Helicopter/Howard Community College/Spring2012/p502JASS

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Electronic Sections Expected

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Problem Statement

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Build a helicopter to maneuver autonomously. To this end, create an aircraft structure, control multiple ESC's, balance the structure via a gimbal mechanism, design for a payload and power supply, and develop flight control software.

Team Members

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We're building an autonomous quadcopter. The quadcopter will be a kind of helicopter that is balanced by four equally powered motors. By giving it software to control its movements and act independently, we hope to give it "a mind of its own."


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The first task of the helicopter project was to simply get the Arduino's, ESC's, and motors running all on the same connection. This seemed like a very easy task but it was not. We spent the first two weeks of the project just on getting a motor to spin. We first thought it was the wiring of the arduino and ESC. We then found out that this was not the case. After blowing up a lipo and having no success on the power from the boxes on the desks, we tried some PC power supplies that had just been purchased. Using these power supplies we had success. We then began writing programs for the arduino so we could control the speed of the motor from the computer, not from the Knob program. We ran into a few problems with the programing, a few simple mistakes like forgetting to switch the pin from pin 9 to pin 2, but these were overcome fairly easily compared to getting the motors to spin. After the programs were written we got two motors hooked up to one ESC.

Material List

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We used the following materials during the course of our project. For materials for which examples could not be found, facsimiles have been substituted.

Product Description Quantity Unit Price
Electronics Explorer Board Helpful, but not important. 1 $599.00
Hacker A10-13L Brushless motors These are strong, despite their weight and size. 4 ~$54.00
Thunderbird 9 ESC Thunderbird 9 4 $29.95
Arduino Uno Uno (any revision) 1 $29.95
Jumper Wires Premium 12" M/M Pack of 10 Male to male 2 $4.50
Breadboard Small Self-Adhesive 5x5 pins or more 1 $5.95
E&L Instruments PS-01 or facsimile 12 volt, 1 Amp DC power supply 1 N/A
Ratcheting wire crimper Multi-gauged or variable gauge (see Ratchet Crimper 22-10 AWG) 1 ~$65.09
Wire strippers Multi-gauged or variable 1 ~$12.76

In order to continue this project and progress to further goals, the following kind of materials are recommended. The specific items are just examples.

Product Description Quantity Unit Price
A Bluetooth module for the Arduino This would be Bluetooth transceiver on the helicopter, and would allow the helicopter to be controlled wirelessly. 1 - 2 $64.95
A Bluetooth module for a computer This makes it easy to talk to the helicopter by Bluetooth. This would preferably be for a USB port. 1 $20.00
A 3-axis gyroscopic sensor This would allow the Arduino to control the helicopter's orientation by software. 1 $49.95
A lightweight power supply This would need to be 12 volts, 1 Amp, DC, and possibly lithium-polymer. It should also be light, since it would be on the helicopter. 1 - 2 ~$39.99
Wood This could be cut into various shapes, creating a structure that supports the weight of the parts. 1 $8.92
Foam This could provide a structural shell for the aircraft and provide limited protection. Various kinds, such as EPS or insulation foam, could be used. 1 $11.98

Software List

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58.42 Hours


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Next Steps

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The next steps are to construct a gimbal, get all four motors hooked up to a single arduino, construct the actual frame, add motors, batteries, ESCs, and the arduino onto the frame, then on to testing.