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Tiltrotor RC/UAV Answered

So I posted this as a question a day ago, but I thought I might get a better discussion going here. The simplified version is that a friend and I are looking at designing a tiltrotor UAV or RC vehicle. As we are college students we don't have the disposable income that some people do, so we'll probably stick to a small RC vehicle just for the hell of it. Anyway, some ideas we've had for the project:

Folding for storage (see this link for reference: http://sportscarforums.com/gallery/data/748/v22_folded.jpg )
Coaxial rotor blades (unsure if this will have any affect during STOL but should help with VTOL
Ducted Fan (a standard ducted tail rotor to provide the torque to keep the craft from rotating with the blades)
Separate Batteries (dedicated batteries per each rotor, failing that, one large one for all systems)

Auto-Hover (depending on the approach, I may be able to write a script to maintain a certain motor power level)
Auto-Pilot (just basic stuff, like flying patterns and such, perhaps make it able to land itself when in VTOL)

Additional: (totally unnecessary but cool nonetheless)
Laser-Directional Microphone
Laser Range Finder

So anyone have any suggestions? We were hoping to make this a reasonable size, as in the length of the fuselage being anywhere around 3 ft


Have you talk to people at www.diydrones.com? It is an awesome resource for building all kinds of UAVs. Part, suppliers, design, software and how-to guides.

If you are on a budget and this is your first go at building UAVs you might want to start with a small fixed wing before going into more complex systems like VTOL. Allot of parts can be re-purposed from one build to the next and the first build will grant you valuable experience.

I've looked at the site a bit, browsed through some of their projects and products. I'm not worried about the complexity of the task. I've experience working with 3 different robotics and 4 different programing languages, and have in fact programed something akin to an auto-pilot feature (although it was for ground vehicles). The first goal is to make it modular in such a way that we can start with it being a simple rc vehicle and later upgrade it to a UAV. The RC part is easy, the upgrading will come when we have some extra disposable income. It may also be worth a mention that we will be getting advice/help from my Uncle who has 20+ years of working on black hawks and is currently designing parts for them.

In that case I doubt you will have much problems :)

A thought that we had today was to use a "test frame" of sorts. Basically just a frame without all the aesthetics. Even if it doesn't have actual wings for STOL capabilities we could see something similar by tilting the rotors at 45 degrees and simulate STOL flight. The idea actually came from this instructable:

As you can see it is hardly aerodynamic, and lacks wings for STOL flight yet manages because the rotors don't have to be tilted all the way down to achieve something similar.

Basically, we thought a frame that we could just bolt stuff onto would be a cheap testbed that would stand a reasonable chance of mimicking what the actual version should do. Thoughts?

Seeing as you're the only one who either cares enough or is interested enough to comment on this project maybe you'd be willing to contribute to the idea pool or such?

A workhorse test frame is a good idea. Keep in mind that it will crash. Allot. Try to make the frame such that it fails in predictable ways so as to protect the expensive stuff like cameras and such. If possible try to make the failure prone pieces easily replaceable.

Between your and your uncle's experience I really doubt I could be of much help except with general ideas.

The idea behind the frame was something inexpensive and robust enough to survive the crashes. I don't think we'll mount any of the accessories to the frame though. Instead, it will be solely dedicated to the testing of the flight systems. Once we have those fully functional then we can consider mounting the additional accessories to the frame.