Senior project Questions/Advice seeking

I am a student at the Oregon Institute of Technology working on a proposal for my Software Engineering Technology Bachelors' Program. My idea at this point is to buy an AR.Drone http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/usa/ and attach an Arduino pro mini http://www.sparkfun.com/products/11113 and some IR Rangefinders http://www.sparkfun.com/products/639. Then I will program the arduino to interpret the data from the range finders and control the drone through it's wifi connection. Ideally my drone will start from a landed position when I turn it on and begin to fly forward until it gets to a set distance from an object/wall and turn then move until it finds another surface. This will repeat until the drone runs out of battery power. I will have a year to get this finished. Since basis of my senior project is for the software problems I will probably be getting help with the hardware installation since I haven't played with any of this stuff before. I am under the impression programming the Arduino Pro Mini will take a bit of extra hardware.

My questions are: 1. For the wifi connection which board would be the lightest and cheapest to connect over a short range wifi and still be able to send/receive data?

  1. Is it possible to store enough program information on the Arduino Pro Mini to handle the sensor data and send a wifi signal? (It won't be storing any data at this point, but I may adjust project at a later date to possibly create a string that I can parse through after downloading it from the board for other uses.)

  2. Would I need to have any other hardware to make this project workable?

  3. I am open to suggestions, other ideas, and will do my best to respond to any questions for clarification ASAP.

I understand these are big questions and a bit open, however I hope that I have given enough (and that this is interesting enough) to warrant a bit of help for a newbie.

Thanks, Postholes

  1. For the wifi connection which board would be the lightest and cheapest to connect over a short range wifi and still be able to send/receive data?

You could consider our Rugged Circuits Yellowjacket...it's tough to find something smaller that has WiFi! It also has an ATmega328P microcontroller already on board.

  1. Is it possible to store enough program information on the Arduino Pro Mini to handle the sensor data and send a wifi signal? (It won't be storing any data at this point, but I may adjust project at a later date to possibly create a string that I can parse through after downloading it from the board for other uses.)

Doesn't sound too hard given what you want to do (to be clear, what you want to do sounds hard, but it is not too hard for the microcontroller to read sensors and talk over WiFi).

  1. Would I need to have any other hardware to make this project workable?

You're going to need a power source.

-- The Rugged Audio Shield: Line In, Mic In, Headphone Out, microSD socket, potentiometer, play/record WAV files

Postholes: My questions are: 1. For the wifi connection which board would be the lightest and cheapest to connect over a short range wifi and still be able to send/receive data?

I don't know the answer to that. I've not played with any of the wifi shields out there.

  1. Is it possible to store enough program information on the Arduino Pro Mini to handle the sensor data and send a wifi signal? (It won't be storing any data at this point, but I may adjust project at a later date to possibly create a string that I can parse through after downloading it from the board for other uses.)

It seems like there should be enough memory. You really aren't trying to do anything terribly difficult. I would use a board with the ATMega328 for more memory and faster processing.

  1. Would I need to have any other hardware to make this project workable?

You will need a power source for the Arduino & sensor(s). It would be easier (but heavier) to add another battery. You may be able to tap off the drone's power. I can't think of anything else off the top of my head.

  1. I am open to suggestions, other ideas, and will do my best to respond to any questions for clarification ASAP.

Does the drone have the ability to rotate? are are you going to put sensors in all directions or have a rotating sensor array? I could see the programming getting complicated trying to find stationary objects (walls) while the platform is moving and/or rotating. Do you need a reference point or beacon to tell you the location and attitude so the code can correct for the drone's movement?

You're going to need a power source.

My plan was to use the drones battery to power the board and sensors. It uses a standard RC car type plug so I thought I should be able to find a splitter for that at a hobby shop and just run wires to the board.

I am not entirely certain that the drone can rotate, I am hoping (for pocket book reasons) that it does, otherwise the weight of 8 sensors and the arduino board should keep it below the ~150gram limit.

Thank you for the help and I am reading these replies as absolute encouragement!

Postholes

I'm looking at the Rugged Circuits Yellow Jacket http://ruggedcircuits.com/html/yellowjacket.html and I can't find the weight of the actual board anywhere. I can find it's shipping weight, like almost all microcontroller components, but getting the weight of the board seems to be nearly impossible on so much of this type of thing.

I would like to know if I am understanding the description well enough though. The way I am reading this if I use the Yellow Jacket I won't need the arduino pro mini. Just run the sensors to the Yellow Jacket and power/program to the Yellow Jacket board and it will handle everything for me.

Thanks again! Postholes

you could easily make it rotate, although you'd need to rev up two on one side which would make that side go up. And then you would need to rev up the front rotor that is dipping down, and for extra credit you could slow down or even reverse the direction of the back one.

I found a video that shows the drone being rotated through the standard command control system (an iPad) so there is an existing command control function to rotate the drone. So my part would involve actually finding the commands in the open source code.

Thanks for the suggestion funkyguy4000!

Oh coolio, I think I saw that when I went to one of the links on the thread but I was in Circuit Analysis & Design class, blech!

I'm looking at the Rugged Circuits Yellow Jacket http://ruggedcircuits.com/html/yellowjacket.html and I can't find the weight of the actual board anywhere. I can find it's shipping weight, like almost all microcontroller components, but getting the weight of the board seems to be nearly impossible on so much of this type of thing.

The weight is 0.3 ounces (9 grams).

The way I am reading this if I use the Yellow Jacket I won't need the arduino pro mini. Just run the sensors to the Yellow Jacket and power/program to the Yellow Jacket board and it will handle everything for me.

Correct.

-- The Gadget Shield: accelerometer, RGB LED, IR transmit/receive, speaker, microphone, light sensor, potentiometer, pushbuttons

Thank you all.

I will most likely be back when I have problems after starting this project!!!

Postholes

What if something like this: 1. Sensors : 2 Sensors a. Sensor1 facing to 'front' b. Sensor2 facing down

  1. Flight Scheme.

a.When first turn on, make the drone fly verticaly until it pass pre-defined altitude. Alititude is counted using sensor2.

b. fly forward, until the sensor1 catch predefined distance.

c. turn right, let's say 30 degre.

d. loop to #b ... do it until the batery out of power.

Sincerely -bino-

I didn't want to do just one sensor in the front because the drone is 18-24 inches wide. If I had a sensor in the middle of the drone it may not see the edge of the door frame it's about to fly through and smack it. The drone has a downward sonar sensor that I may be able to get data from, in that case I could do a rangefinder pointed up, and two looking forward, possibly angled in to detect a lamp or narrow post at a distance. This way I should be able prevent running into ceilings, and figure out how to handle a narrow post near a wall instead of just not seeing it.

I do like the idea of fly until so close, turn 30 degrees, fly, repeat.

Thanks,

Postholes