Testing continues…

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Final assembly, motor testing

We are now in the final stages of assembling our prototype for testing, and have been designing a mount for the flight controller and various sensors which we plan to use on our UAV. We have also managed to 3D-print a prototype motor mount and were happy to see that it fits on our existing frame. We now plan to complete the manufacturing of these motor mounts once minor modifications have been made. At the start of the project, we made a decision to go with a cheaper build-your-own kit versus an almost ready-to-fly solution due to cost and flexibility, but we now definitely appreciate the work which goes into development of ready-to-fly kits as we attempt to get our UAV up and flying with all the required components.

top_plate_asmWe also managed to test our motors last week, after many hours of soldering wires onto power distribution boards. It was definitely a nervous moment plugging the batteries in, and waiting to hear the beep indicating a successful power up!

Further development of our flight control software is also continuing, and we have been exploring how best to control our UAV in simulation, before transferring this knowledge to the craft itself.

Building and testing…

Work is continuing on our build, with virtually all parts now in our hands. We hope to have our craft up and flying within the next week, though testing of our station-keeping algorithms has been continuing on a smaller testbed. Parallel to this, development of updated flight control algorithms to fully utilise our frame configuration is in progress, though staring at lines of code for hours on end can certainly be a mind-numbing experience!

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Aerial cinematography workshop, ordering parts and testing

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One of the gimbals on show at the aerial cinematography workshop – it weighed quite a bit!

Last week we were able to attend an aerial cinematography workshop featuring some industry experts at AUT. This allowed us to gain some insights into some of the current issues facing operators, as well as learn about the process which is followed when a director wishes to include aerial shots in their latest film or commercial. It was interesting to note the differing requirements between commercial and film work, and to see how much UAV and gimbal technology has evolved over the years. It was also interesting to hear about the different equipment used, whether it be ready-to-fly packages such as the DJI Inspire 1, or more custom made equipment built from the ground up.

Most of our parts are now on the way to NZ, having been ordered early last week. We are using an octocopter for the C-Prize, as it seems to be a common configuration capable of carrying the large payloads required for filming. In the meantime, work has continued on integrating a RTK GPS with our flight controller, which we hope will give us improved accuracy.

Testing is also an important part of our development work, and we’ve been running some experiments with a quadcopter to determine the drag characteristics of UAVs, in the hope that this information can be used with wind speed sensing to reject gusts which may blow the UAV around. We’ve been using the Vicon motion capture system at the University of Auckland to record these experiments, and it’s proven to be an extremely valuable tool, as it enables us to capture the movement of the UAV extremely accurately. Check out our video below which shows one of our experiments animated using motion capture data.

LEAN Startup Workshop

Last week, some of the team also had the opportunity to attend an introductory workshop on LEAN Startup led by Nick Churchouse from Creative HQ on Thursday at AUT, which was a good chance to step away from the technical side of the C-Prize for a day and think about the commercial side of the project. It was an extremely valuable workshop, which highlighted the need for first-hand customer knowledge and feedback throughout the product development process.

In other news, the team has been working hard over the past couple of weeks on finalising a parts list, as well as integrating a few different sensors with our existing flying platform. It was nice to see some of the parts finally arriving, and it’s full speed ahead to get these up and flying as soon as possible!

C-Prize Finals Kick-Off

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C-Prize finalists (Photo credit: @CPrizeNZ https://twitter.com/CPrizeNZ/status/626543032762929152)

The second stage of the C-Prize kicked off last Thursday with an introductory session at AUT hosted by Callaghan Innovation. An overview of the competition over the next four months was shared, with some interesting workshops and events for the finalists to attend hosted by the NZ film industry and Creative HQ, prior to final testing and a pitch presentation at the end of November. Stay tuned for more!

Horizon UAV

Horizon UAV is comprised of one lecturer, five students and one alumnus from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Auckland.

The team is a finalist in the inaugural Callaghan Innovation C-Prize, which is focused on the development of next generation UAV technology for the screen industry in 2015. In particular, the team will be competing in the Marangai track, where the goal is to increase the UAV stability in the presence of external disturbances, such as wind gusts, to allow smoother shots to be obtained while filming.

Following submission of an initial proposal, the team has been selected as one of six finalists out of 80 entries, and are now working to develop a prototype for testing in November.