Lego Autopilot: working!

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[UPDATE: Welcome visitors! You may have noticed a Lego camera mount on the bottom of the plane in the pictures. You can read more about that assembly (and see a video of it in action) here]

Our summer project is to create a sub-$1,000 UAV as a proof-of-concept for a drone competition for kids. This weekend we passed a major milestone with a successful ground test of all the major elements. The video below shows the prototype working.

We’d initially intended to do all the autopilot functions in Lego, but the gyro programming turned out to be beyond our abilities. So we switched to a commercial stabilization unit to keep the plane level and just use the Lego Mindstorms for waypoint navigation. In the next few months we’ll integrate a Bluetooth GPS module, but for now we’re just using a HiTechnics compass sensor for basic navigation. The mechanical components are the same as they will be for the GPS (ailerons and elevator for flight stabilization, rudder for navigation), so the below looks and works very much like the final version.

Next weekend, we take it to the air.

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