Awesome little UAV flies 1 km

After going to an SMD soldering workshop at the Stuttgart hackerspace ShackSpace, [Corvus] decided to be an over achiever and build a flight controller for his very own unmanned aerial vehicle.

The airplane itself is a regular store-bought foam contraption, and not terribly interesting in and of itself. Autonomous flight piques some interest, though. A custom flight controller PCB was designed and built by [Corvus] to work alongside a tiny STM32 Linux board. These two boards, combined with the OpenPilot project allow the plane to keep altitude, bearing, speed, and position in check autonomously. Telemetry between the ground station and vehicle is handled by UAVTalk and a ThinkPad.

In the video after the break, [Corvus] piloted the plane up to altitude, then directed it to fly 500 meters North and turn around. The result was an autonomous flight of over one kilometer. The next stage of the project is implementing some SLAM applications with optical path finding and obstacle avoidance.


  1. steve says:

    Illegal here in Germany.

    • Nomad says:

      That one was exactly like saying “this computer doesn’t work”

      Actually i think (no i don’t know for sure) with a proper fallback to manual and/or emergency sequence and of course a model flight insurance (you have to have one for almost all outdoor models) there should be no problem with the authorities.

      • steve says:

        Exactly, thats my point. In the moment you make this “autonomous” its not covered by any model insurance. And flying anywhere else then designated airfields isn’t either.

    • JelleAtProtospace says:

      Probably not. You will notice that it made laps of 500 meter, which is well within line of sight. It matters not to the law if he just took his fingers from the sticks or had a little more elaborate contraption to make his plane go where he wants it.
      It is just a toy plane, and that is not illegal, no?
      Not being insured is not against the law in most cases, so that argument is equally invalid.
      But it was very nice of you to blurt out your prejudice against stuff you don’t know.

  2. Wolfton says:

    Is that for safety reasons or because Germans sunbathe nude on river banks and/or on their balconies? I miss Germany- all except for the cigarettes.

  3. Leo says:

    as long as the pilot can take over the control at any time, I think it’s not illegal in germany.

  4. Miroslav says:

    Nice. I was thinking of doing the same thing one day.

  5. Omega says:

    Erm, the link to the “stm32 board” is nothing of the sort, it’s a Freescale i.MX353, which is a fairly beefy ARM11 chip running at over 500MHz paired with 256MB each of DDR2 and NAND-flash. The nearest stm32 would be the brand-new F4 at 168MHz with no DRAM controller at all…

    Maybe the link is referring to the wrong board, and they one they made for realtime operations is stm32?

  6. AC says:

    This guy had to be awesome. He has the power of the mustache!!

  7. Andrew says:

    Something is causing the on-board camera to glitch every 1.5 seconds or so. It would be nice to track that down and fix it. Aside from that, it’s awesome.

  8. Corvus says:

    Hey cool, Hackaday FTW :)

    A few notes:

    – The linux board linked has an i.MX535 ARM11 CPU.

    – The STM32 on the other hand is the controller on the actual “OpenPilot” flight controller board.

    – My autopilot code was running on the STM32 itself as a part of the OpenPilot firmware, the linux board so far only did logging to sdcard for the video but hopefully will do more soon.

    – Yes, the camera is drek ;)

    – The regulations in the EU are complicated. Meanwhile it actually IS mandatory to have an insurance even for “toy” RC planes like this, but under a certain weight limit and without petrol engines you still are allowed to operate them outside designated (model) airfields.
    Despite that – even common sense dictates that you keep an override switch for fully manual control in reach on a test flight like that – and don’t fly out of sight ;) ( IMHO the FPV crowd lives more risky )

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