Thursday, May 19, 2022
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One Smart Rotorcraft

The annual International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC) held by the Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) is a fascinating challenge. There, you’ll see flying robotic platforms built by some of the brightest students in the world. The website for the competition, notes that in the event’s 18 years, the competition’s set tasks have always been beyond current knowledge, and the rules say that nothing within the world military or industrial arsenal of robots will be able to complete the proposed mission at the time the [contest] guidelines are released. QUICK SPECS LENGTH: 59 in.WEIGHT: 18 lb. (w/out robotics payload)MAIN BLADE SIZE: 810mmFUEL TANK: 16 oz.ENGINE: Twin-cylinder 52cc Bergen/ZenoahPAYLOAD: Up to 25 lb.

DURATION: Up to 30 minutes per tank

PRICE: $5,500 (Industrial twin w/engine)

Robots for each year’s challenge are often works in progress that may be reused in future years for other research and development purposes. One of the most interesting projects we have seen is the Johnny5 (J5) autonomous robot helicopter created by the Purdue University IEEE Aerial Robotics Committee for the 2007 competition. It is based on the Bergen RC Industrial Twin helicopter, has computer hardware supplied by Logic Supply ( and was initially flown with a conventional JR radio system. The team of students majoring in electrical engineering, computer science and aero-engineering is chaired by Richard Arima, who’s at Purdue. In 2007, the competition had four main elements: One was to fly a GPS waypoint course; the next was to be able to visually identify a logo were asked to adhere to the military’s JAUS standard, which is a protocol for robotic communication that the U.S. military is advocating for unmanned vehicles. Richard explains that the J5 did not participate in all aspects of the contest. Because we had only possessed the Bergen Industrial Twin helicopter for about four months, we did not think it was a good idea to let it fly through the whole mission. However, we did design our own autopilot, unlike the majority of teams, and we were able to transmit images back to a base station; we met all of the requirements with respect to the JAUS standard. Image recognition is very intense in terms of the computational requirements, not to mention that there is a very high level just of background noise. In the real world, it’s kind of difficult, says Richard. The most challenging aspect of designing the robot heli?
and enter a building, and the third was to enter a building and perform reconnaissance, notes Richard. The fourth was to do all of these things in just 15 minutes. Finally, teams
Early work using a back-up heli.
The focus was mostly on the autopilot and all the support software that is needed to debug it and to control it from the ground station. The GPS system we purchased ourselves. The downlink between the system and the base station was also a focus. It was challenging dealing with a lot of realworld noise from electromagnetic interference and different issues that you don’t think of at first.

Purdue IEEE Aerial Robotics team.
As for the communication systems, Richard adds, “In addition to a standard 72MHz RC setup, we had a 2.4GHz 802.11b system and a 900MHz system; the latter two were custom designed.” What was in the box under the heli? The power system, the main computer, all the interface hardware and software, the power system battery, the power distribution board, the power regulation board and the GPS card. Much of the computer hardware was miniature components provided by Logic Supply. It included an MSI 945GM1 Core 2 Duo Mobile Mini- ITX main board, a Core 2 Duo Mobile 1.8GHz processor, 2GB IDE direct-plug flash module, 1GB DDR2 667 RAM and an M2-ATX automotive intelligent power supply. For details, visit The J5 proved its ability to fly autonomously for up to several minutes while streaming data back to the home base. It is now among the stable of research robots in the Bot Lab at Purdue.