Guest blog from VorTech: Airborn!

Ben MacLaren reveals C-PRIZE Team VorTech have a UAV in the air as the weeks to testing day whizz past.

It has been a long time coming, but this fortnight marked a major milestone – the first time we’ve got a UAV in the air (using our new hardware anyway)! We’ve launched the ‘minimum viable product’ version of our design, which contains our new batteries, ESCs, controller module, servos and most of our other electronics. The MVP quad (as we’ve taken to calling it) doesn’t yet have our new propellers on it, as they are still being manufactured – more on that later.

This video shows the basic premise of the MVP quad, and it shows two things. Firstly, the cable ties indicate our strong engineering credibility… sorry, I mean that they show this is very much a development version of the product. Secondly, you can see how the main motors have been mounted to servos, giving us the ability to vector the thrust. This allows us to test how the control software behaves in a thrust-vectored setup, and start our testing and tuning even before our primary UAV platform is built. The results can be seen here!

The testing notes from Salva are as follows: “We’ve got the MVP quad tuned and flying manually. Things to note, in this video we’re testing if the stock code can handle thrust vectoring on its own. So Ryan’s controlling the thrust vectoring in each of the translational directions while I have traditional controls of the quad (except for yaw which is done through vectoring). Aside from wild altitude changes (because I am manually controlling throttle), notice how when it thrust vectors the quad is always level! Which means no major code changes required! Phew! Which is what we set out to test and prove in today’s flight.”

As the electrical and control workstream makes headway, we’re still all guns blazing on getting the cycloidal props manufactured. Our resident composite materials guru, Simon Corkery, has turned his garage into a carbon fibre production lab. The production process and the finished product are below – better than a bought one!

Carbon fibre in production

Carbon fibre in production

The finished product

The finished product

We’ve got a quote for having this spectacular sheet cut up into our individual components, but we’re hoping to find a better deal. One way or another our propeller parts will be cut and delivered by the end of the week, which we’re very excited about. Other jobs for this week include building a test block for characterising the thrust characteristics of the new prop, before it goes on a full quad.

We’re down to Simon’s last two weeks in the country, and we’re really hopeful of having flown a UAV with our new props before he leaves! Watch this space…

The 2015 C-PRIZE challenge will award $50,000 to the best UAV prototype solving one of three challenges in UAV use for the film industry. The winner of the 2015 C-PRIZE will be announced on December 1. See the C-PRIZE website for details.


About Callaghan Innovation

Business. Technology. Success.
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