StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

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StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

P.J.S. Danneels
Dear Paparazzi community,

Allow me to introduce our project to you.

We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of Aerospace Engineering.
Our goal is to design and later build a UAV which is launched from a weather balloon in the stratosphere (say about 35km altitude).
It should then return to the landing site without using direct propulsion.

What is interesting for this mailing list:
- we will use paparazzi as the autopilot
- we must have 2 way communication with the vehicle to retrieve weather data and manipulate it's flight.
- loads of other UAV-stuff

Some initial calculations, thoughts and requirements:
- Balloon might drift allot during ascent. A drift of up to 300km might well be possible according to some simulations.
- To stay within weather balloon regulations the weather balloon payload (return vehicle + release mechanism) may not exceed 3kg
- The configuration at launch cannot have a diameter exceeding 2m
- We cannot use propulsion to gain or keep altitude but we can accumulate energy on the descent and then use it in some way to decelerate the craft on it's final approach.
- We need to film the mission in HD
- We need to be able to take a scientific payload with us. Currently not yet defined but will most probably be meteorologic sensors.

An initial question:
- 2 way communication over a range of 300km is almost not possible using a direct link to a single ground station, so we are tempted to use satellite communication modules like the Iridium 9603 is there any experience in this community regarding these modules and interfacing them to paparazzi?

I believe lots of you might find this an interesting problem.
As none of us has much experience with UAV's and paparazzi any idea's or advice is welcome.
Our team consists of 10 highly motivated students, some with expertise in aero, some in embedded electronics, other in aircraft structures, ...etc.

If you guys like this we could post an update on our project from time to time. And share our finding with you.

We hope to hear from you guys with any thoughts, questions, idea's.

Kind regards,

Pieter Danneels
StratoBlimp project
(don't let the name fool you, it's not going to be a blimp... we think)

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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Anish Mohammed
wow this is ambitious by any measure :)

On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 4:26 PM, P.J.S. Danneels <[hidden email]> wrote:
Dear Paparazzi community,

Allow me to introduce our project to you.

We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of Aerospace Engineering.
Our goal is to design and later build a UAV which is launched from a weather balloon in the stratosphere (say about 35km altitude).
It should then return to the landing site without using direct propulsion.

What is interesting for this mailing list:
- we will use paparazzi as the autopilot
- we must have 2 way communication with the vehicle to retrieve weather data and manipulate it's flight.
- loads of other UAV-stuff

Some initial calculations, thoughts and requirements:
- Balloon might drift allot during ascent. A drift of up to 300km might well be possible according to some simulations.
- To stay within weather balloon regulations the weather balloon payload (return vehicle + release mechanism) may not exceed 3kg
- The configuration at launch cannot have a diameter exceeding 2m
- We cannot use propulsion to gain or keep altitude but we can accumulate energy on the descent and then use it in some way to decelerate the craft on it's final approach.
- We need to film the mission in HD
- We need to be able to take a scientific payload with us. Currently not yet defined but will most probably be meteorologic sensors.

An initial question:
- 2 way communication over a range of 300km is almost not possible using a direct link to a single ground station, so we are tempted to use satellite communication modules like the Iridium 9603 is there any experience in this community regarding these modules and interfacing them to paparazzi?

I believe lots of you might find this an interesting problem.
As none of us has much experience with UAV's and paparazzi any idea's or advice is welcome.
Our team consists of 10 highly motivated students, some with expertise in aero, some in embedded electronics, other in aircraft structures, ...etc.

If you guys like this we could post an update on our project from time to time. And share our finding with you.

We hope to hear from you guys with any thoughts, questions, idea's.

Kind regards,

Pieter Danneels
StratoBlimp project
(don't let the name fool you, it's not going to be a blimp... we think)

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Anish Mohammed
http://uk.linkedin.com/in/anishmohammed
@anishmohammed

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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Tilman Baumann-3
In reply to this post by P.J.S. Danneels
I don't think I can help with practical issues.
But I wonder, does the design call for the balloon to pop in the stratosphere?
The term Blimp confuses me.
Is it about coming home, or about zipping around in the stratosphere?

I'm very interested in high altitude glider projects. But I don't think very much has been done in practice yet. But it's such a cool idea.

On 19/11/12 16:26, P.J.S. Danneels wrote:
Dear Paparazzi community,

Allow me to introduce our project to you.

We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of Aerospace Engineering.
Our goal is to design and later build a UAV which is launched from a weather balloon in the stratosphere (say about 35km altitude).
It should then return to the landing site without using direct propulsion.

What is interesting for this mailing list:
- we will use paparazzi as the autopilot
- we must have 2 way communication with the vehicle to retrieve weather data and manipulate it's flight.
- loads of other UAV-stuff

Some initial calculations, thoughts and requirements:
- Balloon might drift allot during ascent. A drift of up to 300km might well be possible according to some simulations.
- To stay within weather balloon regulations the weather balloon payload (return vehicle + release mechanism) may not exceed 3kg
- The configuration at launch cannot have a diameter exceeding 2m
- We cannot use propulsion to gain or keep altitude but we can accumulate energy on the descent and then use it in some way to decelerate the craft on it's final approach.
- We need to film the mission in HD
- We need to be able to take a scientific payload with us. Currently not yet defined but will most probably be meteorologic sensors.

An initial question:
- 2 way communication over a range of 300km is almost not possible using a direct link to a single ground station, so we are tempted to use satellite communication modules like the Iridium 9603 is there any experience in this community regarding these modules and interfacing them to paparazzi?

I believe lots of you might find this an interesting problem.
As none of us has much experience with UAV's and paparazzi any idea's or advice is welcome.
Our team consists of 10 highly motivated students, some with expertise in aero, some in embedded electronics, other in aircraft structures, ...etc.

If you guys like this we could post an update on our project from time to time. And share our finding with you.

We hope to hear from you guys with any thoughts, questions, idea's.

Kind regards,

Pieter Danneels
StratoBlimp project
(don't let the name fool you, it's not going to be a blimp... we think)


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

P.J.S. Danneels
Dear Mr. Baumann,

The main focus is on getting it to its designated landing site with a launch from the stratosphere.
Our craft will probably not generate a lot of lift at those high altitudes and will most probably be in some sort of free fall for the first 10-20km but we will do detailed simulations on this in the coming weeks. We must stay within weather balloon regulations to get it up their without much special permissions so the size and weight are very limited.

Kind regards,
Pieter


On 19/11/2012 17:38, Tilman Baumann wrote:
I don't think I can help with practical issues.
But I wonder, does the design call for the balloon to pop in the stratosphere?
The term Blimp confuses me.
Is it about coming home, or about zipping around in the stratosphere?

I'm very interested in high altitude glider projects. But I don't think very much has been done in practice yet. But it's such a cool idea.

On 19/11/12 16:26, P.J.S. Danneels wrote:
Dear Paparazzi community,

Allow me to introduce our project to you.

We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of Aerospace Engineering.
Our goal is to design and later build a UAV which is launched from a weather balloon in the stratosphere (say about 35km altitude).
It should then return to the landing site without using direct propulsion.

What is interesting for this mailing list:
- we will use paparazzi as the autopilot
- we must have 2 way communication with the vehicle to retrieve weather data and manipulate it's flight.
- loads of other UAV-stuff

Some initial calculations, thoughts and requirements:
- Balloon might drift allot during ascent. A drift of up to 300km might well be possible according to some simulations.
- To stay within weather balloon regulations the weather balloon payload (return vehicle + release mechanism) may not exceed 3kg
- The configuration at launch cannot have a diameter exceeding 2m
- We cannot use propulsion to gain or keep altitude but we can accumulate energy on the descent and then use it in some way to decelerate the craft on it's final approach.
- We need to film the mission in HD
- We need to be able to take a scientific payload with us. Currently not yet defined but will most probably be meteorologic sensors.

An initial question:
- 2 way communication over a range of 300km is almost not possible using a direct link to a single ground station, so we are tempted to use satellite communication modules like the Iridium 9603 is there any experience in this community regarding these modules and interfacing them to paparazzi?

I believe lots of you might find this an interesting problem.
As none of us has much experience with UAV's and paparazzi any idea's or advice is welcome.
Our team consists of 10 highly motivated students, some with expertise in aero, some in embedded electronics, other in aircraft structures, ...etc.

If you guys like this we could post an update on our project from time to time. And share our finding with you.

We hope to hear from you guys with any thoughts, questions, idea's.

Kind regards,

Pieter Danneels
StratoBlimp project
(don't let the name fool you, it's not going to be a blimp... we think)


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Hector Garcia de Marina
Hi Peter,

I was involved in a project similar to yours, but finally because budget issues we could not fly. However we addressed some of the problems that are not present in "conventional" UAV flights.

One of the most important problems is the detachment of the UAV from the balloon. The balloon spins and it could lead to a non recover situation for your glider from the start, pay special attention to this key element, or the whole missions would
be ruined. Orr system consisted in two rails attached below the bottom base of the balloon with the UAV's wings blocked on the rails. Do you have any concept about your vehicle?

Also remember that the air density is low at those altitudes, therefore the "free fall period" (or lets say the control over your vehicle is minimum) must be designed for do not let the UAV spins at high velocities. Also you will reach a really high speed, the fuselage must be really well made for preventing fluttering, probably staying only at 3Kg as maximum could be an issue to solve.

Also, high speed + high altitude is a bad combination for a common GPS, but I guess for this stage, the most important thing is to stabilize the vehicle instead of tracking a trajectory.

Another issue is the calibration of your sensors in temperature and pressure. You should consider to add a heater (power resistor + battery) for keeping the temperature of your sensors constant.

About communications, you should have a direct path between your ground station and your balloon or vehicle right? With a high gain antenna on ground you should be able of communicate with your UAV. I have seen many times live HD video
from weather balloons, so the bandwidth should not be a problem.


Héctor






On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 9:33 AM, P.J.S. Danneels <[hidden email]> wrote:
Dear Mr. Baumann,

The main focus is on getting it to its designated landing site with a launch from the stratosphere.
Our craft will probably not generate a lot of lift at those high altitudes and will most probably be in some sort of free fall for the first 10-20km but we will do detailed simulations on this in the coming weeks. We must stay within weather balloon regulations to get it up their without much special permissions so the size and weight are very limited.

Kind regards,
Pieter



On 19/11/2012 17:38, Tilman Baumann wrote:
I don't think I can help with practical issues.
But I wonder, does the design call for the balloon to pop in the stratosphere?
The term Blimp confuses me.
Is it about coming home, or about zipping around in the stratosphere?

I'm very interested in high altitude glider projects. But I don't think very much has been done in practice yet. But it's such a cool idea.

On 19/11/12 16:26, P.J.S. Danneels wrote:
Dear Paparazzi community,

Allow me to introduce our project to you.

We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of Aerospace Engineering.
Our goal is to design and later build a UAV which is launched from a weather balloon in the stratosphere (say about 35km altitude).
It should then return to the landing site without using direct propulsion.

What is interesting for this mailing list:
- we will use paparazzi as the autopilot
- we must have 2 way communication with the vehicle to retrieve weather data and manipulate it's flight.
- loads of other UAV-stuff

Some initial calculations, thoughts and requirements:
- Balloon might drift allot during ascent. A drift of up to 300km might well be possible according to some simulations.
- To stay within weather balloon regulations the weather balloon payload (return vehicle + release mechanism) may not exceed 3kg
- The configuration at launch cannot have a diameter exceeding 2m
- We cannot use propulsion to gain or keep altitude but we can accumulate energy on the descent and then use it in some way to decelerate the craft on it's final approach.
- We need to film the mission in HD
- We need to be able to take a scientific payload with us. Currently not yet defined but will most probably be meteorologic sensors.

An initial question:
- 2 way communication over a range of 300km is almost not possible using a direct link to a single ground station, so we are tempted to use satellite communication modules like the Iridium 9603 is there any experience in this community regarding these modules and interfacing them to paparazzi?

I believe lots of you might find this an interesting problem.
As none of us has much experience with UAV's and paparazzi any idea's or advice is welcome.
Our team consists of 10 highly motivated students, some with expertise in aero, some in embedded electronics, other in aircraft structures, ...etc.

If you guys like this we could post an update on our project from time to time. And share our finding with you.

We hope to hear from you guys with any thoughts, questions, idea's.

Kind regards,

Pieter Danneels
StratoBlimp project
(don't let the name fool you, it's not going to be a blimp... we think)


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Héctor



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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Chris Gough-2
Sounds like a cool project. Not much to add, but

Also, high speed + high altitude is a bad combination for a common GPS, but I guess for this stage, the most important thing is to stabilize the vehicle instead of tracking a trajectory.

If you need a high speed, high altitude GPS then plan to spend time waiting for approvals. If that's what you need, then start the process early. Working with a local (same country) GPS supplier might be the easiest way.

Chris Gough

On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 9:33 AM, P.J.S. Danneels <[hidden email]> wrote:
Dear Mr. Baumann,

The main focus is on getting it to its designated landing site with a launch from the stratosphere.
Our craft will probably not generate a lot of lift at those high altitudes and will most probably be in some sort of free fall for the first 10-20km but we will do detailed simulations on this in the coming weeks. We must stay within weather balloon regulations to get it up their without much special permissions so the size and weight are very limited.

Kind regards,
Pieter



On 19/11/2012 17:38, Tilman Baumann wrote:
I don't think I can help with practical issues.
But I wonder, does the design call for the balloon to pop in the stratosphere?
The term Blimp confuses me.
Is it about coming home, or about zipping around in the stratosphere?

I'm very interested in high altitude glider projects. But I don't think very much has been done in practice yet. But it's such a cool idea.

On 19/11/12 16:26, P.J.S. Danneels wrote:
Dear Paparazzi community,

Allow me to introduce our project to you.

We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of Aerospace Engineering.
Our goal is to design and later build a UAV which is launched from a weather balloon in the stratosphere (say about 35km altitude).
It should then return to the landing site without using direct propulsion.

What is interesting for this mailing list:
- we will use paparazzi as the autopilot
- we must have 2 way communication with the vehicle to retrieve weather data and manipulate it's flight.
- loads of other UAV-stuff

Some initial calculations, thoughts and requirements:
- Balloon might drift allot during ascent. A drift of up to 300km might well be possible according to some simulations.
- To stay within weather balloon regulations the weather balloon payload (return vehicle + release mechanism) may not exceed 3kg
- The configuration at launch cannot have a diameter exceeding 2m
- We cannot use propulsion to gain or keep altitude but we can accumulate energy on the descent and then use it in some way to decelerate the craft on it's final approach.
- We need to film the mission in HD
- We need to be able to take a scientific payload with us. Currently not yet defined but will most probably be meteorologic sensors.

An initial question:
- 2 way communication over a range of 300km is almost not possible using a direct link to a single ground station, so we are tempted to use satellite communication modules like the Iridium 9603 is there any experience in this community regarding these modules and interfacing them to paparazzi?

I believe lots of you might find this an interesting problem.
As none of us has much experience with UAV's and paparazzi any idea's or advice is welcome.
Our team consists of 10 highly motivated students, some with expertise in aero, some in embedded electronics, other in aircraft structures, ...etc.

If you guys like this we could post an update on our project from time to time. And share our finding with you.

We hope to hear from you guys with any thoughts, questions, idea's.

Kind regards,

Pieter Danneels
StratoBlimp project
(don't let the name fool you, it's not going to be a blimp... we think)


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Tilman Baumann-3
In reply to this post by Hector Garcia de Marina
On 20/11/12 08:55, Hector Garcia de Marina wrote:


>
> Also remember that the air density is low at those altitudes,
> therefore the "free fall period" (or lets say the control over your
> vehicle is minimum) must be designed for do not let the UAV spins at
> high velocities. Also you will reach a really high speed, the
> fuselage must be really well made for preventing fluttering, probably
> staying only at 3Kg as maximum could be an issue to solve.

This guy gets away with it on the cheap with simple foam wings.
http://www.gpsboomerang.com/content/view/34/42/

Perhaps spaceship one style feathering would make sense.
Not necessarily as a hinged wing. Maybe just with a piece of foam or a
drogue chute that can be detached once lower speeds are reached.

> Also, high speed + high altitude is a bad combination for a common
> GPS, but I guess for this stage, the most important thing is to
> stabilize the vehicle instead of tracking a trajectory.
I guess you would have to test the GPS reaction. AFAIK they are required
to switch off at high speed by export regulations (so they don't end in
cruise missiles or rockets).
But will it come back when a low speed threshold is passed?

>
> About communications, you should have a direct path between your
> ground station and your balloon or vehicle right? With a high gain
> antenna on ground you should be able of communicate with your UAV. I
> have seen many times live HD video
> from weather balloons, so the bandwidth should not be a problem.
>
Line of sight FTW. :)

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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Hector Garcia de Marina



On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:04 PM, Tilman Baumann <[hidden email]> wrote:
On 20/11/12 08:55, Hector Garcia de Marina wrote:



Also remember that the air density is low at those altitudes, therefore the "free fall period" (or lets say the control over your vehicle is minimum) must be designed for do not let the UAV spins at high velocities. Also you will reach a really high speed, the fuselage must be really well made for preventing fluttering, probably staying only at 3Kg as maximum could be an issue to solve.

This guy gets away with it on the cheap with simple foam wings.
http://www.gpsboomerang.com/content/view/34/42/

Perhaps spaceship one style feathering would make sense.
Not necessarily as a hinged wing. Maybe just with a piece of foam or a drogue chute that can be detached once lower speeds are reached.


Looks great Tilman, thanks for the link.

 


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

P.J.S. Danneels
Hi Guys,

GPS:
Thank you for the replies, we are not that concerned with the GPS we're confident that we can find modules that work above the 60k ft limit and our design will probably not be able to survive the speed limit of 999knots anyways. But we know about the limitations and we are taking it into account.

GPSboomerang:
Yes, the GPS boomerang is a very nice example, but we can't find any evidence that it went above 20km altitude.
So we basically want to make a more advanced GPSboomerang.

Questions to the community:
- Long range communications, our biggest unknown at the moment. We're looking at the Digi XBee Pro 868 module, with high gain antenna's and a directional ground station with auto tracking. This could be enough for most missions but occasionally the drift can be a lot bigger. Do any of you have experience with this module, these kind of antenna's and tracking setup? Or are we overlooking other types of communication. We've also come across the radio amateur bands for example the 70cm or the 2m band but then you have to do with licenses again. Any input on the communication problem is much appreciated.
- Is there any data available in how much cpu power is generally used by paparazzi on the STM32 and LPC2148 models? So do we have a lot of spare cpu power to do some fancy route calculations. or is it close to its limitations already?
- digital HD camera's. It's off course possible to strap a GoPro camera on the craft but that's not very weight/volume efficient in my opinion. Have you guys successfully implemented tiny HD camera's?

Best regards,
Pieter


On 20/11/2012 12:42, Hector Garcia de Marina wrote:



On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:04 PM, Tilman Baumann <[hidden email]> wrote:
On 20/11/12 08:55, Hector Garcia de Marina wrote:



Also remember that the air density is low at those altitudes, therefore the "free fall period" (or lets say the control over your vehicle is minimum) must be designed for do not let the UAV spins at high velocities. Also you will reach a really high speed, the fuselage must be really well made for preventing fluttering, probably staying only at 3Kg as maximum could be an issue to solve.

This guy gets away with it on the cheap with simple foam wings.
http://www.gpsboomerang.com/content/view/34/42/

Perhaps spaceship one style feathering would make sense.
Not necessarily as a hinged wing. Maybe just with a piece of foam or a drogue chute that can be detached once lower speeds are reached.


Looks great Tilman, thanks for the link.

 


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Gareth Roberts-4
Hi Pieter,

> - digital HD camera's

Have a look at  
http://www.coolcomponents.co.uk/catalog/hackhd-1080p-camera-module-p-1043.html
It's a GoPro sensor on a minimal support board. Claimed 33g.

> - Long range communications, our biggest unknown at the moment.

http://ukhas.org.uk/ has some good advice, assuming you don't need  
bidirectional.
They use 434MHz, which is unrestricted in most of Europe.
http://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

> We are a group from the Delft University of Technology faculty of  
> Aerospace Engineering.

You may want to have a chat with Christophe De Wagter from your  
university, if you haven't already.

Cheers,
Gareth

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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Cédric Marzer (privé)
Hello,
I was involved in a team that launched a stratospheric balloon last summer.
To be short : we thought about almost anything...we were very careful that
the electronic in the payload wouldn't get to cold and ... the gopro stopped
working because it overheated...
The challenge is not to keep things warm but to keep things at the right
temperature...
Cedric


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Cédric Marzer (privé)
In reply to this post by Gareth Roberts-4
Some HD cameras radiate HF that can be a real issue with the gps and/or the
modem.
Gopro are ok.
Cédric


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Re: StratoBlimp, a challenging UAV project

Cédric Marzer (privé)
In reply to this post by Chris Gough-2

To find a suitable GPS wasn’t that hard in our case. If I understand well, manufacturers are not allowed to make GPS that could be used at the same time high (>18’000m) and at high speed (>512m/s!) .

BUT most GPS don’t work if only one of those limits is reached. So it is just a question to find the right one. I don’t know how ublox gps behave.


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