In May 2017, we finally accepted the invitation to Nobreakspace in Lübeck. It was our goal to combine our forces with the local nerds and test our drone under controlled (but realistic) circumstances over the Bay of Lübeck.
The Mini Talon plane has been flying increasingly well. In Lübeck, we reached another milestone by flying over water for the first time. We’ve also gotten rid of all radio equipment except on-board wifi. In other words, not only do we transmit video but also all telemetry to and from the ground station via wifi.
On board, we are using a Raspberry Pi 3 to stream telemetry and video to a GL-AR300M (running free firmware and using external antennas), which in turn talks to our diractional antenna on the ground.
We are not completely happy with the range of video transmission. It failed after about 6 kilometers. Fixing this is one of our most important tasks right now. Telemetry was working more reliably but not over the full distance. We will attempt to switch to 900 MHz and adjust our antennas. It’s going to be interesting…
At 200m altitude, the image quality and resolution of our camera setup seems entirely sufficient. We could reliably identify all objects on the water, down to individual seagulls or buoys. A few nerds from the Nobreakspace had positioned a sail boat in the target area, which we are able to identify without issues. The plane is also quite fast, it needed 6 minutes each way (8km).
In total, we flew five autonomous missions, three of which got us to the middle of the Bay of Lübeck. None of our equipment has suffered any damage, the mission parameters had been quite conservative. We did however fly two of the three missions over water back to back, without charging the battery inbetween.
The people from the Nobreakspace were very helpful. Among other things, they made us a cable which allowed us to power a passive POE device with one of our LiPo batteries. Very useful. Many thanks again to Lübeck.