Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all of you from AtlantikSolar and all the robots of the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETH Zurich! Thanks for following us and stay tuned for exciting research & news in 2015!

A SPARC Success Story

The two solar-powered long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) developed by the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETH Zurich – AtlantikSolar and SenseSoar – have recently been featured in the SPARC (the partnership for robotics in Europe) issue on “Success stories” in robotics! Have a look at the full article here!

AtlantikSolar at ICARUS Field Trial Week

During field trials organized within the framework of the ICARUS FP7 Project, the ASL team presented the capabilities of the AtlantikSolar platform and collaborated with other ICARUS partners. The videos below present a short summary of our main activities during the field-trials demonstration that took place between 21st to 25th of July 2014, in the CTC UAV Test Site which is located in the Collsuspina area around Barcelona.

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Autonomous Flight with AtlantikSolar

The AtlantikSolar prototype performed its first successful autonomous flight – a waypoint following mission – on May 6th. The autopilot testing and optimization, previously done on a smaller test plane, was started by tuning the pitch and roll angle-hold autopilot on May 5th. Based on this, the altitude control autopilot and finally the waypoint following loops were added on May 6th. Overall control behavior was very satisfactory, although the significant thermals and gusts during the day challenged the altitude controller such that improvements will be implemented in the next test flight. An excerpt from the first autonomous flights can be seen in the video below.

The next steps will be to robustify the inner loops and the altitude controller, in order to prepare the aircraft for much longer flights later this summer!

Towards autonomous flight

To allow ultra-long endurance waypoint-following flights such as those over the Atlantic, the AtlantikSolar UAV has to be capable of (control-wise) fully autonomous flight. To achieve this goal, we’ve been using smaller test-planes to test our autopilot hardware and flight capabilities in the last months. A first fully autonomous waypoint-navigation flight was achieved with a test plane in the beginning of January. The next step will now include the application and testing of the same control hardware and software to the AtlantikSolar UAV.

The video below shows the aforementioned test plane (Multiplex EasyGlider) with the integrated Pixhawk PX4 and the Autopilot, both developed at ETH Zurich. Both of these components are also integrated in the AtlantikSolar prototype. The video was recorded on February 3rd for a demonstration within the European ICARUS project.