Monday, September 20, 2021

AttoPilot team prepare to launch new ground control station.

Dean Goedde of AttoPilot fame, has released details of the new GCS, due to hit laptops shortly.

Ground Control Software (GCS)

We are close in final testing for a totally new custom scratch-made GCS with:

  • Integrated maps (13 sources free with caching for offline use), integrated mission planning pre-flight and real-time via simple mouse clicks.
  • Atto’s waypoints still contain 8 trigger fields (6 in use now, 2 reserved for future use), and they are setup via GUI that appears on the map next to the selected waypoint by simple right click of that waypoint.
  • Integrated GUI for adjustment of ALL Atto’s 120+ tunable parameters (pre-flight and during flight, in any flight mode) and wireless management of it to the onboard autopilot and storage via EEPROM (not on SD card)
  • Multi agent support for up to 255 vehicles simultaneously without overloading the telemetry bandwidth. Of course with somewhat limited 9600 baud over-air of the Xbee modems there is a tradeoff of how often the GCS can get updates from a large number of vehicles, but there is no inherent reason for data clog. The new protocol (described below) is a tightly controlled master/slave method. Vehicles do not speak unless spoken to first by the GCS (or a ‘lead’ vehicle would be possible)
  • Multi agent support extends to adjustment of individual autopilot setups and flight plans among the swarm of multiple vehicles.

Needless to state here MASSIVE changes have been made to Atto’s telemetry protocol to allow large scale multi-agent support as a realistic and usable feature.

>>>Essentially, the GCS is now a powerful one stop shop for everyting Atto. It communicates everything to Atto wirelessly. This was one of the most sorely lacking items in AttoPilot over the last 2 years<<<

Command Set for Telemetry
Here is a lot of the new magic. Vehicle ID is part of every communication string, plus there is a universal ID to control all vehicles at once with a single command if the situation warrants (abort mission and go to rally coordinates for example). Data protocol is still simple duplex serial 8N1 ASCII (not binary) and protocol will be fully published as has been done in the past. This allows customer custom GCS development for special projects. This also allows industrious users to connect Atto to their 3rd party microcontroller on board the UAV itself and use Atto as a sophisticated stabilization system in order to do things like test/use custom navigation control laws, or dynamic gain scheduling for adaptive control to adjust for vehicle damage in flight by manipulation of any and all 120+ tunable parameters, or triggering the camera or payload based on some rule set other than how AttoPilot typically controls the trigger.

The new command set has 24 commands.

There have been > 2,000 miles of autonomous flight by myself of the V3.0 IMU autopilot. It has proven to be robust and mature. Feedback from a few dozen early customers confirms this. Many new features and commands have been implemented, such as telemetry port based commands to override of roll, pitch and airspeed targets with automatic timeout. Also pitch based airspeed and throttle altitude with user-defined blending mix % with the older method of pitch altitude and throttle airspeed over user-defined altitude ranges.

The newer adaptive navigation methods have proven robust as well. Wind is never a concern for good (customers use the word ‘great’) navigation. Attopilot has a lag-free method to auto-tune navigation gains despite wind and doesn’t at all rely on a wind model to do so. As had been implemented > 1 year ago, Atto does not let the UAV ground speed drop below a minimum value so long as the vehicle has sufficient thrust for the wind conditions. The only concern for the pilot in command when making a go/no-go decision for flight is if the vehicle can maintain at least 15 km/h airspeed above the wind speed. There is absolutely no concern about wind exceeding 50% of the cruise speed, again it is a mere 15 km/h margin as a flat value.

The V2.0 thermopile Atto pilot shares ALL features with the V3.0 IMU autopilot including telemetry commands and auto-tuning navigation. The only thing it lacks relative to the IMU version is inertial yaw rate sensing and thus cannot perform yaw rate dampening in RC or the other flight modes.

VTOL autopilots
Hyper-cored autopilot, scalable to any level desired
Ultra-simple IMU autopilots
Highly self-adaptive autopilots
Setup of a motion control laboratory

Gary Mortimer
Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.