Project Hera – Arduino Powered Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV)

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I’ve been getting some funny looks these past few days, these are usually due to weird whining noises coming from a large model airplane sitting on my desk in the labs.

The plane was bought for my brother when I was eight years old, fifteen years ago, it was already several years old and he never flew it. Always fascinated by it, I took it out of my mother’s attic a couple of years ago and brought it home with me to Dundee where it has resided under my bed since.

A couple of weeks ago I took it out and realised just how simple the mechanisms controlling the plane were. Inside, are four, simple, 180 degree servos, one for each controllable part: throttle, ailerons, rudder and elevator. Nothing was soldered, it could all just be unplugged and replugged however I liked. So I’ve plugged it into an Arduino.

Each servo has been mapped to a different pin on the Arduino and I’ve written functions with understandable names for each control (banking, pitch, yaw, throttle).

The plan is to have an accelerometer or giro (haven’t worked out which one yet). If the plane starts to roll left, it’ll automatically set the ailerons to bank right. If it starts to nose dive, it’ll set the elevator to climb. Next I’d have a compass, if the heading is due north and the plane starts turning, the rudder will be told to correct this. This should sort out a nice little autopilot/cruise control.

I’m doing much of this as my project for the Yahoo Hack Day that we have each year here at Dundee University’s School of Computing for third year students.

This happens to be an Internet Programming assignment so I’m throwing in tweeting. When the plane makes an adjustment, it’ll send a tweet to let us know, hopefully it’ll have GPS so it’ll also geotag them. See Project Hera’s Twitter Feed Here.

This poor plane is around twenty years old and has never been named so I have done her the honour of calling her Hera, after the Greek Goddess of women, marriage and most importantly, the sky and the starry heavens.

Hera is a twenty year old plane which through Arduino, is being given a new life.