This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
by Christian Stewart March 30, 2012
Biology 9 Period 4 Ms. Pi Harvard-Westlake School Los Angeles, CA
Abstract Unmanned aircraft, commonly called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), when combined with ground control stations and data links, form Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs). UASs pose a wide variety of applications for civilian use, including imaging large areas for survey. I researched current UASs in use, and found no aﬀordable solutions suitable for civilian drone applications. The objective of the project was to design and develop a low-cost Autonomous Unmanned Aerial System (AUAS) capable of meeting the needs of civilian applications. The system was designed speciﬁcally for photographing interest areas for survey via a small ﬁxed wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. A list of requirements for the UAS was made. A design was created to conform to these requirements, and the components were acquired with some elements donated by their suppliers for development. The system was built to follow the design, and user-friendly Mission Control software was developed to allow real-time control and monitoring of the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). An experiment to verify the system’s capability to execute the sample application, Aerial Imaging for Survey, was devised. Interest areas were selected by an operator with the Mission Control software, and the drone was deployed under full autonomous control. Data measuring every aspect of the plane’s ﬂight, most importantly locational, airspeed, and altitude was electronically recorded. This test procedure was repeated with ﬁve diﬀering interest areas. Test ﬂights were executed at the Apollo XI model aircraft ﬁeld in Los Angeles on Febuary 13, 18, and 19. The data from each test was analysed by calculating the area imaged relative to the UAV, and then comparing this area to the original interest area for the ﬂight. This information was used to calculate the percent interest area imaged for each test. If a percent area imaged was greater than 100%, it was rounded down to 100%. The average percent area imaged was calculated to be 100%. The total cost of the system if deployed commercially ($594.36) was compared to the published cost of a comparable drone (Ocatron’s SkySeer) in commercial use ($25,000) and was found to cost $24,405 less than current solutions. The results of the experiment were analysed. It was concluded that the ﬁnal design was capable of meeting the needs of a common civilian application, and was extremely low-cost in comparison with other systems currently in use.
According to an article published by the Washington Times, February 7th 2012, the Federal Aviation Agency projects that 30,000 unmanned drones will be in the United States skies by 2020.  Unmanned aircraft, commonly called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), when combined with ground control stations and data links, form Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs). UASs pose a wide variety of applications for civilian use; they can take the place of manned vehicles in a variety of situations from scientiﬁc atmosphere studies to imaging terrain for survey. [13, 8, 7, 11, 10] The majority of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in use today were developed for large scale military and government applications. National spending on UASs has increased from $284 million in 2000 to $3.3 billion in 2010.[13, 14] These drones are extremely expensive, diﬃcult to build and maintain, and are not a viable solution for civilian use. A report published by NASA explores the capability and applications of civil UASs, and documents potential future civil missions for UASs based on user-deﬁned needs. Applications explored by the report range from land management to Earth science. One of the highest priority needs for civil UASs mentioned in the report was autonomous mission management, as well as quick deployment and high availability. Today, current UASs cannot oﬀer the required elements of civil applications, as they are very expensive, ranging from $25,000 to $30,300,000, and a majority of these drones do not oﬀer autonomous control. The goal of this project was to design and develop a low-cost Autonomous Unmanned Aerial System (AUAS) capable of meeting the needs of civilian applications.
Materials and Methods
Aerial Imaging for Survey was selected as a sample application for the objective design of the system. A list of requirements for the AUAS (Autonomous Unmanned Aerial System) was made. A design was created to conform to these requirements, and the required materials were acquired with some elements donated by their suppliers for development.
Aerial Vehicle Design
The aerial system was developed ﬁrst. The target airframe was of a ﬁxed-wing foam aircraft. After considering various airframes and electronics, a table of the ﬁnal equipment list was made, including each component’s commercial cost. The ﬁnal cost of the system was determined by calculating the sum of the commercial costs of each of the components, and was noted in a data table including the researched prices of comparable drones in use. Name ”Bixler” Airframe HXT900 Servo x4 Thunderbird-36 Purpose Base Airframe Control Servos Electric Speed Control Propulsion Motor Computer Control Vendor HobbyKing HobbyKing Castle ations Emax uThere CreCost $41.44 $8.97 $49.95 $25.95 Comment EPO Foam, Fixed Wing, 1400mm, Powered Glider Servos to move control surfaces. Speed control for motor.
2836-24 Brushless Inrunner uThere Ruby w/Sensors
Main motor to propel plane.
5.8ghz 200mw TX/RX
RMRC-PICO Camera 1300mah Turnigy Nano- Power Tech Li-Po Battery Source
Video Data-link 6-24v Camera
$345.00 Computer Controller to execute ground station commands. HobbyKing $64.90 Video transmitter and receiver for live video feed. ReadyMadeRC $48.99 Onboard camera for live video feed. HobbyKing $9.16 Battery to provide power to onboard electronics.
Figure 1: Airborne Equipment and Commercial Costs
Next, a ground station capable of real-time control and monitoring of the aircraft’s mission was designed. The ground station consisted of a Viore 8 portable TV for visualizing the live video feed, as well as two USB connections to a laptop running custom Mission Control software, which was based on the .NET Framework 4 for an interactive map display. Code was written to provide a easy to use interface for mission control, waypoint designation, interest area designation, and monitoring of essential telemetry received from the aerial system.
Figure 2: Screenshot of the Custom Mission Control software..
An experiment to verify the system’s capability to execute its mission was devised. Interest areas were input by an operator to the Mission Control software, and the aerial system was deployed under full autonomous control. Once airborne, the system was commanded to begin fully autonomous execution of imaging the interest area using the Mission Control software running on the laptop. The interest area imaging mission was conﬁgured to ﬂy at a constant 350 feet. Once the imaging was complete, the system was commanded to execute a fully autonomous landing. After each ﬂight, data ﬁles containing a history of every detail observed by the airborne control system were copied from a Mini-SD card removed from the controller. The test procedure was repeated with ﬁve diﬀering interest areas, during ﬁve test ﬂights on Febuary 13, 18, and 19 at the Apollo XI Model Aircraft Field in Los Angeles, California.
Figure 3: Site map of the Apollo XI Model Aircraft Field (image credit Google Maps)
Data corresponding to position and altitude was extracted from the data ﬁles and exported from uThere’s Ground Control (unreleased) and imported into the project’s custom software, where a computer algorithm calculated the area imaged. recorded locations = locations from data ﬁle area imaged = empty array of locations for all location in recorded locations do cameraview = orthographic circle (from top-down view) cameraview radius ← camera altitude area imaged += co-ordinates in imaged area end for
Figure 4: Area imaged algorithm outline.
The algorithm calculated the area imaged by iterating over each stored data point in order. For each stored data point, a top-down orthographic circle representing the view of the downward facing camera was calculated. A geometric proof was created to determine the radius of the camera’s view, which was visualized by creating a horizontal 2D triangle.
Figure 5: Right triangle representing camera geometric proof.
The top angle of the triangle had a measure of 90 degrees, as the camera’s ﬁeld of view is 90 degrees. The geometric altitude was drawn from the 90°vertex to the hypotenuse of the triangle, producing two right triangles. The horizontal leg of the resulting right triangle 5
represented the radius of the observed circle, while the vertical leg represented the altitude of the camera above ground. The two non-right angles were concluded to measure 45°, as the angle representing the 90°ﬁeld of view of the downward-facing camera was bisected to form two 45°angles, and the third must also measure 45°as the sum of the measures of the angles in a triangle is 180°, and 180 − 90 − 45 = 45. The triangle was therefore a 45°, 45°, 90°special right triangle, and thus its vertical leg was equal to the horizontal leg, and the hypotenuse was equal to the measure of either of the legs times the square root of two. This proof was applied to the known altitude and ﬁeld of view and altitude of the camera. Let altitude = x and the radius of observed circle = y. Due to the properties of the 45°-45°-90°triangle, it was concluded that x = y, and thus the altitude was equal to the radius of the observed circle. This calculation was used to determine the area imaged during the calculated data point using the formula A = π ∗ r2 . The resulting area measurement was applied to the positional data for that data point to determine the GPS coordinates of the imaged area to an accuracy of 0.001 degrees, or about 5.8 feet of terrain. This was repeated for each of the recorded data points. After processing all of the recorded data with the imaged area algorithm, the software removed co-ordinates from the imaged area array that were not a part of the original interest area (and thus eliminated the extra area imaged from the % image area calculation) and compared the co-ordinates of the original interest area with the co-ordinates of the imaged area. The percent interest area imaged was calculated using the formula % Interest Area Imaged = #imaged interest points/#total interest area points. This calculation procedure was repeated for each of the test ﬂights, and the results recorded in a table.
The system was consistently able to execute its mission, imaging more than 100% of the interest area during every test. From this information, we can deduce that the design was a success, capable of fulﬁlling it’s target application. Flight # Percent Interest Area Imaged 1 100% 2 100% 3 100% 4 100% 5 100% Date 2/13/2012 2/18/2012 2/19/2012 2/19/2012 2/19/2012
Figure 6: Percent Interest Area Imaged During Experiment
The most comparable UAS currently in use is the Ocatron SkySeer. When comparing the speciﬁcations of the SkySeer to the speciﬁcations of the proposed system, it can be seen that the two systems are very similar. Feature Ocatron Sky-Seer Proposed System GPS Navigation Yes Yes GPS Control Yes No Endurance (Mins) 50 minutes 30 minutes Weight (pounds) 4 1.5 Speed (knots) 21 21 Range (miles) 2 3.1 Pan (degrees) 160 140 Tilt (degrees) 90 45 Autonomous Flight Yes Yes Price (USD) $25,000 $594.36
Figure 7: Feature comparison of comparable reference system and proposed system.
Both are able to achieve autonomous control. According to fact sheets published by Ocatron, the extent of autonomous ﬂight in the SkySeer is to waypoint speciﬁcation and ﬂight. Although the proposed system is capable of this, it is also capable of generating these paths on its own, and modifying it’s ﬂight plan in real time. This poses an advantage as often conditions such as wind can vary the path of a small plane, which would require minute 7
changes to the ﬂight plan to eﬀectively image the target area. Both systems are capable of greater than two mile ﬂight range, as well as pan-tilt movement of the camera. Although both utilize GPS navigation, the SkySeer is also capable of GPS control links, something that is yet to be implemented in the proposed system. Endurance was greater for the SkySeer than the proposed system in testing, however a larger battery could easily extend the ﬂight time to more than an hour. System Name Vendor Name Price Point Proposed System Christian Stewart $594.36 SkySeer Ocatron $25,000.00 Wasp Aerovironment $49,000.00 Raven Aerovironment $173,000.00 Predator General Atomics $4,500,000.00 Grey Eagle General Atomics $8,000,000.00 Reaper General Atomics $30,300,000.00
Figure 8: Commercial Price Point of Proposed UAS vs. Estimated/Published Price Points of UASs in Use
The primary diﬀerence between the two systems is their price. The Ocatron SkySeer costs between $25,000 and $30,000, while the proposed system costs only $594.36. The total cost diﬀerence is approximately $25,405.64. The results of the experiment prove that the proposed system is capable of executing civil UAS applications, while fulﬁlling two of the high priority needs stated in NASA’s civil UAS capability report: high availability, at a low price point compared to current solutions, as well as autonomous mission management.
Figure 9: Chart representing price points of unmanned aerial systems currently in use.
The goal of the project was met; my low-cost Autonomous Unmanned Aerial System was capable of meeting the needs of civilian applications. As drones become more common and widely used, it is vital that work be done to extend them to the civil ﬁeld. In order for these drones to become practical for civilian applications, the needs outlined in NASA’s civil UAS capability document must be met, including high availability made possible by low costs, and autonomous mission management for regularity and ease of use. My experiment could have been improved by simulating a real-life scenario such as imaging a crop to record important information about it’s condition. Furthermore, more varied weather conditions could have been used to test the capability of the system’s auto path correct and replanning. Engineering the prototype system in collaboration with a potential end-user would allow me to ﬁnd crucial elements required by the user and implement them. There are many other hurdles that must be passed before civilian UASs are a reality, for example, regulations regarding UASs limit their ﬂight ceiling to 400 feet, a altitude which many UAVs must surpass in order to be eﬀective. Further controversy has arisen regarding what is legal for these systems to image, and where they are allowed to ﬂy. For example, UASs have become increasingly prominent in the ﬁlm industry, however complaints have been made when private property has been ﬁlmed intentionally or not. Working on this project has lead me to wonder about and research more potential applications for low-cost AUASs. These systems can be applied to many other needs such as crop dusting, animal tracking, and disaster response. The existence of these highly available solutions would drastically improve the eﬃciency and reduce issues faced by ﬁre ﬁghters facing a wild ﬁre, or humanitarian aid attempting to help those in distress. I hope to see these systems applied in civil ﬁelds in the future, as I see great potential in their assistance of mankind. This science fair project has inspired me to plan many more revisions and applications for my system, and to continue development of low-cost UASs in the future. I plan to apply 10
the theory of low-cost autonomous drones to more durable airframes capable of harsher environments such as the heat generated by a ﬁre or a volcano, as well as those capable of carrying the weight of heavy scientiﬁc equipment. I also plan to increase the range and ﬂight time of these systems, continually developing them to be more ﬁt for many civil applications. UASs are steadily becoming more prevalent in our world. I envision a future in which UASs are commonplace as a major piece of civilian activity, and plan to continue developing this idea to help usher in a world in which UASs are not just a matter of science ﬁction or national security, but a major part in our lives as helpful eyes in the sky.
 Bowes, Peter. ”High Hopes for Drone in LA Skies.” BBC News. BBC, 06 June 2006. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5051142.stm>.  Fernandez, Juan. ”Drones Now Being Used To Sell Pricey Southern Cali31 Oct. 2011. Web. 19
fornia Real Estate.” CBS News. CBS Interactive,
Mar. 2012. <http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/10/31/drones-now-being-used-to-sellpricey-southern-california-real-estate/>.  Gertler, Wired.com. Jeremiah. Conde ”Almost Nast 1 In 09 3 U.S. Jan. Warplanes 2012. Web. Is 20 a Mar. Robot.” 2012.
<http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/drone-report/>.  Johnson, Robert. ”FAA: Look For 30,000 Drones To Fill American Skies By The End Of The Decade.” Buisiness Insider. Buisiness Insider, 08 Feb. 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-02-08/news/31036604 1 dronesunmanned-aircraft-new-bill >.
 Mortimer, Gary. ”Los Angeles Sheriﬀ’s UAV Runs Headﬁrst into the FAA.” SUAS News, 22 June 2006. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.suasnews.com/2006/06/12963/losangeles-sheriﬀs-uav-runs-headﬁrst-into-the-faa/>.  Mortimer, Gary. ”Pygmy Rabbits Landscape.” SUAS News. SUAS News, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.suasnews.com/2012/02/12181/pygmy-rabbitslandscape/>.  ”MQ-1B PREDATOR.” Af.mil. United States Air Force, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=122>.  ”MQ-9 REAPER.” Af.mil. United States Air Force, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=6405>.  ”SkySeer.” Octatron. Ocatron. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.octatron.com/prodSkySeer.php>.  ”Pteryx UAV.” Trigger.pl. Trigger Composites. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.trigger.pl/pteryx/Pteryx-UAV.php>.  ”RQ-11B RAVEN.” Af.mil. United States Air Force, 14 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=10446>.  ”The Sky’s Eyes: Remote Sensing in Archaeology.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ubar/tools/>.  ”SkySeer UAV Drone Soars Over L.A.” Inventions and Ideas from Science Fiction Books and Movies. Technovelgy, 15 June 2006. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=654>.  ”UAC Commercial Applications Overview.” uavm.com. UAV MarketSpace. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://www.uavm.com/uavapplications.html>.
 United Timothy Warner.
Aeronautics J. and
Space Mark Agency.
Nasa.gov. and Mar.
By Ryan 2012.
<http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/pdf/111760main UAV Assessment Report Overview.pdf>.  ”WASP III.” Af.mil. United States Air Force, 14 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=10469>.  United Room. By States. Jeremiah Congress. Gertler. Congressional Wired, 3 Jan. Research 2012. Web. Service. 25 Mar. Danger 2012.
Figure 10: UAV in ﬂight.
Figure 11: Retrieving data from drone.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.