Keywords

autopilot, UAS, drones

Abstract

Students majoring in unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are expected to have a diverse background of hands-on and theoretical skills. Since the UAS industry is rapidly growing at approximately 30% per year, quality graduates are in high demand. A junior level course on autonomous aerial vehicles has been created to provide this blend of these essential skills required by the UAS industry. Concepts related to navigation, control, regulations, guidance, airspace, and autopilot programming are introduced during the twice weekly, one-hour lecture. These topics are reinforced during a once weekly, two-hour laboratory where students in groups of two work during the first third of a fifteen-week semester to integrate an open source, open hardware autopilot into a 3d printed quadcopter. The second third of the semester involves students flight testing their vehicle in outdoor conditions and obtaining real-time telemetry for post flight review. The final third of the semester requires students to fly a simulated package delivery mission where the quadcopter auto takes off, navigates through a series of waypoints, auto lands on a target, and finally returns to launch. The vehicle must fly the entire missions without human interaction. By combining both hand-on and theoretical skills, students who complete this course have a valuable skillset which is in high demand by the UAS industry.

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Autopilot programming and operations within an unmanned aerial systems course

Students majoring in unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are expected to have a diverse background of hands-on and theoretical skills. Since the UAS industry is rapidly growing at approximately 30% per year, quality graduates are in high demand. A junior level course on autonomous aerial vehicles has been created to provide this blend of these essential skills required by the UAS industry. Concepts related to navigation, control, regulations, guidance, airspace, and autopilot programming are introduced during the twice weekly, one-hour lecture. These topics are reinforced during a once weekly, two-hour laboratory where students in groups of two work during the first third of a fifteen-week semester to integrate an open source, open hardware autopilot into a 3d printed quadcopter. The second third of the semester involves students flight testing their vehicle in outdoor conditions and obtaining real-time telemetry for post flight review. The final third of the semester requires students to fly a simulated package delivery mission where the quadcopter auto takes off, navigates through a series of waypoints, auto lands on a target, and finally returns to launch. The vehicle must fly the entire missions without human interaction. By combining both hand-on and theoretical skills, students who complete this course have a valuable skillset which is in high demand by the UAS industry.