This month, the hardware team tackled some structural changes to the overall frame design of the drone as well as implemented a new design for our tank, which will hold the pesticide while spraying, and spray boom.
Additionally, to house the brains of the drone, we needed some sort of cover. Normal dome covers are available but are not up to par when it comes to the structural integrity that we want in case of a situation where sensitive parts of the drone are at risk.
To alleviate the issue, we custom manufactured a dome that will act as a permanent housing with a removable top that will lock and lift when needed. The dome itself is being 3D printed by the Middlesex County College.
For spray boom design, we established that the boom needs to be flexible and have wheels to allow for proper landing. We have a few different designs which we have ordered and received. Now, we are in the process of testing the different designs to see which will best suit our needs.
Navigation Control Team + Hardware Team + User Interface Team:
At this point, many of our sub-teams have begun integration and are now working with each other. With the drone built, the next major milestone that the Navigation Team, along with the Hardware Team and User Interface Team, has been working on is to have the drone fly stably under control of a joystick. Through various tests and examining the data recorded by Mission Planner, we found out that one of the reasons why our drone did not always respond how we wanted it to was due to the calibration. We re-calibrated the drone after we replaced parts such as arms and motors. As a result, our drone responded more accurately.
One thing that we learned through our flying tests with the drone was that it is not easy to control and navigate. Even with a joystick, the driver must learn to transition smoothly and not move the shaft with sudden force. This required practice, and although we damaged a few parts in the process, we are now able to successfully control the drone with the joystick!
After this milestone, the next is to master autonomous flight using the Mission Planner control software. The UI team, in preparation, have been adding finishing touches on their
interface. The team added a way of outlining a field on the map.
Whenever a field is created, the user has to outline the field. It is then saved and can be displayed whenever it is selected from the field list.
Image Processing Team:
While flight testing is ongoing, the image processing team is working on refining their algorithms. We have two different algorithms, one is a contingency plan for the other. The more complicated algorithm involves texture detection and a complicated form of mapping. The contingency plan involves color detection and a color-based mapping algorithm. The latter is concerned with a very specific farm field whereas the former is advanced enough to apply to nearly all crop geometries.
Image processing, as well as the pesticide spraying mechanism and tank, will be integrated into the main system soon after we master autonomous flight using Mission Planner. Meanwhile, we are preparing by working on integrating the UI team with the IP team.