Monday, May 28, 2007

Debian Linux controls copter-like UAV

Apr. 02, 2007

Trek Aerospace used Debian Linux and open-source flight control software to build an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). The Oviwun weighs about six pounds, fits in a backpack, and includes a GPS system that enables autonomous flight and position control.

(Click for larger view of Trek Oviwun)

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The Oviwun UAV can fly into tight spaces, hover in one spot in order to capture still or video images, and send data back to the user in real time. Optional night vision cameras allow the device to be flown into caves, dark buildings, and tunnels, Trek said.


Trek Oviwun
(Click to enlarge)


Oviwun drivetrain
(Click to enlarge)
The Oviwun's lift and propulsion system is based on twin five-blade helicopter rotors that are housed in ducts. The dects allow the vehicle to bump into things without destroying them and/or itself. The blades are powered by a rotary engine designed by Trek in partnership with its engine supplier.

Directional control is accomplished via three vanes within the rotor ducts. Additionally, the ducts themselves can be rotated. A gyroscope allows for control on "all three axes," Trek said.


VersaLogic Puma
(Click to enlarge)
Underneath the cowl, the Oviwun is controlled by VersaLogic's PC/104-Plus form-factor Puma SBC (single-board computer), which is based on an x86-compatible AMD GX500 processor. The operating system software is built upon Debian Linux, according to board-maker VersaLogic, which supplies Debian Linux BSPs with many of its boards.

Harry Falk, Trek Aerospace president, stated, "We chose VersaLogic embedded computers because they are robust and reliable, and because VersaLogic stays on top of ever-advancing technologies. They are incredibly responsive in supporting our efforts to embed their products into our platforms, and they listen to our feedback."

Trek says it teamed with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and NASA to develop and test the Oviwun.

Availability

A limited number of Trek Oviwun VTOL UAVs are available for purchase through Trek's beta testing program, priced at $15,000.

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