Thursday, March 17, 2011

Xbees and Aerial Photography Camera

Today I received and installed two new Xbee wireless modems for telemetry.  It required some soldering to the APM board and new firmware for both Xbees but I got it to where it sends data to the ground station program on my laptop.  This shows an instrument panel with all kinds of data like location, speed, alt., heading, and artificial horizon.  It also displays what mode you are in, GPS lock and number of satellites the GPS is connected to.  I dont have it figured out yet but I can supposedly send flight plans and commands to the plane wirelessly.

I also mounted a servo to a Fujifilm X10 7MP digital camera.  I will put the camera in continuous shooting mode and the servo which is activated by a switch on the radio, will press the shutter button and take pictures for as long as the switch is flipped.  The camera only points straight down for right now, and is attached to the belly of the plane (directly under the CG point).  To protect the camera on landings I built a lexan (Plexiglas) cover that acts as a skid plate. 

In the first test flight I accidentally shut the camera off before launching the plane, reverting it to normal shooting mode when it restarted.  When I landed the plane it had only taken one picture and its battery was low so I couldn't send it up again, otherwise it worked.  To prevent the shut off from happening again I set a piece of Velcro on the camera slider so it will be locked open.  I changed the endpoints on the servo in the Futaba 7C settings so that it only moves far enough to press the shutter button.  From what I have read, some high toque servos will break the shutter button if they go too far.

Xbee on the plane (with white antenna) and the second Xbee with its high gain antenna mounted on the lid of the laptop.  Camera is underneath the plane.

Close up of the servo on the camera,  I also glued a plug into the side of the plane so the servo has a quick disconnect and can be added or removed easily.  The whole camera/cover assembly is attached with Velcro.

First picture from the air

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