Design and production of embedded electronics, software, telemetry- and remote-control applications

AUTOflyer project information

AUTOflyer is a telemetry system for modell aircraft and smaller UAV, designed and manufactured by Novatron AS.

The system is based on information collected form sensors in the aircarft that is continuously downloaded to a receiver on the ground, connected to laptop computer. A special program receives and unpack the data, store it to hard disk and at the same time, display it as normal aircraft instrumentation on the screen. In addition to observing the instruments, you may also select to plot the aircrafts track continuaously on a zoom- an panable map. As a third option, any flight parameter may be viewed on-line on a scrollable trend plot. All recordings can also be replayed at a later stage for a more detailed analysis and the system can in this respect be seen as similar to a flight recorder in commercial aircraft as it enables detailed analysis of the happenings leading up to a crash.

CORE module. Inertial ref. platform,
GPS-receiver og 2-way radio

Instrumentation in the basic version of AUTOflyer (the AUTOflyer Start Pack) includes among others a 3-axis rate gyro and a 3-axis accelerometer (G-force meter). These sensors will together provide information about the aircraft attitude with respect to the horizon, the rotation rate around all axes and the G-forces on the aircraft in all 3 axes. A built-in GPS receiver provides information about the aircraft altitude and speed and course over ground. A current and voltage sensor is also included in the basic version to allow for monitoring of current consumption and battery voltage and thereby giving an on-line estimation of remaining battery capacity and remaining flight time (at the current consumption rate). This can prove especially valuable for electric propelled models.

433MHz 2-way radio for PC

The basic modell also have 2 servo outputs controlled by the bank-angle (roll-angle) and elevation (pitch-angle). These may be connected to servos for stabilizing the GPS-antenna during large angular manouvers and thus ensure optimal receiving conditions. As an alternative, these outputs may, with help of a simple switch, be used to control elevation rudder an ailerons and thus relieve the pilot from this task. This may prove especially useful for novice model pilots as they have less details to focus on in a training situation. This will again reduce the risk of crashing the aircraft.

The autopilot system can later be extended with magnetic compass, barometric altitude and airspeed sensor (with pitot-tube) and engine surveillance. The engine surveillance will provide on-line monitoring og rpm and engine temperature on piston engines and electric motors and have serial interface for the most common jet-engine models. With this option, the pilot can have full control of the engine state and power output during flight as well as having all necessary data for making a off-line analysis of the connection between rpm, speed and climb later on. Such an analysis option can prove especially helpful in optimizing engine/propeller combinations.

The engine monitoring can also be combined with a full servo interface, enabling monitoring of all servo activity and the possibility to control single servo outputs.

Finally, the system may be equipped with a full auto-pilot functionality targeted towards professional users. In this case, all aircraft control will be done from the PC by setting way points and altitude information for the aircraft. The aircraft will then navigate to the way points given and stay in position over the selected point until new way points are provided. This version may due to security measures not be available to all users.

Screenshot of PC with tracking map

A limited autopilot-functionality will however be made available to all users as a pure emergency control in case of remote control failure or jamming. In this case, the AUTOflyer system may take control of the aircraft to stabilize it and then send it on a course back to the starting point. The aircraft may then be left in a holding pattern around the starting point until normal communication can be re-established or alternatively, until an emergency landing may done through the AUTOflyer system itself.

For scale-model enthusiast and other users with special interest in computers and programming, the graphic user interface (GUI) is made configurable. This opens for users designing their own instruments and scale these instruments in accordance with the performance of each individual model. These basic modifications can be made only with a simple text editor and a standard image processing program.

Pilots experienced in Java programming or pilots with interest in learning Java may also program their own graphical instrument interfaces. In this way, data may be combined in a lot of different combinations giving instrument functionality exceeding the standard instruments delivered with the system. This approach is typical for new computerized instrumentation used in new aircraft where more and more data is combined into one single instrument.

The number of different instrument types delivered with the system for personal customization will increase with time, but there is also opened a user forum where users can exchange new graphic layouts and new Java instrument classes and in this way increase the pool of available instruments and instrument combinations.

For additional information about the AUTOflyer project, please see the AUTOflyer homepage. Press the button in the upper right.