we decided to implement on the ArduPilot board were intuitive for the application of model rockets as weapons. The same process was applied to the elevators. this allowed for the alignment of the development schedules of both systems. remapping them to the horizontal canards. It is these linkages that would prove to be the most complex mechanical design element. Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 3.6. The website for the R/C rocket lacked detail when describing the linkag between the es front servo motors and the control canards. 10 . Using a fully fu nctional sample code provided on the DIY drones website (originally configured to an inexpensive Styrofoam model aircraft). we simply remapped the rudder controls on the autopilot to the vertically-oriented control canards on the rocket.

By raising our maximum potential flight range. 4. An increase in motor size would significantly increase the required testing real estate. we constructed a basic electronics tray much like what would eventually go inside the body tube of the rocket. Therefore. Formatted: Font: +Body 11 . Since our launches were going to be around 50 degrees from the ground. Navigation Control and Testing The first phase of testing consisted of confirming the functionality of the initial hardware purchase. The notion of testing this illegal guided weapon system raises several logistical complications. which is one size smaller than what the rocket was originally designed to handle. we decided to power the unguided and guided rockets with a D size engine capable of 20 Newton seconds of thrust. maximum altitude when launched straight up. for this test. most notably testing locations.There is one last item of note regarding the design of our modified rocket system. These were connected to the rudder/elevator-OUT ports on the GPS-interface ArduPilot board. we wired the board up as per the assembly instructions page on the ArduPilot website. This engine/rocket combination was rated for a 600 ft. Two servo motors were added. we needed a radius of approximately 1000 ft in all directions. we were only concerned with accurate motor turning and proper direction of turn. For this. From there. but not attached to any control fins. it would severely limit the number of testing sites within a reasonable geographic distance. so the decision to use the D engines was made. with the R/C control coming through the proper IN ports.

testing method was quickly revised upon further analysis of the code. The source of wind was originally an array of seven ducted fans powered by DC power supplies. as the location resolution and refresh rate of the GPS was not high enough to obtain a quality bearing determination at walking speeds. The original construction plan consisted of a 6 x2 x2 chamber with a transparent side and lid for easy observation and to eventually test the roll stabili er sun sensitivity. the GPS output our coordinates successfully. Wi T el Te i ¦ ¦ ¥  ¥ ££ progra e waypoint an obser e the ser o motor movement for the rudder. The feasibility of this construction was quickly nixed. This would require the construction of a wind tunnel. as the power needed for 12   Due to the unrecoverable nature of our design. simulation is a key component in testing. we programmed a new waypoint and hit the freeway to obtain solid GPS data. In order to realistically test the two main areas of our design (in -flight longitudinal roll stabili ation and controllable fli ht via canards) we needed to simulate the high speed g flight of the rocket. To solve this. Wiring for RC/ S Tes For   tt For tt : Font: +Body ¡   § ¨ : Font: +Body  .1. This ¦ ¥ ¥ ¤£ Our original thought was to si ly obtain a GPS lock an walk aroun relati e to a pre - ¢ Figure 4.  §  §§ © 5. At highway speeds.

Original wind tunnel design Formatted: Left In the spirit of the commercial of the shelf theme of this project. - 13 . To circumvent this issue. which would blow any normal circuit if two or more were connected at start up. The electric leaf blowers each draw 10 amps. and a standard 120V AC plug. 175 mph) would require enough power supplies to fill a room. In an attempt to avoid significant power-related issues in our wind tunnel construction. we hit a minor snag. Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 5.the fans to output the required wind speed (approx. The model we chose boasted a 210 mph wind speed.1. a 2 way speed selector switch. we opted instead to power the wind tunnel with readily available electric leaf blowers.

we manually manipulated the control surfaces located in the rear stabilizer fins during this test. we first decided to fire up the wind tunnel while empty. 14 . The next test would determine if our roll stability would work in flight conditions. The rocket was mounted so that it could rotate freely around its longitudinal axis. At full speed. With a solid wind speed. At full speed. while the remaining two would be connected to outlets in two separate buildings. With this change we were obtaining wind speeds of 135 mph where the nose of the rocket would be. This would greatly reduce the effect of air resistance on the control flaps. For our testing procedure. shorter filter was constructed out of ¾ PVC pipe. the rocket maintained its shape. thus limiting the system s roll-correcting ability. There was significantly less air flow at the rear of the chamber. Our initial laminar air filter design proved too restrictive. This test would determine the general structural integrity of the modified rocket body with control fins attached. where the tail fins were located. they did not provide any rotational force on the rocket. this way we could get wind speed readings throughout the chamber.5 of the blowers would be powered by a large generator. we then mounted the rocket inside the chamber. so a wider.

Instead. which is explained by the fact that our rocket had three stabilizer fins (compared to the four in the template we were following).Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 5. Roll Stabilizer test setup We reconfigured the tail section to be further toward the front of the wind tunnel chamber. thus increasing the wind exposure of the control flaps. we noticed a pattern. as to maximize the effect of the weight on limiting the roll of the rocket. To combat th is. we added weight at the tip of the bottom fin.2. This creates a weight imbalance. We again experienced little to no rotational influence cause by the control flaps. creating a natural tendency to have two fins on at the bottom and on at the top. 15 .

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and by shifting the batteries to the bottom of the tray. Weighted fin. Our final wind tunnel test was to confirm the ability of the front canards to steer the flight of the rocket. so that we could manually drive the rocket while in the wind tunnel.For With this weight added. There was potential for more wind tunnel testing before we starting our production. the weight influence caused the rocket to stay properly oriented effectively.5 lines 0 For )( '& )( '& tt For tt : Font: Calibri : Normal. we significantly lowered the cross-sectional center of gravity. we decided that we could conquer the roll stability issue with a simple re distribution of weight. For tt tt tt : Font: +Body : Left : Line s acing: 1. we configured the canard control motors into the RC mode. Left. and therefore we had a limited window to do our testing. Though we experienced some dead zones when trying to maneuver the rocket through the airstream. Line s acing: single . For this.5. the canards functionality was convincingproven. 17 0 For )( '& )( '& )( '& Figure 5. In the high wind conditions. but the generator used to power the leaf blowers was rented. Fom r there.

The results can be found below in the test results section. For the first set of tests. The results were 18 .6.Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 5. a noticeable jump in range is achieved. but with the extended burn of the rockets. we felt that a higher trajectory would extend the range and flight time considerably. Free-moving wind tunnel guidance 6. It was assumed that this would maximize range. we continued with nine more (10 total) launches with this configuration in relatively similar wind speeds. Therefore. We set up our launch pad and anemometer and determined a launch direction. At 60 degrees. we launched a rocket at a 45 degree angle from the ground. we were simply attempting to gain unassisted ballistic launch data. Flight Tests Our flight test plans began with choosing an appropriate location to perform these potentially dangerous activities. Formatted: Font: +Body We then attempted a guided launch with the same setup and a GPS destination set to the right of where the average unguided launch landed. We settled upon a ranch in rural Oklahoma. Using D engines in unmodified rockets (save for weighting the nosecones to ensure a strong ballistic trajectory). with enough flat land to safely test and keep our rockets in a reasonable range of visibility.

. we attempted four more guidance test launches. 19 . Unguided launch w/ anemometer The largest off the shelf available rocket engines is size E which has a maximum thrust of 40 Newton Seconds. With this data recorded. control canards.underwhelming. as we had grossly underestimated the impact of the added weight of the electronics tray. We reestablished our range difference (between guided and unguided) by launching two unguided. unloaded rockets with size E motors. The first guided flight managed only 25 yards or so. The pu rpose of these was originally to establish a maximum loaded rocket range as well as fine -tune the control loops involved in the guidance process. and batteries. which is what o Our rockets were originally intended to use E size rockets for propulsion.1. We decided to return the next week with larger engines. Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 6.

in their current configuration. The point repeatedly confirmed throughout our fully loaded rocket launches is that these rockets. but it was our last day of testing. these boards were not holding their states as reliably as the initial 3 boards we purchased from the manufacturer. for their new weight. The flight times we recorded were in the range of four to six seconds. It is also important to know that. The data from these launches is below.The team came to the conclusion that the system was not operating properly. this truncated in -flight duration allows for only 3-4 potential course corrections. are still significantly underpowered. the ArduPilot boards were unreliably switching between operating modes. unfortunately. Of the ten remaining launches for the fully configured guided rockets. we experienced mechanical (improper alignment when glue dried) and electrical (ArduPilot board simply would not power on) issues on two of them. and we needed to acquire some comparable data. which is far lower than our original prediction of 30. Our rockets were only designed to operate when the autopilot board is in Waypoint mode. This left us with eight rockets that were available for a viable launch. Formatted: Font: +Body 20 .

The firstlaunch behaves as an outlier because it was before we adjusted the launch angle from 45 degrees to 60 degrees. Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Line spacing: 1.45 meters.1. The CoM tagged icon is the center of mass of the landing zones. Unguided Launch Info Below is the application of these GPS landing coordinates into the GoogleEarth® program. 21 1 . Unguided Flight Results The following table shows the GPS location information for the launch station and the subsequent 11 unguided launches.7. The standard deviation of this landing data is 27. lines Formatted: Font: +Body Table X7.

several of these flights experienced inconsistencies that are worth noting. This result d in a e roughly 30 degree ballistic angle vs. Unguided rocket landing zone spread 8. 22 2 . lines Flight F one of the tail fins became detached loose in the transportation process.1.Formatted: Font: +Body Figure 7. the launch stand began to fall down at the exact moment G was being launched. the ideal 60 degree angle. Also. ed Note the significant difference in the range of an unburdened rocket with a D size engine vs. Guided Flight Results Formatted: Font: +Body The following table denotes the landing GPS coordinates for the guid test launches. the fully equipped guided rocket with the more powerful E engine. Formatted: Line spacing: 1. Flight G one of the more mechanically sound rockets we produced.

1. Table 8. basically launching M nearly vertical directly up. . we ended up having the launch rod angle too high. the control linkages and canards were interfering with one another prior to launch. and the rocket was missing its top flight rail guide Flight M in an attempt to compensate for the wind issues. Guided Launch Info Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Line spacing: 1. lines 23 3 .Flight I Mechanical issues plagued flight I.

lines 24 4 .1.Figure 8. Guided rocket landing zone spread Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Line spacing: 1.

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but did not cover enough distance to self -correct. Formatted: Font: +Body Another significant factor in the discussion of s ources of error lies with the variation in manufacturing of these rockets.2. the flight times have not been long enough to determine if the weight distribution effectively limits the body roll. 27 . variability was impossible to limit given the number of rockets constructed and the complexity of the control system we were attempting to create. Unfortunately. The wind-tunnel testing earlier in the schedule provided a certain degree of confidence that a simple weight re-distribution could eliminate or severely reduce longitudinal roll during flight.Figure 8. however. and the holes cut for the canard axels did not stay round for very long. The cardboard tubes we were using had a significant amount of give and flex. the rocket rotated almost immediately after leaving the launch guide rod. tray locking mechanisms. this characteristic was inconclusive during our test flights. and other areas. the GPS guided rocket design was susceptible to several sources of error. On multiple occasions. custom fabrication was required to successfully modify these model rockets. From the electronics tray to the control canards and steering linkages. From the testing done so far. This led to inconsistencies in axel placement. Our decision to modify an existing rocket system for our prototyping was also potentially detrimental to the design. Design Critique As a complete system. control arm throw distances. Cumulative test data Formatted: Font: Times New Roman Formatted: Font: +Body 10. Working with these existing rockets also made construction very tedious.

To counter this. This would provide roughly 30 course corrections over the flight of the rocket. This We originally did not find issue with a 1Hz update rate. we have determined what has and has not worked. the EM406A. The hobby rocket platform was severely limiting in what designelements we could integrate into it. Our next approach would be to actually incorporate the su n-sensing roll stabilizer with a modified weight distribution. the flight time still stands as a large barrier to our progress. The most significant of these is the overall platform from which to prototype this guidance system. has a 1Hz update r ate. Next Steps At this point in the project. the roll stabilization syste needs an overhaul. a test flight) is so small. Formatted: Font: +Body Building upon a custom platform. It is difficult to pinpoint the sources of error when the test sample (in this case. A custom designed rocket would solve a significant amount of the manufacturing issues (primarily the repeatability and interchangeability of processes). the next logical step in the design process is to design a rocket from scratch. the future plans should most certainly include a more powerful engine. as the desired flight time was to be around 30 seconds. Though it has been mentioned repeatedly throughout this report. and what areas of improvement are required. From the team s perspective. 28 . 11. The GPS that the ArduPilot board was designed for. Unfortunately. the rockets were unable to receive more than a few course corrections per flight. due to the severe overestimation of flight time.The last significant source of potential design flaw is linked to the GPS update rate. m Where our initial wind tunnel tests provided a reasonably high confidence level in the weight/balance modification solution. it became clear that addition systems were needed.

both friendly and foe. With more testing and design revisions. Some of the inconsistencies we experienced on the hardware/software side of this project can be addressed through the use of hard-coding and persistent connections. Instead of focusing on how to disrupt this system after it has been launched. 12. patience. The current system was rigged to be toggled by an RC controller. 29 5 . Countermeasures One of the aspects that makes GPS guided weapons so troublesome is the ability to fire and forget this basically means that once the trigger is pulled. autopilot hardware). GPS signals would need to be blocked in the area of interest. This would require the monitoring of large purchases of hobby gear (servo motors. lines avenues to go about stopping a weapon of this type. Formatted: Font: +Body 13. we sug gest interfering before the first prototype is even built. and a great deal of resources. there are very few Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Line spacing: 1. engines. This action would render all GPS useless though.The last notable redesign element is to improve the electronics configuration. The notion of adding such a precise level of control to an existing platform calls for a great deal of ingenuity. this is a distinct possibility. Feasibility of Deployment Our experiences with developing this system led us to a series of conclusions about the feasibility of retrofitting GPS guidance onto existing missile systems. as well as screening the community interactions for any suspicious conversations. To be able to disrupt or confu a se GPS guided autonomous missile. with no internal timer or mechanism to initiate guidance at a specific point in flight. but that it is also a very difficult accomplishment. Our team strongly believes that this capability is in fact possible.

the surveillance of potential testing sites could potentially thwart this threat. much less 15 launches. It is difficult to hide a missile launch. Therefore. the nature of this type of system lends itself to significant amounts of testing.Lastly. 30 .

as a rocket testing range Mike s Hobby Store for prompt hobby component orders and great customer service Hobby Town USA for providing timely rocket engine restocking and lessons in removing the ejection charge of said engines 31 .for providing this opportunity to assist them in their missions to defend and protect this Nation Formatted: Font: +Body Formatted: Font: +Body. Acknowledgements Formatted: Font: +Body We would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations for their contributions: Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. as well as his ho me. 12 pt Nathan Huntoon for his guidance and support throughout all phases of this project Kristine Reiley for the constant trips to the hardware store and judicious use of her Chevrolet Extended Cab Pickup Mel Lively for the use of his land.14.