Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Airframe success at Popham Beach

Last Friday Foster and I hiked the 80 miles down to Popham beach from home base in Waterville to capture aerial photos. We hoped to document the changes in flow of the tidal Morse inlet which has been drastically eroding the beaches protective sand dunes. We programmed the autopilot to fly above the tidal inlet while taking a vertical picture every few seconds. The plane flew just around 2 kilometers in automated flight mode at an average speed of 68 km/h. The two minute flight felt an order of magnitude longer as we passed over control to the autopilot and anxiously awaited the planes safe return. The plane flew great and we got some interesting data. With our new 5 amp battery our plane will be able to complete hour long mapping missions covering at least 30 times the area of this photo mission.

Here's a low quality version of the 33 image Popham mapping compilation. We will georeference this compilation on the digital globe using ArcGIS software and compare to older aerial and satellite photos.

Here's a zoomed in snapshot of the facility in the east end of the parking lot from our high quality version. This is an example of the image quality we can feasibly capture during mapping missions.

To many Popham Beach enthusiast's delight the tidal inlet over the past week and a half dramatically switched it's course to a more direct route to sea. For the long term this means that the beach will be much larger and erosion will not threaten the dunes by the parking lot. We captured data before and after the channel shift and will be analyzing the associated sedimentological changes. The new tidal channel can be seen in the southwestern portion of our map.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Manta EPP Build

After weeks of waiting around for parts all of the parts of our new UAV airframe came and we started building.

Here is an outline of the materials we used,
EPP Manta Flying Wing from Rob @
Packing and covering tape from

Following the build directions sent to us by Rob and Gary Mortimer, the build took 6 hours max. During the build we documented the process.

Cutting the hole for the HS81 servo with a pocket knife in the wing.
After installing the servo, we sank the control line into the foam so that it wouldn't effect the covering of the plane.
The tremendous amount of space in the Manta makes it easy and stress free to pack all of the batteries, camera and Attopilot sensors and wires into the fuselage.
Our RX-7 Radio for scale.
Now that the servos and motor are installed its time to cover the wing.
A closer look...
After spraying the bottom of wing with 3mm spray on adhesive, we covered the leading and trailing edges with packing tape. In addition we covered spots that we thought would have contact in landing, like the bottom of the fuselage.
Next we covered the fuselage with covering tape. Despite flying a British/South African design and built aircraft, we went with a USA theme covering job.
The covering tape is much lighter than the packing tap and provides structural support and protection of the EPP foam.
A closer look...
To keep weight down, we minimized overlap and only put down one layer.
The finished, patriotic product.

The directions were vary easy and the build went off with out a hitch. Stay tuned for attopilot install pictures.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Glory Flight Test

Today Foster and I finished building our EPP flying wing and went out for a test flight on Runnals Hill. After a few failed launches we trimmed the control surfaces to provide more initial lift. With the adjustments we we're able to fly for about half an hour. The platform is amazingly quiet and super resistant to crashes.

Here's some videos of the flight. We'll be posting build photos soon.