Nation Crossing Quadrocopter?

I had an idea suddenly come into my mind a few moments ago and figured I would inquire as to the "feasibility" of it.

We have all seen the arduino quadrocopters. There are enough tutorials to be able to build one in a couple weeks at most. Especially since I am in possesion of my own 3d printer. So imagine this. A self sufficient arduino Quadrocopter, programmed to go from its starting point, and to fly automatically to some set geographic coordinates. What would I need? Obviously the arduino, propeller motors and frame and props and all of that stuff for a regular Quadrocopter. But here's the challenging part. Is there some sort of hookup for an arduino to be able to integrate GPS into it? and can it be programmed to fly that way automatically. and to adjust its flight so that its able to follow that path or keep close to it, even through winds and so on? And would there be a way to have the unit automatically send updated information on where it is like every 2 hours or so?
Lastly, and probably most importantly, do you think I would be able to fit enough lightweight solar panels on it to be able to power it non stop? I figured a few small professional grade battery cells along w some small capacitors? I just figured this would be a very interesting idea. Thanks for any input you may have!

-Sam

FordGalaxie:
I had an idea suddenly come into my mind a few moments ago and figured I would inquire as to the "feasibility" of it.

We have all seen the arduino quadrocopters. There are enough tutorials to be able to build one in a couple weeks at most. Especially since I am in possesion of my own 3d printer. So imagine this. A self sufficient arduino Quadrocopter, programmed to go from its starting point, and to fly automatically to some set geographic coordinates. What would I need?

Like this...?

Lastly, and probably most importantly, do you think I would be able to fit enough lightweight solar panels on it to be able to power it non stop?

No. But you can try it! :drooling_face:

Yes I believe like that. But that guy isnt speaking english from what I heard in the video. I still want to discuss it here with a larger group. Any idea on the gps? And the constant sending me updates on its location?

Not a hope in hell.
Have a look at the power consumption of your average quadcopter.
Mines a relatively small one , but the 4 motors pull 6 amps from an 11V lipo battery and
Im using pretty good batteries, and that gives me about 10 minutes flight time.
My quadcopter weighs around 400 grams.
With the best batteries you can buy, you can push the limit to around 20 minutes, but thats about it so far.
You would have more chance with an electric powered plane , but even then it would be pretty big.

Well if I added thin lightweight microsolar panels to every possible spot on the copter without overdoing it, I could DRAMATICALLY increase the flight time during good weather correct? I was thinking that if I got the flight time up long enough, I could set up dozens of designated stop spots. where the quad would stop (like the coordinates for the top of a flat building or something similar) and stop for a few hours or however long it takes to COMPLETELY recharge the batteries. And it would also stop in these type of places, at night time since there is no sun to help recharge it.

A plane on the other hand. only uses 2 motors, can be programmed to glide, and I can use those lightweight solar panels so line the tops of the wings and fuselage. THAT would give it a strong fighting chance if I made the frame using 3d printing and put all of the electronics, batteries, etc, inside of the fuselage or wings. Has anyone ever attempted an arduino 3d printed plane? I could 3d print the frame and then cover the wings using light airtight waterproof cloth (Which we have at my job), and then find something slightly more solid for the main fuselage

If you're in the US, men in suits may come knocking on your door. Unless you're the military, the FAA wants un-manned aircraft to be in the direct line-of-sight of the human controlling it (or in the case of an autonomous aircraft, line-of-sight of the person with the kill switch).

Folks launching balloons or rockets above a certain altitude have to get permission from the FAA to be legal; so you may be able to obtain permission for your mission if you can bribe the right bureaucrat. Check out FAR (Federal Aviation Rules) Part 101.

Legal issues aside, this idea is very cool and entirely do-able with an LTA (Lighter Than Air such as a dirigible) aircraft, since all you need power for is control surfaces and just enough propulsion to counter headwinds (maybe launch on the west coast and retrieve on the east coast to reduce power consumption to north/south course corrections).

I'm not worried too much about the FAA the plane I would be launching I would start by testing within 3 towns of my house and I wouldn't allow more than 100 feet above the trees. Government aside, I figure I could also add one of those distance sensors (their exact name is escaping me at this moment) pointing down so that if it comes within, for example, 20-30 feet of an object, it can change its altitude to avoid an impact. The only problem I can forsee with an LAT vehicle is the fact that it can HEAVILY be impacted by winds so I feel like it would use wayy too much energy pushing against the wind. A hopeless attempt in a way. I have never owned an LAT though so I cant really say

FordGalaxie:
I'm not worried too much about the FAA the plane I would be launching I would start by testing within 3 towns of my house and I wouldn't allow more than 100 feet above the trees.

Shrug. It's your neck you're sticking out, not mine. Hope it doesn't drift across the active runway of an airport and be mistaken for a terrorist bomb.

The only problem I can forsee with an LAT vehicle is the fact that it can HEAVILY be impacted by winds so I feel like it would use wayy too much energy pushing against the wind. A hopeless attempt in a way. I have never owned an LAT though so I cant really say

If the wind's pushing you the wrong direction, let it. A cross-country journey is going to take weeks/months anyway, the wind will shift eventually and let you go where you want to go (assuming you follow the prevailing winds). It'll just take a little longer.

You can make the cross-section of the craft as small as possible to reduce drag, i.e., a squat flying saucer (or flying pizza box) with solar panel on top.

I suggest you join a RC group that specialises in building quadcopters and learn a lot about
power budgets, ie how much power is needed to lift a given weight.
As a very general rule , you need around 1 watt per ounce of weight.
Unless you can source Solar panels that weigh far less than 1 oz per watt
then you cant use Solar power.

EDITED**

FordGalaxie:
Yes I believe like that. But that guy isnt speaking english from what I heard in the video.

Sorry, didn't preview it first. But, that's the Ardupilot software — A really, really nice piece of work!

I still want to discuss it here with a larger group. Any idea on the gps? And the constant sending me updates on its location?

I assume you've already thoroughly checked out DIYDrones.com & 3DRobotics.com, and are familiar with the APM? I'd strongly suggest seeing what they use & how they did it....and why. Also, they have an entire forum set up filled with discussions on all attributes of making & controlling your own UAV/UGV.

ATMEGA2560 based "Ardupilot" module -

As a kit -

  • Arduino Compatible
  • Can be ordered with top entry pins for attaching connectors vertically, or as side entry pins to slide your connectors in to either end horizontally
  • Includes 3-axis gyro, accelerometer and magnetometer, along with a high-performance barometer
  • Onboard 4 MegaByte Dataflash chip for automatic datalogging
  • Digital compass powered by Honeywell's HMC5883L-TR chip, now included on the main board.
  • Optional off-board GPS, Mediatek MT3329 or uBlox LEA-6H module.
  • One of the first open source autopilot systems to use Invensense's 6 DoF Accelerometer/Gyro MPU-6000.
  • Barometric pressure sensor upgraded to MS5611-01BA03, from Measurement Specialties.
  • Atmel's ATMEGA2560 and ATMEGA32U-2 chips for processing and usb functions respectively.
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Even a GPRS modem controller option for your UAV -

Can have point-n-click control AND a first person view....


Or, my favorite (for now), a six-rotor tri-copter with everything built in!

Suppose if we use a Car and want to do the same thing then how can it be happened? i am talking about the Coordinates that we give to the car and it just Automatically move to that place. What things I need to get this thing done??

You overestimate the power of solar panels and vastly underestimate the power requirements for the quadcopter.
All the solar panels you could fit one of them could perhaps provide enough power for the electronics, but certainly not the motors themselves.
You could have enough batteries for a 10 minute flight, then stop and recharge, as you said, but the recharge would not take hours as you assume, but more likely days.

Take a look at the NASA’s Pathfinder. It’s a huge, 30 m wingspan plane, with more than 100 m2 of solar panels.
Self sufficient solar flight is not feasible for a backyard enthusiast.

Deltaidiots:
Suppose if we use a Car and want to do the same thing then how can it be happened? i am talking about the Coordinates that we give to the car and it just Automatically move to that place. What things I need to get this thing done??

You should know that despite the tutorials, getting a quadcopter in the air reliably is a lot more than a two week task. I took part in a class where I was part of a group of six engineering students and we built a quadcopter. We had access to a professional 3D printer, but it wasn't a whole lot of good because the parts are usually quite heavy, and the print material is rarely strong enough to justify its weight. This is said of a printer that is a good step above your typical makerbot or other extrusion model. If you happen to have access to a SLS printer then it might be of more use. In general, you are much better off using carbon fiber kits for most of the frame.

After 3 solid weeks of work in this class we barely had a flying craft that could be controlled. The general rule is you have to crash one at least 3-5 times before you will be even slightly capable of flying it. The Arduino autopilots out there are a start but they still take a lot of work to get going, and they are significantly limited by the quality of the available sensors and your budget.

Your only hope of a solar powered craft would be a LTA craft or a solar powered self launching glider. There was a good article about full sized solar aircraft in IEEE Spectrum. It said that they were basically all self launching gliders that sit on the ground for a day or two to charge their batteries enough to use the motor to take off. Then they fold the motor inside and soar on thermals from place to place. These aircraft were made by huge companies with millions to spend, so you can see why this is a hard thing to do.