Friday, January 26, 2007

Thermal Hound I - Robot Glider Prototype

‘Super’ Dave McCutcheon’s first prototype glider - Thermal Hound I (THI) - is being designed as a self-thermaling robotic glider able to fly a specific search pattern while looking for thermal lift. Once it encounters columns of rising air, the glider will then look to stay within and begin to climb in the lifting air, transmitting data back to the pilot and ground crew.

I caught up with project leader and team pilot Super Dave over the phone to learn more about the thermal glider robotic prototype that he’s currently developing and testing.

“Well, it’s a Great Planes ‘Spirit’ with a 2 meter wing span and four channel transmitter and receiver. The choice for this specific model of glider for a prototype Thermal Hound was easy. “It’s basically an entry level glider – very stable for beginners to learn to fly and easy to put together... and repair. I needed a sort of a ‘crash test dummy’ since I knew I’d probably be crashing it a lot as I was developing the software and hardware for it.” Currently, Thermal Hound I has flown over thirty successful test flights. “It’s a cheap, stable platform for R&D,” he added.

Basically, it works like this. “There’s a control/telemetry module that goes in-line between the onboard receiver and the actual servos onboard.” McCutcheon explains. He calls his control module or ‘Robotic Pilot’ the Onboard Computer Controller; bringing together a GPS, accelerometer, Gumstick computer and the controller board – the interface between the Gumstick computer and the outside world, like the receiver and the servos and other critical sensors.

“I gotta a lot of work to do today if I’m going to get any test flights in,” McCutcheon announced. I wished him good luck. More to come so stay tuned…

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