Explains how to build a 300 g, 3D-capable helicopter with embedded Linux . The helicopter can be remotely controlled over Bluetooth with a PC joystick.Today RC model helicopter prices have reached a point where all sorts of challenging (i.e. crash-prone) robotics projects become affordable. You can build it for less than 500 EUR.
As a proof of concept, we provide software which allows the helicopter to be remotely controlled over Bluetooth with a PC joystick. Future work will focus on the integration of sensors (IMU, altitude, magnetic compas, GPS, camera) and flight control software (either third-party or dedicated).
A number of inexpensive microhelicopters are now available to RC model hobbyists: Ikarus Piccolo, MS Hornet, Carboon, Dragonfly, Honeybee, Hummingbird, Tiny, Aerohawk, Blade CP, Sky Lark… These are essentially scaled-down versions of regular model helicopters, made possible by advances in battery technology. Some models have a rotor head with fixed collective pitch (FP), while others have both cyclic and collective variable pitch (CP). Most have a dedicated tail motor rather than a variable-pitch tail rotor.
A recent radical innovation is the “ProxFlyer” self-stabilizing deformable rotor design. Unfortunately, current commercial implementations are too small to carry mainstream sensors and embedded computers. However, due to its passive stability, this design will probably turn out to be the preferred choice for hovering robots which do not require high maneuverability.
Another alternative is the quad-rotor helicopter which is more silent, mechanically more robust, safer (with ducted propellers), and probably easier to control than a single-rotor/swashplate design. Potential weaknesses include: the overall size of the aircraft for a given payload, the energy efficiency of four small motors versus a larger one providing the same lift, and the impact of (usually fixed-pitch) propellers with high inertia on maneuverability.
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