Embry-Riddle Air University

                             Continuing support  for:                

  Requirements Definition

Material Support          

     Airframe Modification        

    Flight Test and Evaluation  


Laboratory Breadboard: This is the telemetry and guidance system set up for testing in the ERAU Laboratory. The communication was via radio modem directly to a laptop computer. Initial flight testing was required for proof of concept that the telemetry would function properly and that the aircraft could be controlled only by referencing the infra-red signature of the earths surface.

Makeshift Laboratory: Flight testing meant an aircraft and the two graduate students had brought two with them to my home. They both proved to be unsatisfactory so I got out my reliable motor glider video platform. It was a hectic afternoon getting everything installed and ground tested.

Pre-launch Checks: The telemetry is working and the infra-red control system just needs final adjustment. The last two photos are the launch from both perspectives, the ground and the aircraft.   

Flight Test: The flight tests went amazingly well considering the one-day window for assembly and testing. I had programmed both control functions on my transmitter so I could switch from their infra-red control system back to my direct link control system whenever I needed.    (7.5 MB)         

On-Board Video: This video clearly demonstrates the unsuitability of infra-red control systems except in clear sunny conditions. As the light failed so did the infra-red delta between the sky and the surface of the earth. This led to the "Dutch roll" or wobbling of the yaw axis. It rapidly grew worse until I was forced to return to direct control for the landing. However, the concept was proven and led to a tenfold increase in project funding for my friends for the next year. Mission accomplished (Sierra Hotel).   (8.5 MB)

Intermediate Objective: In a university environment such as Embry-Riddle Air University there is tremendous competition for scarce research funding. Teams of graduate students like these two that we helped have to prove themselves and their projects every year. These flight tests and video produced more exciting results than their competitors so they won the funding battle for this year. Their program now has 20 undergraduate software and hardware engineering students working diligently for credit hours. Their objective is to develop command and control hardware and software for cooperative UAV "Swarms" or "Flocks" so that a dozen or so UAVs could collectively do what it would take one UAV several days to do. In time-critical situations this will prove to be invaluable. We wish them every success.   ( 2.3 MB)



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